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…
Gadzhi Rabadanov (14-3-2) vs. Mehdi Dakaev (11-2)
The Gorilla Fighting Championship organization heads to Moscow for its 30th event. The lineup includes a lightweight title tilt in which Gadzhi Rabadanov puts his belt on the line against Mehdi Dakaev.
The champ, who debuted in 2013, should be a vaguely familiar name to American fight fans. Following a 7-2-1 start to his campaign in which both losses came to Gusein Esenbaev, Rabadanov joined the Fight Nights Global promotion. After a win in his debut with the company, the sambo specialist struggled through a loss and a draw in his subsequent two appearances. He then rebounded with three straight wins before departing for the Professional Fighters League in 2019. He notched a decision victory over Steven Siler in his first fight of the PFL season, but he missed weight for his next two scheduled featherweight fights against Daniel Pineda and Lance Palmer. By late 2019, Rabadanov moved on to join the GFC roster. He stopped Oton Jasse via strikes in the third round of his promotional debut and then claimed gold in early 2020 with a decision nod over João Paulo Silva. Rabadanov, who has won five fights apiece by knockout and submission, is now set for his first title defense.
The challenger is no slouch. Dakaev debuted in 2015 and strung together six victories before taking a huge step up in competition when he clashed with UFC veteran Mickael Lebout. The Frenchman outworked Dakaev to take the fight on the scorecards. Dakaev recovered to score a decision win of his own over a veteran foe in his next fight, but another loss followed when he encountered BAMMA and Cage Warriors vet Jack Grant in his only appearance with the Cage Warriors organization. The 25-year-old French-born Chechen fighter has since added another four wins to his record, including two under the GFC banner. Dakaev has finished five opponents via submission.
Rabadanov continues a recent trend of PFL fighters in action, though his troubles on the scales prevented him from reaching his full potential in the American organization. The Russian fighter is yet another strong wrestler whose primary intent is to work from top control. He’s not too shabby on the feet, though, where he can land stinging calf kicks and catch his opponent’s kicks to convert additional takedowns. Rabadanov flashed sneaky power, especially in his left hand, against the aforementioned Silva and dropped the Brazilian on a handful of occasions. In his fights with Jasse and the UFC veteran Siler, Rabadanov displayed excellent submission defense as well. He doesn’t panic when his opponent tries to submit him and instead calmly works his way out of danger.
Rabadanov will sometimes lull his opponents with a grinding wrestling and clinch game early in the fight. He doesn’t hunt for submissions or unleash bigger ground-and-pound barrages until later in the contest. He almost found a rear-naked choke late in his contest with Siler, and he did enough to prompt a stoppage against Jasse in the third round of their encounter.
Dakaev is an equally persistent wrestler, but he’s far more aggressive than his counterpart. He’ll take risks both through creative takedown attempts and on the mat in pursuit of submissions, but this can cause him to lose position. When he controls these urges, he’s actually fairly great at working from the top. While Dakaev may not have any knockout victories, it’s not for lack of trying. He will unload on his opponent against the cage when given the opportunity.
These guys could either generate a grappling-heavy fight or abandon their specialties to engage in a kickboxing affair. If it goes to the mat, Rabadanov’s patience should pay dividends. He’ll likely want to avoid shooting for a takedown, since Dakaev’s sprawl is very effective in stopping such a straightforward approach. Instead, he’d be better off using Dakaev’s aggression against him to reverse position after Dakaev takes him down. On the feet, meanwhile, it’s anyone’s game. Dakaev tends to throw tighter boxing combinations, whereas Rabadanov lunges in with one or two strikes. Rabadanov only needs to land flush with one power shot, though, as he demonstrated against Silva.
In such a close fight, it really comes down to experience and historical trends. Dakaev ran into trouble against mid-tier guys like Grant and Lebout, while Rabadanov was able to largely dominate his affair with Siler. If the past is any indication, Rabadanov should be able to work his way to yet another win on the scorecards, albeit against a surprisingly tough challenge from Dakaev.
Other key bouts: Vyacheslav Svischev (4-0) vs. Sharapudin Magomedov (3-0), Zhora Ayvazyan (9-0) vs. Rasul Magomedov (7-2) for the featherweight title, Daniil Prikaza (13-4-2) vs. Artur Guseinov (26-9), Uzair Abdurakov (12-0-1) vs. Vladimir Osipov (11-10), Vyacheslav Ptitsyn (5-0) vs. Nabi Ashurlaev (3-0)
Maycon Mendonça (10-4) vs. Batsumberel Dagvadorj (7-0)
Guess what? There’s another vacant Legacy Fighting Alliance belt. This time, it’s the welterweight strap. A new champion will be crowned in the LFA 96 headliner. The two men vying for the title — and likely auditioning for a UFC contract — are Maycon Mendonça and Batsumberel Dagvadorj.
The 28-year-old Mendonça is a 14-fight veteran who suffered three of his defeats over the course of three consecutive outings. The Black House product stumbled out of the gates with a loss in his pro debut, but he went on to win his next six fights. This caught the attention of the LFA, which brought Mendonça in for its 11th event. Mendonça struggled, though, and lasted just 96 seconds against Matthew Frincu. His next two fights weren’t much better, with Mendonça dropping a decision to LaRue Burley and suffering another quick knockout at the hands of Christian Aguilera. The Brazilian fighter finally turned things around in 2019 to reel off four straight victories inside the LFA cage. His victims included Bobby Lee, Kassius Kayne and Devin Smyth. Mendonça has tallied four knockouts and one submission thus far in his career.
Dagvadorj remains undefeated through seven pro appearances. “The Mongolian Falcon” had primarily seen low-level opposition, first in his homeland and then in trips to California for URCC and Dragon House shows. The 33-year-old finally received a true test when he graced the Bellator cage for the company’s September 2019 event in San Jose, Calif. Dagvadorj battled the seasoned James Terry, a Strikeforce veteran and longtime Bellator fighter. The Mongolian upstart caught Terry in a bulldog choke for the submission finish in just a little over half of a round. It was the second career submission victory for Dagvadorj, who also has four knockouts to his name.
Mendonça had a tough transition from the regional scene to the LFA, but now he’s found his footing with the organization and has brought his LFA record up to 4-3. He doesn’t seem to be strong in one particular area. Instead, he puts the pieces of his game together well enough to hang in there against opponents until an opportunity presents itself. He’s often the taller and longer fighter, which has helped him to stay at range and utilize an arsenal that’s heavy on kicks. He’s fond of the spinning back kick to the body, a move that sparked the beginning of the end against Kayne and also landed cleanly once against Smyth. The Brazilian can be bullied in the clinch, though, and his chin is a question mark after those quick defeats courtesy of Frincu and Aguilera.
Dagvadorj put to rest any questions about his abilities in his Bellator 226 appearance against the aforementioned Terry. He was able to rock the veteran and did well in the ensuing scramble, which led to the bulldog choke and a tapout from the Strikeforce veteran. The Mongolian up-and-comer is a strong wrestler with plenty of power in his hands. He’s not especially known for his submission game, but the finish of Terry is a sign that he’s a dual threat.
The undefeated Dagvadorj, like many of Mendonça’s opponents, will have to overcome a huge deficit in height and reach. Mendonça is six inches taller and longer than the “Mongolian Falcon.” It would serve Dagvadorj well to avoid staying at range, where Mendonça could eventually find a home for that spinning back kick to the liver. Mendonça has been willing to throw kicks against wrestlers in the past, and he hasn’t paid a huge price for doing so. This could change when he clashes with Dagvadorj, who might be able to catch a kick and throw a counter punch or convert a takedown. Either way, Dagvadorj can take advantage of Mendonça’s questionable chin and capitalize for another knockout victory.
Other key bouts: Anthony Romero (8-0) vs. Zach Juusola (11-6), Mo Miller (4-0) vs. Regivaldo Carvalho (5-2), Lisa Mauldin (3-2) vs. Mitzi Merry (2-1), Viecheslav Borshchev (2-0) vs. William Starks (3-1), Clayton Carpenter (3-0) vs. Chancey Wilson (2-4)
Javid Basharat (9-0) vs. Aleksandr Bezkorovainiy (11-2)
The Czech Republic’s Oktagon promotion will surely garner plenty of attention for its 19th event based on the presence of UFC castoffs Karlos Vémola and Lucie Pudilová in the lineup. However, another intriguing fight resides further down the card, where bantamweights Javid Basharat and Aleksandr Bezkorovainiy collide.
Basharat hails from Afghanistan, but he fights out of England. He debuted in 2016 and remains undefeated through nine fights. His strength of schedule leaves a lot to be desired, though. He did stop the formerly undefeated Wisam Mamoka in a 2019 bout, but he’s also fought a rookie, two winless opponents, four fighters with .500 marks, and John Spencer, who entered his fight with Basharat while sporting a pathetic 2-39 record. Not surprisingly, “The Snow Leopard” has managed to finish all of his adversaries, including five by knockout and four by submission.
Bezkorovainiy easily has a better record than any of Basharat’s previous foes. The 22-year-old Ukrainian has been competing at the pro level since 2017. He won his first two fights before suffering his first setback against an opponent with a losing record. Bezkorovainiy then added another three wins, after which he saw a fight end in a no-contest and suffered his second loss when he was decisioned by Eduard Savchenko. The “Flying Knee” rebounded with six straight victories, but his strength of schedule is also hideous. Outside of his sophomore fight against Oleksiy Bondarenko, Bezkorovainiy has not met a fighter with a winning record. His remaining opponents include four rookies, four winless pros, four fighters with losing records, and the 4-14 Alexander Krupenkin.
In some cases, shiny records aren’t everything. This could be the case with this affair between two athletes who have benefited from extremely lackluster opposition. Prior to this bout, Basharat’s top foe had a 5-0 mark and Bezkorovainiy’s best adversary was 3-1. However, Basharat has flashed plenty of potential. He’s a flamboyant fighter with a flashy striking game and a surprisingly well-rounded toolbox. The London Shootfighters representative has a taekwondo base that can be easily seen in his constant stance switches and footwork. He loves to explode forward with spinning attacks, flying knees and any number of unorthodox techniques. Yet, he’s also quite capable of changing levels and scoring takedowns. He can recover well in scrambles and has a lethal array of choke submissions.
Bezkorovainiy has a much more traditional style. In the stand-up, he’ll throw one or two punches at a time, while peppering in some kicks. He’s a decent wrestler, but he can give up position in the scrambles. He’ll attack with submissions, but it even took him some effort to find the finish against an 0-3 Nazar Seredyuk. Bezkorovainiy had an armbar locked in during the first frame of that bout, but he didn’t bother arching his back to apply more pressure. Instead, with just seconds left in the round, he allowed Seredyuk to squirm free.
There seems to be a clear separation in skills between these two men. Bezkorovainiy is a fighter with a padded record who will probably struggle as he meets better fighters. Basharat, on the other hand, appears to be a genuine prospect in need of stiffer tests. The London Shootfighters product should add to his highlight reel with some flashy moves in this one before ultimately becoming the first man to finish Bezkorovainiy. While a knockout is possible, a submission might be the better bet.
Other key bouts: Karlos Vémola (28-6) vs. Václav Mikulášek (7-6), Lucie Pudilová (8-6) vs. Cornelia Holm (4-2), Samuel Krištofič (12-3) vs. Mateusz Strzelczyk (9-8-1), Andrej Kalašnik (7-1) vs. Tato Primera (16-9), Matěj Kuzník (15-5) vs. Marek Bartl (9-8)
The Best of the Rest
Natal Fight Championship 18: Anderson Queiroz (20-8) vs. Arthur Lima (7-1) Watch Event: pay-per-view stream via Natal FC
Soul of Warriors 2: Priya Saini (4-0) vs. Monika Kiran Ghag (2-1)
Fusion Fighting Championship 44: Javier Basurto (17-6) vs. Esteban Ribovics (8-0) for the lightweight title Watch Event: Movistar Deportes
Standout Fighting Tournament 26: Eduardo Ramon (16-5) vs. Cleber Sousa (19-10) Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Last Week’s Scorecard
Islam Mamedov vs. Martun Mezhlumyan at UAE Warriors 14
Mamedov by decision
Mamedov by submission
Paweł Pawlak vs. Adrian Błeszyński at Babilon MMA 18
Pawlak by knockout
Pawlak by decision
Daniel Rutkowski vs. Adrian Zieliński at FEN 31
Rutkowski by decision
Rutkowski by decision
In Hindsight: Rather than settle for the predicted decision nod, Mamedov gave the judges the night off and caught Mezhlumyan in a kneebar in the third and final round. Mamedov used his wrestling to win the battle for position through the first two frames, but Mezhlumyan opened a cut above Mamedov’s left eye and delivered enough punishment throughout the contest to prove that he’s a legitimate prospect. Interestingly, it was Mezhlumyan’s only successful takedown that led to his defeat…The rematch between Pawlak and Błeszyński was another five-round war of attrition. Pawlak did adjust his approach, waiting until late in round two before going for a takedown, but he wasn’t able to find the predicted ground-and-pound stoppage. Instead, he outworked Błeszyński for a hard-fought decision nod…Rutkowski once again got the better of Zieliński over five rounds to secure the predicted decision win…“Best of the Rest” selections Rae Yoon Ok and Tobias Harila earned decision victories, while Dmitriy Romanov scored a stoppage.
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