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: Oct. 23
Watch Event: Canal Combate (Brazil), Fox
Felipe Gheno (9-1) vs. Bruno “Korea” Rodrigues (11-3-1)
Brazil’s Taura MMA recently inked a deal with Fox Sports that will bring its 10th show to Fox Deportes. The event features a number of names that should ring a bell for UFC fans. Rousimar Palhares, Sérgio Moraes and Wendell Oliveira have all graced the Octagon in the past, with varying levels of success. The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 4 alum Bruno Korea is another UFC castoff in the lineup. He takes top billing as the challenger to flyweight champion Felipe Gheno.
Korea appeared on TUF Brazil in 2015, but he had to move up a weight class to do so. At the time, he was an undefeated upstart through four pro fights, including three under the Shooto Brazil banner. His victory over fellow undefeated prospect Jafel Filho provided him with a springboard to the reality show, where he knocked out Franklyn Santos and submitted current Bellator roster member Leandro Higo before suffering a loss to Reginaldo Vieira. Despite his failure to win the competition, Korea was given one more chance at UFC Fight Night 77, albeit still in the bantamweight division. He was pitted against Matheus Nicolau, who submitted him in the third round with a Japanese necktie. Korea returned to the Brazilian regional circuit and added two more wins. Then, Titan Fighting Championship picked him up and allowed him to compete at his natural weight, but it again proved to be too much for Korea. He went just 1-2 within the organization. The 29-year-old has once more found success in his homeland with four more wins and a draw through five fights. This will be his first appearance with Taura MMA, but his history with the UFC and Titan FC has allowed him to jump to an immediate title challenge.
The champion, Gheno, has a far more modest resume. He debuted in 2012 and won his first two fights. His third appearance was a rematch with Leonardo Brizola, a winless three-fight veteran at the time who had lost to Gheno just three months earlier. Brizola was able to submit Gheno with a rear-naked choke in the first round. Gheno dropped off the MMA map for two years, but he made his return to competition in 2015 and compiled a seven-fight winning streak. His adversaries in this stretch have run the gamut from rookies and winless pros to prospect Leandro Soares and 22-fight veteran Giliarde da Silva.
Gheno’s best chance at a successful title defense comes in the stand-up realm. The high-energy kickboxer, who has finished five opponents via strikes, throws powerful combinations and utilizes a lot of movement. Korea does have some flashy spinning kicks in his arsenal that he can use to keep Gheno at bay, but the UFC veteran also has a tendency to leave his hands low and get tagged. Nicolau’s submission finish of Korea was preceded by two-plus rounds in which he repeatedly connected with his punches. Nicolau knocked down Korea in the first round and rocked him in the third frame to spark the beginning of the end. Gheno has a far higher output and tighter striking than Nicolau.
Korea is a threat on the mat, where he tapped the aforementioned Higo in an exhibition fight on TUF and Abdiel Velasquez in an official contest at Titan FC 42. He has been known to be too comfortable fighting off his back, a habit that American Top Team tried to correct prior to the Nicolau fight. Of course, he won’t have to worry about being in that position with Gheno, who would much rather stand than take any chances against someone of Korea’s submission savvy.
Korea’s biggest struggles have come against fighters who have been able to combine a strong striking game with a high level of wrestling and grappling. This was evident in his losses to Nicolau and Jorge Calvo. He also narrowly lost to Gustavo Balart, a powerful wrestler. Gheno lacks the ground game to compete with Korea, but he stays active when he is taken down. He’ll throw strikes from the bottom and work very hard to get back to the feet. This could lead to mistakes that open the door for a submission finish from Korea.
The outcome of this contest depends a great deal on which fighter is able to dictate where the action takes place. Gheno could take advantage of Korea’s low hands and rock the TUF alum early. On the other hand, Korea might be able to plant Gheno on the mat and methodically work toward a submission. Gheno has yet to meet a fighter of Korea’s caliber, and the striker was even submitted by an 0-3 foe. Until the champ proves that he can fend off the ground game of even a winless opponent, it’s going to be difficult to envision him getting the better of a UFC and Titan FC veteran. Barring a well-placed knockout blow early in a round, Gheno is likely to find himself out of his element and eventually submitted by Korea.
Other key bouts: Ary Farias (9-2) vs. Johnny Campbell (20-12) for the interim bantamweight title, Maria Laura Alves (4-0) vs. Bruna Vargas (4-3), Sérgio Moraes (14-6-1) vs. Jared Revel (10-2), Rousimar Palhares (19-10-1) vs. Antonio Gordillo (13-3), Rene Pessoa (21-6) vs. Wendell Oliveira (31-14), Thiago Oliveira (16-5) vs. Andrey Augusto (9-2-1), Nilton Gavião (16-5) vs. Manoel dos Santos (9-3), Simone Santos (1-0) vs. Thaiane Souza (6-6), Denis Silva (15-4) vs. Kauê Rodrigues (8-3)
Yuta Miyazawa (7-3) vs. Hiroaki Ijima (12-13-3)
In equal parts due to ONE Championship’s unique weigh-in rules and the prevalence of the flyweight division as the minimum featured weight class in most organizations, the men’s strawweight division has been thinned to the point where a losing record is not a disqualifier for inclusion in the division’s top 10. Case in point, Pancrase’s Hiroaki Ijima. The 39-year-old resides at No. 8 in the poll despite a 12-13-3 career mark. Ijima will attempt to get back to .500 when he meets Yuta Miyazawa at Pancrase 319.
Ijima has been active on the pro circuit since 2008. He made his debut with Japan’s Shooto organization and immediately launched into a roller-coaster ride of wins and losses. By 2010, he was just 2-4-1 when he collided with Haruo Ochi, who would go on to become one of the world’s top strawweights in the decade that followed. Ochi defeated Ijima, who turned around to post one of the most successful stretches of his career with a 4-1-2 run over his next seven fights. This led to encounters with elite fighters Mitsuhisa Sunabe and Masatatsu Ueda, both of whom got the better of Ijima. He rebounded nicely once again with a 6-2 stretch that included victories over notables Isao Hirose and Ryo Hatta. His good fortune came to an abrupt halt in 2018 when he went on a three-fight skid consisting of stoppage losses to Daichi Kitakata, Tatsuya So and Adam Antolin. The veteran is a decision machine and has only one finish in his pro career.
Miyazawa has a better winning percentage than Ijima, but he remains outside of the top 10 due to his strength of schedule. The 26-year-old got off to a strong start when he made his pro debut in 2017. He won his first four fights, including two by stoppage. However, his opponents consisted of three winless fighters and a veteran was just one fight above .500 at the time. He ran into trouble in 2018 against a pair of fighters with losing records, resulting in a 15-second starching at the hands of Takafumi Ato and a decision loss to Satoshi Miyokawa. Miyazawa responded with another streak of victories. In this span, he avenged the loss to Ato and added a win over a respectable veteran foe in Yusuke Uehara. Most recently, he faced another setback when he was submitted by Toshiya Takashima.
While Ijima’s overall mark is far from flattering, he only began regularly competing at 115 pounds in 2017 and has gone 3-3 within the division. Unfortunately, this run has been marked by extremes — he won three in a row before dropping three in a row. However, it is worth mentioning that his strength of schedule has been extremely high. He topped the No. 10-ranked Hatta and suffered two of his losses to the current Nos. 5 and 6 in the poll. His remaining defeat in the division came to the aforementioned Kitakata, who’s now technically a flyweight with ONE but had defeated Sunabe for the strawweight King of Pancrase crown before defecting. In all of those setbacks, Ijima was competitive before ultimately suffering the loss.
Ijima is a solid grappler, but he’s too easily swept and reversed. He likes to attack his opponent’s legs, yet it has not paid off with any submission finishes through 12 years in the sport. Primarily, he just attempts to outgrapple his foe and let the judges determine the outcome. Obviously, this lack of finishing instinct has cost him. He has suffered eight of his defeats on the scorecards, and his aggressive attempts to get the fight to the canvas have also resulted in Ijima leaving himself open to the choke, as illustrated in his losses to Kitakata and Antolin.
Ijima’s record certainly doesn’t do him justice, especially within the strawweight division. He’s a legitimate contender for Pancrase, and this fight with Miyazawa will go a long way to determining whether the younger fighter is also a top-tier competitor. The 26-year-old has seen mixed results against fighters lower down the totem pole, which should raise some concerns. Miyazawa has the speed and youth advantages here, but his wrestling and grappling aren’t in the same league with Ijima. Furthermore, Miyazawa has been clipped before, and Ijima wields the type of power that can hurt Miyazawa. Ijima’s inability to stop opponents is his primary drawback, but it just means we’re most likely looking at another decision nod for the veteran rather than a finish.
Other key bouts: Hiroto Uesako (16-9) vs. Koshi Matsumoto (20-9-2), Takeshi Kasugai (25-7-1) vs. Toshinori Tsunemura (14-10-4), Issei Tamura (13-10) vs. Akira Okada (13-9-3), Yuki Kondo (61-36-9) vs. Yutaka Kobayashi (11-22-4), Rui Imura (2-0) vs. Shinsuke Matsubara (5-2)
Event Date: Oct. 25
Watch Event: Canal Combate (Brazil)
Diego Dias (12-3) vs. Carlos Silva (11-2)
The 102nd show from Shooto Brazil features a bantamweight title fight between Luan Luiz Lacerda and Wellington Lopes, but Lopes’ 5-2 record doesn’t quite prompt as much intrigue as the marks of the two men in the welterweight clash that comes just before it in the lineup. That fight pairs established prospects Diego Dias and Carlos Silva.
The 28-year-old Dias has been plying his trade since 2013. By the end of 2017, he was a prospect with a 7-1 record. Unfortunately, this put him in the path of Edson Marques, who was perfect through seven fights at the time. Marques knocked out Dias in the first round, but “DD” recovered with three more victories. Again, this led to a fight with a fellow highly touted prospect, and Dias suffered a decision loss in the bout. That setback came against Vladimir Mineev. Once more, Dias has rebounded with two wins, which sets the table for this co-headlining encounter with Silva.
Silva, 27, catapulted out of the gates in late 2012 and won his first six fights. His seventh outing was his Shooto Brazil debut, which came against Erick Barbosa. Barbosa proved to be too much for “Carlão,” who came up short on the scorecards. Silva responded with another lengthy winning streak that included four victories under the Shooto Brazil banner and a lone win with Natal Fight Championship. The Professional Fighters League brought Silva in for its 2019 season, but it was a tenure to forget. Silva was decimated by Akhmet Aliev in what turned out to be the Brazilian’s only fight for the company. He missed weight for a scheduled PFL bout with Jesse Ronson and then landed back in Shooto Brazil, where his return fight against Paulo Henrique was then scrapped. This will now count as Silva’s first appearance since his failed PFL stint.
It’s an understatement to say Silva could have done better with the PFL. He landed zero strikes against Aliev in just under two and a half minutes of action. Aliev steamrolled the Brazilian at the end, but much of the round was a sparring match in which Silva simply whiffed with his punches and kicks. Of course, Silva has performed far better in his homeland, where he scored knockout finishes in his two fights prior to his PFL appearance.
Silva’s trouble in hitting the mark on the scales for the Ronson fight likely played a part in his decision to compete at welterweight for the first time in his career. However, this could put the PFL veteran at a disadvantage against the bulkier Dias. Dias swings for the fences, which could leave him open for counters, but he also changes levels well and could score takedowns if Silva chooses to surge forward. Dias has been able to beat almost everyone put in front of him, and this shouldn’t change with Silva. He’ll rock “Carlão” before following up with a submission for the finish.
Other key bouts: Luan Luiz Lacerda (9-1) vs. Wellington Lopes (5-2) for the bantamweight title, Luiz Felipe Herculano (5-0) vs. Antônio da Silva (4-3), Wallace Lopes (7-1) vs. Jonathan Pinto (5-3), Thierry Lucas (2-0) vs. Jorge Nascimento (1-0), Claudia Alves (2-0-1) vs. Michele Oliveira (1-0)
iKon Fighting Federation 2: Alejandro Flores (17-3) vs. Andy Perez (7-11) Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Gladiator Combat Fight 53: Thiago Tavares (22-10-1) vs. Laercio Alves (7-10) Watch Event: pay-per-view
The Hero MMA: Pro Fight Night 2: Priya Saini (3-0) vs. Anuja Singh (1-0)
Russian Battle Masters: Apocalipse: Mikhail Turkanov (8-4) vs. Aleksandr Klyuev (2-0) for the welterweight title
|John Gotti III vs. Nick Alley at CES 61||Gotti by knockout||Alley by decision|
|Wildemar Santos vs. Caio Borralho at Future MMA 12||Borralho by decision||Borralho by decision|
|Andre Petroski vs. Aaron Jeffery at LFA 93||Petroski by submission||Jeffery by knockout|
In Hindsight: Gotti floundered miserably and failed to deliver the predicted knockout. While he did score a takedown in the first round and kept Alley grounded for much of the frame, he couldn’t repeat even this feat in the two rounds that followed. Instead, he came out flat in the second stanza and was out-wrestled and out-grappled for the remainder of the contest, resulting in a decision nod for Alley…Contrary to what we’ve seen from both men in the past, Borralho and Santos were perfectly content to remain upright in their middleweight title showdown. Borralho scored the predicted decision, but it came through point fighting on the feet rather than positional control on the mat…Petroski, much like Gotti, started strong before fading. The Art of War regular scored two takedowns in the opening frame and did enough to win the round on two of the judges’ scorecards. He continued his assault in round two and looked to be well on his way to a decision victory, if not the predicted submission finish. However, he then made a major mistake that essentially led to a guard pull. That’s when the Dana White’s Contender Series alum Jeffery took over. He rained down hammerfists on the scrambling Petroski until Petroski worked his way back to his feet against the cage. That’s where Jeffery landed a fight-ending sequence that began with an elbow to cut open Petroski before a pair of knees prompted the referee to stop the contest…”Best of the Rest” selections Brogan Anderson and Karlos Vémola earned stoppages, while Kiril Gorobets took home a decision win. Silvania Monteiro was not so fortunate. She dropped a decision to Aline Pires, who entered the contest with a losing record.