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…
Russian Cagefighting Championship: Intro IX
Academy of Martial Arts PMK in Ekaterinburg, Russia Event Date: Oct. 10 Website:Facebook/rccmma Watch Event:YouTube
Marif Piraev (28-3-1) vs. Timur Nagibin (16-5)
Russia’s Marif Piraev has long been among the top prospects in the world. However, at the ninth edition of RCC’s Intro series, he is in the rare position where he’s looking for a rebound win. Such a win would have to come at the expense of fellow welterweight Timur Nagibin.
Piraev, 27, debuted in 2011 and rolled to an 18-0-1 mark before suffering his first setback against Mateusz Gamrot at KSW 32 in 2015. He had a turbulent couple of years following the loss. The “Piranha” was scrapped from a May 2016 fight. He was forced out of his next scheduled bout later the same month when he was recalled for army duty. Finally, his next fight was called off when he was hospitalized due to weight-cutting issues. Piraev was able to get back on track following more than two years on the sidelines. He returned in mid-2017 and won two fights. He suffered a TKO loss to Tofik Musaev in early 2018, but then added eight more victories to his record against varying levels of competition. His good fortune came to an end in late 2019 when he was on the losing end of a split verdict against Rodrigo Caporal. The Krepost Fight Club member has 14 submissions and five victories by way of knockout. Piraev has trained alongside the likes of Vitaly Minakov, Ali Bagautinov and Gasan Umalatov. He has a background in boxing and sambo, and he has demonstrated solid striking to accompany his ground game.
Nagibin, also age 27, hasn’t had quite the high-profile pro career, but the 21-fight veteran carries a respectable 16-5 mark into this fight. He made his debut in 2013 and won his first three fights. After he suffered his first loss, Nagibin reeled off eight straight wins. It’s been a roller-coaster ride since then, however, with no more than two wins in a row for the Russian fighter in his last 10 outings. He’s suffered notable losses to Alexei Nevzorov, Ivan Buchinger and Mikhail Odintsov. Nagibin has recorded victories over the likes of the formerly undefeated Mikhail Korobkov and veteran Mike Santiago. He has seven knockouts and two submissions among his 16 wins.
Piraev’s fight with Caporal was an extremely close one, but the Russian gave a rather flat performance. He was hesitant to pull the trigger with his strikes against the 36-year-old grappler and instead shelled up as the Brazilian teed off on him at times. Piraev also failed to set up his takedown attempts and often shot in from too far out in desperation. This all came against a middling veteran who had once suffered through four straight defeats. This is indicative of Piraev’s strength of schedule, too, which often includes far outgunned opponents with losing marks or no experience at the pro level. While he has topped some formidable competition, such as Jim Alers and Kirill Sukhomlinov, it’s often far too much of a coin toss when he takes on legitimate foes.
Nagibin is a knockout artist, but he demonstrated excellent takedown and submission defense in a one-night Professional Fighters League qualifier tournament under the RCC banner. He did lose in the finals to the aforementioned Odintsov, but he turned in an excellent effort despite taking a hard knee straight to the spine in round one that seemed to affect him for much of the contest.
Nagibin appears to profile as a threat to Piraev. He wins far more than he loses, but he can’t quite find his groove with any level of consistency. This will be his first fight at 170 pounds after a career spent at featherweight and lightweight. but he has a stocky build that should translate well to the welterweight division.
Piraev isn’t nearly as physical of a wrestler as Odintsov, so Nagibin should be able to keep this fight standing. His power could also give Piraev problems. It figures to be a close fight, but Nagibin might just hand his opponent another decision loss.
Other key bouts: Mikhail Tsarev (32-7) vs. Sergei Martynov (12-3), Vladimir Palchenkov (12-3) vs. Alexey Martynov (16-8-2), Ilyas Khamzin (5-1) vs. Dmitriy Gavrilov (6-4), Mikhail Doroshenko (6-0) vs. Hovhannes Voskanyan (3-0), Garnik Manukyan (2-0-1) vs. Yuriy Fedorov (4-2)
Scott Askham (19-4) vs. Mamed Khalidov (34-7-2)
In December, KSW middleweight champion Scott Askham claimed a unanimous-decision win over former champ Mamed Khalidov in a 187-pound catchweight affair at KSW 52. Now, Khalidov, who had returned from a brief retirement for that fight, gets his chance at revenge when the pair rematch — this time with the title on the line — at KSW 55.
Askham, who made his pro debut in 2010, landed inside the UFC Octagon four years later after enjoying a run as BAMMA’s middleweight champion. Unfortunately, his UFC campaign wasn’t as successful. Askham went just 2-4 with the promotion, though he did pick up two first-round finishes along the way. After a win over Luke Barnatt in his first post-UFC bout, the 32-year-old signed with KSW and reeled off victories over Michał Materla (twice) and Marcin Wójcik. The second win over Materla came in a fight for the vacant KSW middleweight championship. Instead of defending the belt, the Brit took on Khalidov to close out his 2019 campaign. Askham has 12 knockouts, including three with KSW, on his resume.
Khalidov, a former KSW middleweight champ, relinquished the belt in 2018 while chasing a rematch with the company’s light-heavyweight titleholder Tomasz Narkun. He retired following his loss to Narkun, but his time away from the sport only lasted a year. The very accomplished taekwondo and Kyokushin practitioner has an MMA record dating back to 2004. He actually lost his first two pro outings and was 3-3 after six fights, but he’s had a ridiculous amount of success since then. His only subsequent setbacks came against Jorge Santiago, the aforementioned Narkun (twice) and, of course, Askham. Meanwhile, Khalidov has reigned supreme over the competition in Sengoku and KSW, with a resume that includes wins over Santiago, James Irvin, Matt Lindland, Jesse Taylor, Kendall Grove, Melvin Manhoef and Brett Cooper. Khalidov, now 40, has tallied 17 submission finishes and 13 knockouts in his 16-year career.
Askham may have failed in his UFC tenure, but he’s found plenty of success with KSW. The Brit had not needed more than two minutes in any of his three appearances with the organization before he fought Khalidov. He has been a very proficient finisher throughout his career, but he can be neutralized and defeated on the scorecards, as has been demonstrated by Magnus Cedenblad, Krzysztof Jotko, Jack Hermansson and Brad Scott. Notably, though, Askham has still never lost outside of the UFC.
Khalidov needs a different game plan than the one he employed in the pair’s first fight. He should study the first minute of round three for the answer. It wasn’t so much the ridiculous pace in those 60 seconds, but rather his approach to avoiding Askham’s takedown attempts. The Brit lacks technique in his takedowns. He barrels forward sloppily and tries to grab a hold of his opponent. For much of the fight, Khalidov let Askham have his way. However, in the opening 60 seconds of the third stanza, Khalidov circled out of the way and then threw a flurry of strikes. If he can carry out such a strategy for a more extended stretch of the fight, then Khalidov could take the decision or even find a knockout.
If Khalidov does more of the same from their first encounter, though, then this is likely to be another decision nod for Askham. Khalidov seemed far too content to be on his back. He was gambling on Askham making a mistake that would lead to a submission, but the opportunity never presented itself. Khalidov landed plenty of strikes from the bottom, but that approach will rarely ever sway the judges when the other guy spends 90 percent of the round on top. Khalidov also did little to try to escape back to his feet, meaning that the round’s outcome was pretty handily in the bag for Askham the moment he was successful with a takedown.
Askham is a tough fighter who showed his mettle in avoiding Khalidov’s early submission attacks aimed at his legs and repeatedly taking down the former champ. Unless Khalidov brings a completely different approach to this rematch, Askham already holds the blueprint to another victory.
Other key bouts: Aleksandar Ilić (12-3) vs. Michał Materla (28-7), Krystian Kaszubowski (8-1) vs. Jakub Kamieniarz (9-6), Przemysław Mysiala (23-10-1) vs. Stjepan Bekavac (19-10), Ion Surdu (10-1) vs. Tomasz Romanowski (9-7), Patryk Surdyn (5-0) vs. Damian Stasiak (11-7), Andreas Berg (6-0) vs. Damian Janikowski (4-3), Sylwia Juśkiewicz (9-5) vs. Karolina Wójcik (6-2)
Gilberto Dias (25-5-2) vs. Tiago Xavier (11-5)
The UFC’s flyweight division has been rebuilt since Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson was traded away to ONE Championship and the weight class was nearly dropped from the organization. This makes any regional flyweight title fight an intriguing look at potential future UFC fighters, especially when one of the competitors has 25 wins in 32 pro bouts. Such is the case for Arena Global 8 participant Gilberto Dias. The veteran vies for the organization’s 125-pound crown when he takes on Tiago Xavier.
Dias has bounced around between the bantamweight, flyweight and strawweight divisions throughout his career. The Constrictor Team fighter debuted in 2007, but he didn’t compete regularly until 2010. In early 2014, he claimed the Inka FC flyweight crown, but he failed to add the Coliseu Extreme Fight strap to his collection that year. After his failed CEF bid, he went on another five-fight winning streak that culminated in flyweight title wins under the Jungle Fight and The Warriors Combat banners. He turned around and lost the TWC championship to Rômulo Araújo and then joined Shooto Brazil, where he went 4-1-1. The 36-year-old “Cangaceiro” most recently appeared under the Circuito Araguaia de MMA banner with a quick submission victory over Herrison Sales, but he’s been on the sidelines for more than a year now after suffering a herniated disc in his back. Dias is a grappler who has tapped 14 of his opponents.
Xavier, 30, has a decade less experience than his upcoming opponent. The “Pitbull” debuted in 2016 and had not had a winning streak of more than three fights until commencing his current four-fight winning streak with three victories in 2019 and an August win over Magno Alves at Arena Global 7. The CT Lagomar disciple has fought mostly low level competition, but he did square off with Lincoln de Sá in 2017 in a bout that ended when de Sá submitted Xavier in the third round.
Dias has an aggressive striking attack and effective takedowns, but he struggles to get the finish against the better fighters he has faced. He’s been on the losing end in fights against Matheus Nicolau and Marcus Paulo Amaral, but he did add a 2019 win over the aforementioned de Sá after the two men fought to a draw in their first fight less than two months earlier.
Dias is lethal on the mat. He’s scored several of his victories by way of rear-naked choke. Xavier could be another victim for the prospect. The younger fighter has suffered three of his five setbacks via submission. The “Pitbull” also has a bad habit of putting himself in danger, even against low-level opponents.
This has the makings of a real barnburner. Dias tends to walk down his opponents and throw heavy leather for such a small fighter. Xavier also likes to swing for the fences, charge forward, and throw caution to the wind. Xavier is slightly more reckless, though, which has caused him to struggle at times. More worrisome, however, is Xavier’s recent strength of schedule. His last three fights came against sub-.500 opponents. He could be in over his head against a man with the experience of Dias. It’ll be fun while it lasts, but Xavier’s mistakes will eventually lead to a submission finish for Dias.
Other key bouts: Tarcizio Gomes (9-3) vs. Vinicius Salvador (11-4) for the bantamweight title, Ricardo Souza (12-6) vs. Kevem Felipe (5-3), Wagner Silva (6-1) vs. Clesio Silva (4-5), Felipe Alves (4-0) vs. Gelson Naze (1-0), Jhonatha Lima (2-0) vs. Lucas Nascimento (5-1), Lucas Tavares (2-0) vs. Bruno Guimarães (3-1)
The Best of the Rest
Fighting Alliance Championship IV: Jason High (21-8) vs. Josh Weston (8-8) for the welterweight title Watch Event:UFC Fight Pass
Fusion Fighting Championship 44: Jose Zarauz (21-7-1) vs. Martin Mollinedo (24-9) for the featherweight title
Respect MMA 1: Sarah Frota (9-2) vs. Daiana Torquato (9-3)
Ansgar Fighting League: Valkyries: Audrey Kerouche (7-5) vs. Micol di Segni (7-3) for the women’s strawweight title Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Last Week’s Scorecard
Jarrah Al-Silawi vs. Melvin van Suijdam at Brave CF 43
Al-Silawi by knockout
Al-Silawi by decision
Kevin Wirth vs. Askar Askar at LFA 92
Wirth by decision
Askar by decision
Stephan Puetz vs. Walter Chincho Jr. at Fair FC 10
Puetz by knockout
Puetz by submission
In Hindsight: Al-Silawi couldn’t score the predicted knockout against van Suijdam, but he did earn a decision nod in a competitive contest. Al-Silawi was the quicker and longer man in what often turned into a kickboxing match, but he also flashed the well-roundedness he possesses while fending off van Suijdam’s surges on the feet and submission attempts on the mat…Wirth fell far short of the predicted decision victory. Askar took a more measured approach than he did in his most recent knockout loss, and it paid off. Wirth didn’t throw as many kicks or spinning techniques as might have been expected, and instead Askar scored a first-round knockdown, walked down his opponent for much of the fight, and threw in some dominant wrestling to easily lock up the decision win…Puetz didn’t opt for the knockout against Chincho. Instead, he lived up to the other part of the prediction — that he’d get the finish by whatever method he chose — and tapped the Brazilian within the first round…”Best of the Rest” fighters Robert Bryczek and Yuriy Klimchuk scored stoppages, while Sergey Dyakonov earned a decision victory.
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