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…
Taura MMA 11
Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Fla. Event Date: Oct. 30 Website:tauramma.com Watch Event: Canal Combate (Brazil), Fox
Sports (USA) Twitter:@tauramma
Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (19-12) vs. Brett Martin (9-1)
UFC veterans are featured prominently this week on the regional scene, and none is bigger — quite literally — than Brazil’s Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. The former UFC heavyweight title challenger is far removed from the Octagon now, but he’s set to return to the MMA realm for the first time in more than three years when he meets Brett Martin at the 11th effort from Taura MMA.
The 41-year-old Silva’s rise truly began in 2007 when he was a featured star for EliteXC. Upon the organization’s demise, he hopped to Sengoku, where he added two victories. His next stop was Strikeforce, where he clashed with the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Andrei Arlovski and Daniel Cormier. Cormier was the only member of that trio to get the better of Bigfoot. In 2012, the Brazilian was brought over to the UFC. He engaged in a number of high-profile bouts, including a title shot against Cain Velasquez, but was more often than not on the losing end in a string of bouts that included such notable foes as Alistair Overeem, Frank Mir, Mark Hunt, Roy Nelson and the aforementioned Arlovski. Silva departed the big show in late 2016 following a three-fight skid. His struggles continued on the regional circuit, where he dropped fights to Ivan Shtyrkov and Vitaly Minakov. Following the 2017 encounter with Minakov, Silva engaged in a kickboxing bout with Rico Verhoeven, who easily disposed of the big man, and then appeared in a bare-knuckles affair where he was knocked out by fellow UFC vet Gabriel Gonzaga.
Martin has nowhere near the star power of his upcoming adversary, but this is a huge opportunity for the 26-year-old prospect. He has been competing at the professional level since 2016. After a largely successful amateur run, he won four of his first five pro fights — the other ended in a no-contest. He finally encountered a setback in 2018 when he dropped a decision to Leroy Johnson. The Michigan native has since recovered to the tune of another five straight victories, including two under the Legacy Fighting Alliance banner. Unfortunately, both of his LFA wins came as a result of illegal strikes to the back of the head rather than a finish of his own.
The Bigfoot of six or seven years ago would have been a clear favorite in a fight like this one, but Silva is well past his prime now. The Brazilian’s chin, which was never very solid in the first place, has also further deteriorated. Silva suffered 10 of his pro MMA defeats by way of knockout, and he was put away via strikes in kickboxing and bare-knuckles bouts more recently. His time away from the MMA realm doesn’t help either.
Martin is hardly a technician in any area of the game, though. His striking is sloppy, but he has proven power that has accounted for six victories at the amateur level and two wins as a pro. His wrestling isn’t much better — persistence, not technique, is what allows him to find the takedown on occasion. In his lone loss, Martin was exposed as a fighter who could be taken down almost at will and smothered. There’s a good chance the same could have happened in at least one of his LFA appearances had it not been for the carelessness of an opponent who continually threw illegal shots to the back of Martin’s head.
Silva’s chin is a real problem, but he stands four inches taller and will enjoy a seven-inch reach advantage over Martin. The Brazilian doesn’t shy away from a striking battle, but he’ll have to stay out of Martin’s range or else risk getting clipped. If Bigfoot wants to play it smart, the better option would be to plant Martin on the canvas. Silva can dominate with either ground-and-pound or by utilizing the skills he brings to the cage as a black belt in both judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Even if Silva does opt to keep it standing, though, he still possesses the skills necessary to outduel Martin. This one should end with the UFC veteran claiming a TKO victory.
Other key bouts: Richardson Moreira (8-4) vs. Jonathan Wilson (8-3) for the light-heavyweight title, Daron Cruickshank (22-13) vs. Deivison Ribeiro (27-11), William Macário (10-4) vs. Rico Farrington (7-3), D.J. Linderman (23-17) vs. Marcelo Golm (6-3), Pedro Souza (16-3) vs. Jesse Arnett (16-6), Mark Dickman (11-4) vs. Paulo Sergio Santos (8-2), Dilshod Zaripov (2-0) vs. Jaret Betancourt (0-0)
Vanessa Demopoulos (5-2) vs. Lupita Godinez (4-0)
In her last LFA outing, Vanessa Demopoulos captured the women’s strawweight title. Now, she’s back to make her first defense of the crown. In the LFA 94 headliner, Demopoulos is set to meet Mexico’s Lupita Godinez.
The 32-year-old Demopoulos went 6-1 as an amateur while suffering her only loss to future UFCer Katlyn Chookagian. The “Lil Monster” made her transition to the pro ranks in late 2017 and picked up a debut submission win. Her fortunes turned when she joined the LFA for her sophomore affair, a fight against Itzel Esquivel that ended in a decision loss for Demopoulos. The Black House MMA fighter rebounded with four straight victories in the LFA cage, culminating in a title win over Sam Hughes at LFA 85. While the Hughes fight garnered Demopoulos the belt and the attention of the UFC, she couldn’t capitalize on it in an appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series where the LFA champ dropped the second decision of her pro career to Cory McKenna in August.
Godinez struggled in her own ammy career. Now 27 and based in Canada, the Mexican upstart was just 4-4-1 as an amateur. She faced the aforementioned Hughes twice during this period, with the first fight ending in a split draw and the second contest resulting in a decision nod in Godinez’s favor. “Loopy” went pro following her victory over Hughes. She picked up a decision win in her debut against three-fight veteran Jennah Macallister and then added a first-round submission finish of Ashlee Martin in her sophomore appearance. Godinez moved on to the Combate organization in 2019 and notched a decision victory over Felisha Magallan on short notice. Most recently, she decisioned 11-fight veteran Lindsay Garbatt for strawweight gold under the BTC Fight Promotions banner.
Godinez gave Demopoulos’ last LFA opponent, the aforementioned Hughes, a hard time through two contests. Hughes had a rough amateur run, but she appears to have found her groove as a pro. She was actually well on her way to beating Demopoulos for the LFA strap before she got caught in an inverted triangle. Godinez has likewise excelled more as a pro than as an amateur. She’s taking a slight step up in competition here, though, and will be tested.
Demopoulos has been lucky to come out ahead as often as she has. She can at times struggle with range, and she’s too willing to stand with opponents. This is partially due to her almost complete lack of an offensive wrestling game. Demopoulos rarely scores traditional takedowns. Instead, she will pull guard. This worked well against Loveth Young. The Hughes fight followed a similar trajectory, with Demopoulos losing the first three rounds on the feet before getting the fight to the mat, where she put Hughes to sleep. Demopoulos has a strong ground-and-pound game and can avoid getting bucked off or swept, but she’s far too content to fight off her back rather than seeking top position. When she meets equally capable fighters, such as McKenna, this can lead to frustration and failure.
Godinez actually presents a lot of the same problems for Demopoulos that we saw from Hughes. The Mexican fighter stalks down her opponents and fires off combinations. She could duplicate Hughes’ game plan and pepper Demopoulos with shots in order to overwhelm her. Godinez is also a strong wrestler, but she’ll want to resist the temptation to go to the ground with the champ.
The fate of Demopoulos depends greatly on whether she can lure Godinez to the mat. The former exotic dancer is a lethal threat off her back with armbars and triangles. She’s also not afraid to roll for a leg. These techniques will be her primary route to a finish. However, if Godinez can keep it standing and not be goaded into the guard of her opponent, then she could work her way to another decision similar to the ones she scored against Magallan and Garbatt.
Other key bouts: Aaron McKenzie (8-2-1) vs. Joe Giannetti (9-3-1), Thai Clark (8-0) vs. Chase Gibson (9-5), Fernie Garcia (7-1) vs. Ryan Hayes (9-6), Logan Woods (3-0) vs. Ozzy Diaz (3-1), Jalin Fuller (3-0) vs. Miles Amos (3-0)
Stipe Brčić (8-1) vs. Brad Katona (8-2)
The Ultimate Fighter 27 featherweight winner Brad Katona couldn’t parlay his success on the reality show into an extended stay in the UFC. Instead, Katona is now a headliner for Germany’s Elite MMA Championship organization, which is set to hold its sixth show this weekend. Katona, who makes his first appearance since leaving the UFC, will challenge Stipe Brčić for EMC’s bantamweight championship.
Canada’s Katona entered the “Undefeated” season of TUF as a 6-0 prospect. He earned a majority decision over Kyler Phillips in the quarterfinals and then submitted Bryce Mitchell, who is still experiencing a great deal of success in the UFC, in the semifinals. At the TUF 27 Finale, Katona won the featherweight portion of the show with a decision nod over Jay Cucciniello. He added another decision victory inside the Octagon in late 2018 when he topped Matthew Lopez at bantamweight, but then fell on hard times in 2019 and lost consecutive bouts to Merab Dvalishvili and Hunter Azure. This will be the 28-year-old’s first outing of 2020.
Brčić has been toiling around the European circuit since 2015. The Croatian fighter won his first five fights, but he then went inactive for all of 2018. He returned in 2019 and suffered a stoppage loss against fellow undefeated up-and-comer Khurshed Kakhorov. Three months later, Brčić made his EMC debut with a 13-second starching of Ishaq Jadesh. The 27-year-old took part in a one-night tournament in February and came away with victories over Kewin Jacques Rangel and Luca Iovine to capture the EMC bantamweight title.
Katona, who fights out of SBG Ireland, has a solid boxing background, but he’s not a one-dimensional striker. He’ll attack with kicks as well as punches. Katona’s offensive wrestling abilities kept him in the Azure fight, but the knockdowns scored by Azure proved to be too much to overcome with the judges. Katona can be vulnerable to the takedown, too. Dvalishvili was able to take a decision over Katona by out-wrestling him.
Brčić can get very wild. He lunges forward with haymakers, but he gets tagged in the process, even by mediocre competition like Rangel and Iovine. The latter was almost able to finish Brčić in the first round of their tournament bout. Brčić has a sloppy ground game as well, and his aggression in both realms can be a huge liability. It left him prone for the knockout against Kakhorov, and it almost led to a referee stoppage when he met Iovine. While he has finishing abilities, he lacks the discipline to get the job done against superior competition.
Katona had some bad luck across his last two Octagon appearances, but he flashed plenty of potential in his TUF run. He has the skills and a team behind him that could help to bring him back to the big leagues eventually. His experience, well-rounded game, and cardio should combine to give him an edge over Brčić. As long as he can avoid the haymakers that his Croatian opponent will surely throw, Katona should be able to control his opponent and perhaps even find a submission once Brčić gets careless.
Other key bouts: Husein Kadimagomaev (7-0) vs. Tobias Harila (7-1), Ivan Čosić (6-0) vs. Shota Gvasalia (11-6), Kerim Engizek (15-4) vs. Rostem Akman (6-2), Pascal Hintzen (5-0) vs. Bakhtiyar Abdulaev (8-0), Ahmed Abdulkadirov (6-1) vs. David Mora (5-3), Denis Stojnić (13-3) vs. Vladimir Toksyatynov (0-0)
The Best of the Rest
Cage Fury Fighting Championships 86: James Gonzalez (6-3) vs. Levi Mowles (13-4) for the bantamweight title Watch Event:UFC Fight Pass
Cage Fury Fighting Championships 87: Santo Curatolo (5-0) vs. Alberto Trujillo (4-1) for the flyweight title Watch Event:UFC Fight Pass
Deep Jewels 30: Tomo Maesawa (13-11) vs. Hikaru Aono (6-3) for the women’s atomweight title
Standout Fighting Tournament 22: Andréia Serafim (4-0) vs. Pamela Mara Assis (4-2-1) for the women’s strawweight title Watch Event: Fite TV via Combat Press
Last Week’s Scorecard
Felipe Gheno vs. Bruno “Korea” Rodrigues at Taura MMA 10
Korea by submission
Korea by submission
Yuta Miyazawa vs. Hiroaki Ijima at Pancrase 319
Ijima by decision
Miyazawa by knockout
Diego Dias vs. Carlos Silva at Shooto Brazil 102
Dias by submission
Dias by knockout
In Hindsight: Korea was able to secure the predicted submission and take the Taura flyweight strap off of Gheno. Gheno, perhaps out of concern for the ground game of the challenger, was far more hesitant than usual to pull the trigger on the feet. Instead of an aggressive style and crisp combinations, the champ appeared flat-footed and often opted for one- or two-strike attacks while closing the distance on his opponent. This approach caused him to walk right into the fight-ending choke in the third round…Ijima’s nosedive out of strawweight relevance continued. The aging veteran was not able to pick up the predicted decision. Instead, he was finished via a ground strike in the second round by Miyazawa…As a mostly uneventful first frame was drawing to a close, Dias did as predicted and rocked Silva. He didn’t have to go for the submission, however, as his flurry of follow-up strikes was all it took to end the fight…”Best of the Rest” selections Priya Saini and Thiago Tavares scored stoppages, while Alejandro Flores notched a decision.
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