Every week, Combat Press takes a look at three regional, developmental and international cards from the upcoming weekend, previewing from each a single fight to which people should pay close attention. We will also list other significant bouts from the card, as well as information on how to follow each promotion and watch the events.
Let’s discover those prospects that fight in obscurity, waiting for their shot at the bright lights and big stage of the UFC, and those veterans looking for one more chance at stardom.
It all begins here, from the small convention centers and high school gymnasiums to the developmental leagues that serve as a launching pad to the big show. It all begins with promotions such as these…
Event Date: July 23
Eduard Arustamyan (15-1) vs. Vladimir Fedin (16-6)
The 57th show from Belarusian Fight Championship comes in just under the wire for this preview — the fights, a combination of MMA and kickboxing affairs, get underway at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, just after the publication of this feature. The card features a lightweight championship headliner on the MMA side, but it’s the co-main event that shines a spotlight on light-heavyweight prospect Eduard Arustamyan that perhaps deserves the most attention. Arustamyan seeks to pick up his 16th victory when he clashes with veteran Vladimir Fedin.
The 32-year-old Arustamyan’s only pro loss came in his 2015 debut against Gevorg Grigoryan. Since then, “Strelets” has been perfect. Much of his resume has been built off of multiple wins in single-night tournaments. He’s primarily competed as a middleweight until now, and most of his accomplishments have come under the Fight Club Zeus banner. Arustamyan tends to waste little time in his fights, with the majority of his victories coming via strikes in the first round.
Fedin doesn’t have Arustamyan’s flashy record, but he’s seen the inside of the Bellator cage in a loss to Adam Keresh and has also faced the likes of current UFC fighter Sultan Aliev and, in his most recent outing, prospect Vasily Babintsev. Fedin is a finisher who doesn’t discriminate when it comes to how he gets the job done. He has seven knockouts and nine submission victories. Three of his losses have come by way of knockout, and he has only seen the scorecards twice through 22 pro outings.
This fight should answer a lot of questions about Arustamyan. His 15-1 record has been built on the backs of a ton of rookies and low-level opponents. Only his most recent fight, which ended in a fourth-round finish of 34-fight veteran Evgeny Fomenko, could be considered a true test. Furthermore, this contest comes a full 20 pounds above his normal fighting weight. Yet, Arustamyan’s quick knockout trend might factor into the outcome against Fedin.
Fedin’s career is a tale of two halves. From his 2012 debut through his 2015 loss to sub-.500 fighter Kai Karar, he managed just a mediocre 9-5 record. When he returned to action in 2018, he went on a six-fight winning streak before stumbling against Keresh and is now 7-1 overall in this stretch. Fedin is here to play gatekeeper to a fighter whose record is arguably padded to extreme levels.
Of course, Fedin hasn’t always demonstrated consistency in his career. The loss to Karar is a reason to doubt his chances against a bulldozer like Arustamyan. However, Fedin is a veteran presence with what appears to be a more well-rounded game than his opponent. This one is likely to play out one of two ways. Arustamyan could add Fedin to a long list of scalps collected via knockout, or Fedin could weather the early storm and put his grappling skills to good use in earning a submission victory. Don’t be surprised if it’s the latter result.
Other key bouts: Vladimir Lubko (12-3) vs. Shamil Yakhaev (5-0) for the lightweight title, Dmitry Nevsky (7-1) vs. Dmitriy Krivulets (1-1)
Event Date: July 24
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Isao Kobayashi (25-5-4) vs. Akira Okada (13-8-3)
Pancrase’s 316th event features its featherweight King of Pancrase, Isao Kobayashi. However, Kobayashi’s title will not be on the line at the show. Instead, he’ll face Akira Okada in a non-title affair.
Kobayashi launched his pro career in 2008 as a 19-year-old. He won the 2009 Pancrase Neo-Blood lightweight tourney and the 2011 Pancrase Lightweight Grand Prix. Kobayashi compiled a 15-1-4 record as a lightweight, capturing the lightweight King of Pancrase crown along the way, before a tumultuous run in the featherweight division. The southpaw’s stint as a 145-pounder started off strong enough with a win over Takeshi Inoue, but Kobayashi stumbled against three of his next five opponents to bring his featherweight mark to a mediocre 3-3. The judoka rebounded with a split-decision victory over Yutaka Saito under the Vale Tudo Japan banner and then added two victories with Pancrase. The 31-year-old suffered another setback when he dropped a split verdict to Kyle Aguon, but he bounced back once more with a decision over Yusuke Kasuya and a first-round decimation of Koyomi Matsushima to claim the featherweight crown. He then solidified his grasp on the championship with a unanimous-decision victory over Nazareno Malegarie and a split verdict against Aguon in the pair’s rematch.
The 33-year-old Okada is set to make his featherweight debut after spending his career in the lightweight division. The Kugayama Rascal Gym disciple needs the change in scenery after a three-fight skid at 155 pounds. He debuted in 2010 and amassed a respectable 13-5-3 mark before running into hard times in 2018-19, when he dropped fights to Salimkhan Sadulloev, Kenichiro Togashi and Yuki Okano. Two of his three recent setbacks came via knockout, too. Okada has also shared the ring/cage with the likes of Kota Shimoishi, Andy Main, Satoru Kitaoka, Kazuki Tokudome, Akihiro Gono and Ricardo Tirloni, and he even managed victories against the latter two men. Okada is a decision machine in the win column, but his chin doesn’t always hold up well, as evidenced by his four career knockout losses.
That questionable chin could be Okada’s downfall here. Kobayashi tends to victimize his opponents with his fists en route to knockout and TKO victories. His career highlights include a victory over former ONE featherweight champion Koji Oishi, a draw against UFC veteran Jorge Patino, decision wins over Marlon Sandro and Will Chope, and a finish of the aforementioned Matsushima. He did suffer losses to Kazunori Yokota under the Deep banner and Goiti Yamauchi and Justin Lawrence in the Bellator cage, which demonstrates that he is vulnerable against high-level talent. However, Okada doesn’t appear to fit that bill.
Kobayashi was a stud at lightweight, which should quell any doubts that he can handle a former 155er entering his new permanent home in the featherweight division. The champ has trained at a variety of gyms, including the famous Krazy Bee camp, in preparation for Okada. Despite Okada’s history as a lightweight, he’ll actually give up two inches in height to Kobayashi.
Okada’s grinding approach is unlikely to succeed against Kobayashi, who will be wary of his opponent’s power. Kobayashi is the more refined striker and should be able to find the knockout after picking his spots early on.
Other key bouts: Takayo Hashi (16-8-1) vs. Raika Emiko (11-6), Naoki Arikawa (5-1-1) vs. Kohei Sugiyama (9-4), Yuki Kosaka (14-7-2) vs. Masahide Hiraoka (6-4), Jun Doi (17-8-1) vs. Sho Sekihara (3-0), Yuto Inoue (4-0) vs. Darani Date (8-8-1), Mutsuki Miyajima (1-0) vs. Hiroki Otani (1-5), Keito Yamakita (1-0) vs. Kota Sahara (1-0)
Event Date: July 24
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Greg Fischer (10-1) vs. Jimmy Flick (13-5)
The Legacy Fighting Alliance is set to offer perhaps the most relevant regional affair of the weekend on its 86th card. The company has lined up two flyweight prospects for a title fight, and everyone knows what generally happens when an LFA fighter wins a title — they land in the UFC. The two title hopefuls in this contest are Greg Fischer and Jimmy Flick.
Fischer, 29, compiled a 3-1 mark as an amateur before turning pro in 2014. He went undefeated through his first seven fights while competing exclusively for the Shogun Fights organization. He finally suffered his first loss in his eighth pro outing when he was decisioned by Varon Webb in a fight contested at 135 pounds. However, the setback was just a temporary glitch for Fischer, who turned around and defended his Shogun flyweight title before adding bantamweight gold to his trophy case. Fischer has submitted five of his opponents, while going the distance in all of his remaining fights.
Flick, who possesses a background in wrestling, put together a stellar seven-fight run as an amateur before his own pro turn in 2010. His debut came with Bellator, where he picked up a decision nod over Humberto DeLeon. After amassing six straight wins, Flick landed in LFA’s predecessor, Legacy Fighting Championship, where he was stopped by Will Campuzano. His next few years were full of ups and downs, including a loss to Levi Mowles. Flick found more success starting in 2017, the year in which he submitted Johnny Bedford in the LFA 16 headliner. Flick put together a nice little 5-2 run that also included submission wins over veterans Cee Jay Hamilton and Jesse Bazzi. His setbacks during this time came to future UFC fighter Chris Gutierrez and occasional Combate Americas competitor Ray Rodriguez. Flick’s resume includes an impressive 11 wins by way of submission.
All signs point to a grappling contest in this one. Flick has the takedowns to make it happen, while Fischer appears to also be extremely partial to the ground game. The easiest path to victory against Flick is a knockout, but that’s unlikely to come from Fischer, who has never finished an opponent with his fists at the pro level.
Flick’s strength of schedule might be the difference here. He’s shared the cage with some seasoned veterans and the very successful Gutierrez. This experience should give Flick the upper hand against Fischer. Flick should be able to out-grapple his opponent in what could be a very entertaining back-and-forth affair. Expect multiple submission attempts from both men, but it’ll be Flick that eventually coaxes a tapout from Fischer.
Other key bouts: Arthur Estrázulas (11-4) vs. Dominic Clark (14-10), Mando Gutierrez (3-0) vs. Jeff Jepsen (5-2), Jordan Heiderman (1-0) vs. Jacob Heavlin (1-0), Nate Morrow (2-0) vs. Calvin Harbaugh (1-1)
Titan Fighting Championship 62: Jared Gooden (16-4) vs. Trent McCown (8-4) Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
M-1 Global and Fight Club Sech: MMA Series-11: Time of New Heroes 8: Vladimir Vasilyev (6-0) vs. Ruslan Shamilov (6-1) Watch Event: m1global.tv
Shooto Brazil: Solidariedade: Fabricio Martins (14-3) vs. Thiago Silva (17-8) for the lightweight title
Brave Combat Federation 36: Ion Surdu (10-0) vs. Kevin Ruart (8-3) Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
|Sam Hughes vs. Vanessa Demopoulos at LFA 85||Demopoulos by decision||Demopoulos by submission|
|Mikhail Doroshenko vs. Magomed Magomedov at MMA Series-10||Doroshenko by knockout||Doroshenko by split decision|
|Mohammad Fakhreddine vs. Enrico Cortese at Brave CF 35||Fakhreddine by knockout||Fight canceled; Cortese def. Claudiu Alexe by knockout|