The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had many consequences for the sports world. Events were canceled. In the MMA sphere, a “Fight Island” was even constructed. Once the UFC returned to some semblance of normalcy, numerous fights still fell through and a number of last-minute replacements were needed. That group of replacements included Titan Fighting Championship bantamweight kingpin Irwin Rivera, leaving yet another consequence: a vacant Titan FC title. Now, the promotion is ready to rectify that situation.
On Friday, June 26, the company will host its 61st event. The headliner features title hopefuls Danny Sabatello and Raymond Ramos in a showdown for the vacant crown. Sabatello is the bigger star in the pairing. The 27-year-old came up short in his last title bid against the aforementioned Rivera, but he has since rebounded with a submission finish of Chris Johnson. Ramos had a rough start to his MMA campaign, but a perfect three-fight run in 2019 has turned him into a contender for Titan FC.
Titan FC has secured four other pairings to round out its latest event, which goes live on UFC Fight Pass at 8 p.m. ET. At lightweight, Landon Quinones meets fellow up-and-comer Geralbert Castillo. The flyweight division is featured prominently, with Victor Dias taking on Cleveland McLean and Christian Ynastrilla clashing with Philip Keller. The night’s action kicks off with welterweights Collin Lubberts and Irvin Jones.
Danny Sabatello and Raymond Ramos collide to determine a new Titan FC bantamweight champion. Will Sabatello redeem himself after coming up short against previous titleholder Irwin Rivera in late 2019?
Sabatello definitely should be viewed as a heavy favorite. The 27-year-old has posted seven victories while suffering his lone loss to a recent UFC call-up in Rivera. He’s been a finisher throughout his roughly two years as a pro.
The one knock on Sabatello, however, is his strength of schedule. Outside of Rivera, he’s fought several men with losing records, one rookie, a 13-fight veteran with a .500 mark, and a 1-0 opponent. The 13-fight vet, Jeremias Fernandez, was the one foe to survive to the final bell against Sabatello. If we exclude Rivera, the current combined record for Sabatello’s competition now stands at 19-47-1.
This should serve to boost the hopes of Ramos in this encounter. The 30-year-old Floridian only sports a 5-3 mark as a pro, but he rode a three-fight winning streak through 2019 to elevate himself above the .500 mark. Notably, he also lost to Rivera, but as an amateur. The “Godson” has not been finished in a pro fight, but his 5-4-1 ammy campaign does include two submission defeats.
While Sabatello’s strength of schedule does leave something to be desired, Ramos’ history in the sport doesn’t suggest that he has what it takes to play the spoiler. He lost unanimous decisions to two previously winless pros and a majority decision to a rookie. His four ammy losses are also a red flag. Sabatello is likely to make use of his superior grappling skills to coax a tapout from Ramos in this one.
The remainder of the card contains a number of prospects with just one loss on their respective records. Which of these men has the most potential for future success in the organization and beyond?
Among these prospects, there are three 24-year-olds — Landon Quinones, Christian Ynastrilla and Collin Lubberts. Quinones fights at lightweight, which is a very deep division. Lubberts is a welterweight, which leaves him in another crowded field. This leaves Ynastrilla, a flyweight fighter.
Ynastrilla’s amateur debut came in a 2012 no-contest against Chico Reyes, but he didn’t have his second fight until 2014. Eventually, he compiled a 5-2 ammy mark before going pro in late 2017. He’s since bounced between 125 and 135 pounds while putting together five wins and just one loss.
The American Top Team fighter is young enough to improve upon his game. In a rather shallow flyweight division, he could find plenty of success under proper coaching. We just won’t know for sure until he takes on tougher challenges — his wins have mostly come against rookies and fighters with severe losing records.
Ynastrilla draws Philip Keller on Friday night. Keller carries a 2-4 mark into the cage, and the 38-year-old seems like more easy prey for Ynastrilla.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
It’s too bad Titan FC didn’t opt to take advantage of its short lineup and convert its two flyweight contests into a one-night tournament. The aforementioned Ynastrilla/Keller pairing could have been joined by a battle of scrappy veterans Victor Dias and Cleveland McLean to serve as the semifinals. As it stands, though, these are individual affairs, and the clash between Dias and McLean still has sleeper potential on its own.
Dias seeks to rebound from a late 2019 split-decision loss to Matheus da Silva. The 29-year-old ‘Paçoca” had previously been on a two-fight winning streak against decent competition, and his only other pro loss came to Gustavo Balart, a Titan FC and ONE Championship veteran. The Brazilian is a strong grappler who will hunt for submissions against McLean.
McLean is the most experienced fighter on this card. The 20-fight veteran has had his hand raised in 12 of those fights. “Baby Beast Mode” has been on a roller-coaster ride of wins and losses since his 2014 pro debut — a win over fellow Titan FC 61 fighter Philip Keller — but his power is always a threat to end a fight.
The outcome of this fight depends on whether McLean can stay on his feet. If he can, then there’s a high probability of a knockout. If he can’t, he might not survive against Dias’ ground game.
Main Card (UFC Fight Pass, 8 p.m. ET)
BW Championship: Danny Sabatello vs. Raymond Ramos
LW: Landon Quinones vs. Geralbert Castillo
FlyW: Victor Dias vs. Cleveland McLean
FlyW: Christian Ynastrilla vs. Philip Keller
WW: Collin Lubberts vs. Irvin Jones
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