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…
Islam Mamedov (18-1-1) vs. Martun Mezhlumyan (10-1)
The 14th offering from the Middle Eastern UAE Warriors organization features two title bouts, but a lightweight non-title affair demands plenty of attention as well. It features two fighters with only a single loss each on their respective records. Islam Mamedov suffered his lone setback while competing in 20 pro bouts. Now, he’s set to meet Martun Mezhlumyan, who has just over half of the pro experience of his counterpart.
Mamedov has already made a name for himself on American shores as part of the World Series of Fighting roster and as a participant in the 2018 and 2019 Professional Fighters League seasons. Despite his stellar record, Mamedov never managed a PFL title. However, he did submit Natan Schulte, the two-time PFL lightweight season-winner, in the pair’s WSOF days. The 30-year-old Dagestani fighter made his pro debut in 2009 and suffered his lone career defeat in his sophomore appearance opposite Alexander Sarnavskiy, who was also in the early stages of what would become a successful career of his own. After running his record up to 10-1, the New Jersey-based lightweight joined the WSOF and tallied four wins, including the submission of Schulte and a decision over grizzled veteran Jorge Patino. When the WSOF re-branded itself as the PFL, Mamedov came along and added two wins during each season. However, his 2018 postseason came to a halt when he withdrew with an illness following a quarterfinal win over UFC veteran Thiago Tavares and his 2019 postseason ended in a draw against Loik Radzhabov where the tiebreaker ruling allowed Radzhabov to advance..
The 27-year-old Mezhlumyan is far less heralded, though he has posted a 10-1 career mark. The Armenian standout debuted in 2016 and won his first two fights. He tasted defeat in his third outing when he was submitted in the first round by rookie fighter Movsar Baymaskhanov. Mezhlumyan has since rebounded with eight more wins while journeying around the Russian regional circuit. He has unfortunately had few fights against experienced opponents, but his last outing did come against 31-fight veteran Valeriu Mircea. Mezhlumyan squeaked by with a split-decision win in that affair, which brought an end to a streak of seven consecutive stoppages.
The last time Mamedov was slated to fight, which was in September at UAE Warriors 13, he fainted prior to the event. Hopefully, he won’t suffer a repeat this weekend. The American Kickboxing Academy representative has a lot of similar traits to that of his famed teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov. He’s a relentless wrestler with strong top control. Mamedov will often trap the legs of his opponent, just as Nurmagomedov does, and he is also skilled at getting mount. However, he doesn’t generate the same offensive output from top position as the future UFC Hall of Famer does. Mamedov sometimes relies solely on his wrestling and doesn’t mix in enough ground-and-pound to score points. It’s the lay-and-pray approach, and it has led to some close fights, including the split verdict against Ylies Djiroun during the 2019 PFL regular season and the draw and subsequent failure to advance when he fought Radzhabov in the 2019 PFL playoffs.
Mezhlumyan is a far more active fighter on the mat. He prefers to set up in side control with a knee on his opponent’s belly so that he can eventually move straight into mount. He’ll rain down ground-and-pound strikes and attack his opponent’s arms with submission attempts. This approach has led to a lot of TKO finishes across his current winning streak. However, strength of schedule does need to be factored in. He absolutely dominated the likes of Ilya Gladkiy and Movsardin Magomedov prior to his fight with Mircea, but Gladkiy was just 3-1 entering the bout and Magomedov was a rookie. Meanwhile, Mircea, who has a ton of experience and a respectable 25-5-1 mark, was able to give Mezhlumyan a far tougher fight and even take the Armenian down on several occasions.
On the surface, Mezhlumyan appears to be another stiff test for Mamedov. Yet, his weak schedule means he has a lot to prove in a fight against an opponent who has been faring well in a major organization over the last couple of years. Mezhlumyan’s best chance for a win is likely to come on the feet. He’s far more willing to throw than Mamedov, and Mamedov has been rocked before. If Mezhlumyan can either wobble his Russian counterpart or stuff a takedown and convert it into some time spent in top position, he could find a finish. However, it’s more likely that Mamedov’s experience shines through in this affair. The AKA fighter will close the distance and either engage in the clinch or initiate takedowns to get the fight into his world. He might not unleash many barrages, but his conservative approach of controlling position should be enough to lead him to a decision win over Mezhlumyan.
Other key bouts: Gabriela Campo (6-1) vs. Manon Fiorot (4-1) for the women’s flyweight title, Xavier Alaoui (11-3) vs. Juares Dea (7-2) for the bantamweight title, Shido Soto Esperanca (5-0) vs. Mohamad Ghorabi (6-5), Gilber Ordoñez Huila (10-2) vs. Youssef Ghrairi (7-2), Ronald Girones Sago (7-1) vs. Ho Taek Oh (6-2-1), Dan Collins (3-0) vs. Mohammad Yahya (7-2), Shannon Ross (12-5) vs. Donavon Frelow (6-3), Vinicius de Oliveira (13-2) vs. Alexander Keshtov (9-1), Atabek Abdimitalipov (4-0) vs. Hussein Salem (4-3), Makkasharip Zaynukov (11-3) vs. Damien Lapilus (17-12-2), Youssef Al Housani (2-0) vs. Jason Kearns (1-0)
Paweł Pawlak (16-4-1) vs. Adrian Błeszyński (9-3-1)
Poland’s Babilon MMA returns with its 18th show. The top-billed fight is a clash for the vacant middleweight strap that pits Paweł Pawlak against an old nemesis, Adrian Błeszyński.
The 31-year-old Pawlak is entering the second decade of his fight career. “Plastinho” debuted in 2010 and started out strong, scoring victories in his first 10 appearances. This led to a stint in the UFC, where he finally ran into a level of competition that he couldn’t quite conquer. Pawlak dropped a decision to Peter Sobotta in his Octagon debut, but he won his second UFC appearance with a decision nod of his own over Sheldon Westcott. An additional loss to Leon Edwards marked the end of his stay in the big show. Pawlak returned to his homeland with mixed results. He is 3-1-1 under the Babilon MMA banner and 2-1 in other action. Pawlak earned his spot in this title tilt with an impressive third-round finish of Filip Tomczak in June.
Błeszyński again lines up opposite Pawlak in a clash for the Babilon gold. “Ares” debuted in 2015 after a less-than-stellar amateur run. He punched his way to victory in his first three contests, but he dropped his fourth pro fight via submission to Łukasz Stanek. He recovered with a submission win of his own in his next appearance, but another loss followed. Błeszyński then got back on track with wins in five of his next six MMA outings. His most recent fight was his initial battle with Pawlak for the middleweight belt. That fight ended in a split draw.
Błeszyński is a boxer who is perfectly content to stand and exchange with opponents. He’ll throw three- and four-punch combinations, and he packs plenty of power. He’s scored seven knockouts through his pro career. In contrast, Pawlak tends to hold his hands low and lunge in with punches. The UFC castoff does have nine finishes by some form of knockout, but he lacks the technique of his rival on the feet.
Pawlak is more likely to shoot for takedowns and utilize his wrestling and grappling to control position while landing ground-and-pound shots. Despite his preference to plant his opponent on the mat, Pawlak has only secured three submission finishes in his lengthy career. Instead of seeking to tap his foe, Pawlak will primarily attempt to land heavy elbows and destroy his opponent for either a TKO or even a tapout due to strikes, which is how he scored his first pro win.
This pair’s first meeting was a war of attrition that ended in a stalemate. Pawlak was clearly the superior fighter early in the contest. He scored takedowns in the first three frames and implemented his game plan, but he couldn’t do enough to finish Błeszyński. In rounds four and five, Pawlak was spent. Błeszyński punished him on the feet for much of the remaining 10 minutes, with Pawlak at times standing near the fence with his hands on his hips in a sign of exhaustion. Pawlak did add another takedown in the fifth stanza, but Błeszyński was quick to escape. Despite this late shift in momentum, Błeszyński wasn’t able to score enough points to overtake Pawlak and win the fight.
This rematch should favor Pawlak. He easily put Błeszyński on the mat multiple times in their previous meeting and should do the same here. It’s likely that he’s made adjustments and worked on his cardio. It’s up to Błeszyński to once again hang in there in the early going and push Pawlak into deeper waters. “Ares” has a chance for a late TKO if he can survive long enough, but Pawlak is probably going to be more determined to finish the fight early and more prepared if this fight goes into the championship rounds. The UFC veteran should find the ground-and-pound stoppage.
Other key bouts: Patryk Trytek (3-0) vs. Dawid Martynik (3-1) for the bantamweight title, Łukasz Sudolski (7-0) vs. Mladen Kujundžić (3-3-1)
Daniel Rutkowski (11-2) vs. Adrian Zieliński (20-9)
Rematches are the name of the game this weekend in Poland. The stakes are doubled in the second such fight, as Daniel Rutkowski and Adrian Zieliński will vie for both the Babilon MMA and Fight Exclusive Night featherweight straps.
Rutkowski currently holds both titles as a result of his previous win over Zieliński. The 31-year-old got off to a shaky start in his pro career with losses in his first two bouts. He has been perfect through 11 subsequent affairs, though. He won four fights, including two under the BAMMA banner, before joining Babilon MMA in 2018. He decimated the competition and took the vacant featherweight strap in his fourth promotional affair when he finished Damian Zorczykowski with strikes in the third round. In his next fight, “Rutek” added the FEN belt with a decision over Zieliński. He has gone on to add two more victories to his record, but they came in a catchweight contest and a lightweight affair.
Zieliński made his pro debut in 2010. He won his first three fights before finally tasting defeat courtesy of Brian Moore. He started a pattern from there in which he’d win two and then lose one through his next six appearances. Zieliński finally broke this trend and posted a seven-fight winning streak over a two-year period from 2013 to 2015. Things then got rough for the Arrachion Olsztyn product when he ventured to Russia. He suffered through a stretch in which he went just 3-5. His struggles led to a return to Poland, where he reeled off back-to-back wins and claimed the FEN featherweight championship. Zieliński then clashed with Rutkowski and lost the crown. He rebounded with an August finish of Danilo Belluardo to set up this rematch.
Zieliński has seemingly reached his ceiling in the sport. He’s 4-5 over his last nine outings, and those losses have come against a variety of veteran mid-tier competition. He’s a high-volume puncher who will occasionally throw kicks as well. He’s not too keen on going to the ground, but his opponents have had plenty of success in taking him down. UFC veteran Piotr Hallmann used wrestling to grind out a decision win over Zieliński, and Fabiano Silva, despite a losing effort, was also able to score a couple of takedowns. Zieliński is scrappy on the ground, however. He stays active and works to escape.
The bad news for Zieliński is that Rutkowski favors the wrestling game. He’ll surge forward with a flurry before changing levels in an attempt to get his adversary to the mat. Once the fight is on the canvas, he utilizes a ground-and-pound attack. In some cases, he’s been able to find the finish. When he’s not that fortunate, he’s still done enough to pick up the victory on the scorecards. Rutkowski sometimes leaves his neck for the taking when he commits to the takedown, but it’s yet to cost him at the pro level.
Rutkowski got the better of Zieliński in their first fight by engaging in the clinch and getting Zieliński to the ground. Zieliński, of course, would like to stay at range and spar with the champ, but that’s just not going to happen. Rutkowski knows where Zieliński’s weaknesses lie, and he’ll target those areas once again. Fans should expect a repeat of the first contest in this rematch. Rutkowski is going to pick up right where he left off by closing the distance and dragging this fight to the ground. Once it’s there, he’ll batter Zieliński en route to another unanimous verdict.
Other key bouts: Adam Kowalski (12-5-1) vs. Marcin Wójcik (13-7) for the light-heavyweight title, Sebastian Romanowski (14-8-1) vs. Jonas Magard (11-4) for the bantamweight title, Kamil Gniadek (14-7-1) vs. Piotr Poniedziałek (7-2), Ivan Čosić (6-0) vs. Marcin Naruszczka (20-9-2), Arnold Quero (15-7) vs. Kacper Formela (10-4)
The Best of the Rest
Oro Fighting Championship 10: Cristiano Estela Rios (16-5) vs. Leonardo Blasco (13-2) for the welterweight title Watch Event: pay-per-view stream on BuenPlan
Double G 5: Won Bin Ki (14-6) vs. Rae Yoon Ok (12-3) for the lightweight title
New Fighting Generation 16: Mortal Kombat: Dmitriy Romanov (5-0) vs. Pavel Burmistrov (5-1)
Superior Challenge 21: Adam Westlund (3-0) vs. Tobias Harila (7-1) Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Last Week’s Scorecard
Nick Browne vs. Arthur Estrázulas at LFA 95
Estrázulas by submission
Pavel Gordeev vs. Maxim Pugachev at RCC Intro 10
Gordeev by decision
Gordeev by decision
Mike Graves vs. Oton Jasse at Titan FC 65
Graves by decision
Graves by submission
In Hindsight: The LFA 95 headliner between Browne and Estrázulas was yet another victim of the coronavirus pandemic…Gordeev followed the blueprint laid out by past opponents of Pugachev and delivered the expected result of a decision nod. The Russian prospect turned in one of his trademark performances, outworking his opponent on both the feet and the mat to take the verdict…Graves did have to fend off an early submission attempt from Jasse, but Graves’ own aggression was the more stunning feature of this title tilt. Instead of grinding his way to the predicted decision, Graves shot early, scrambled well, got top position after avoiding the sub, and quickly locked in a guillotine choke for the tapout. On a side note, Graves’ boss, 49-year-old Titan FC CEO Lex McMahon, won his MMA debut a day earlier…“Best of the Rest” selections Daniel Vega and Alejandro Martinez fought to a unanimous draw. Meanwhile, Jozef Wittner, Eduardo Matias Torres and Satomi Takano all scored stoppage victories.
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