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…
Victor Altamirano (8-1) vs. Nate Smith (6-1)
The Legacy Fighting Alliance celebrates its 100th show on Friday evening. The top UFC feeder league has provided countless prospects to the big show, and flyweight headliners Victor Altamirano and Nate Smith hope to add their names to that list in the near future.
Mexico’s Altamirano has been a fixture in the LFA since even before his 2017 pro debut. The 30-year-old actually made one of his amateur appearances at the very first LFA show. As a pro, his only loss came in his one venture outside of the LFA. Altamirano fought top strawweight and UFC veteran Jarred Brooks in a 2019 flyweight affair under the Warrior Xtreme Cagefighting banner and suffered a submission loss via rear-naked choke. The loss to Brooks snapped a six-fight winning streak, but “El Magnifico” returned to his winning ways with two more victories inside the LFA. He most recently tapped Lloyd McKinney at LFA 95. His fight with Smith comes on short notice, as he was initially slated to fight Carlos Mota.
The 25-year-old Smith had a lengthy ammy run in which he went just 10-10. “The Savage” has had a much more successful pro campaign since debuting in 2017. He won his six first fights, including an encounter with 21-fight veteran Bill Kamery. Along the way, Smith recorded three first-round submissions. Smith kicked off 2020 with a stoppage win over Sean Stebbins at LFA 82. He then appeared on Dana White’s Contender Series, where he was submitted in the third round by Jimmy Flick.
Altamirano had absolutely no answers for the aforementioned Brooks’ takedowns and top control, but Brooks is among the world’s elite at his weight class. Against anything less, Altamirano has fared much better. However, Chris Ocon and the aforementioned McKinney also proved that takedown defense is Altamirano’s biggest weakness. Yet, the Mexican fighter was very active from the bottom and still managed to eke out a split verdict over Ocon. He capitalized on a mistake from McKinney to snag the submission victory. The southpaw is at his best, however, when he’s able to mix punches and kicks into combinations on the feet. The second-degree taekwondo black belt is effective at targeting his opponent’s legs.
Smith is a very physical and high-energy fighter. His Greco-Roman wrestling background makes the Elevation Fight Team product a threat on the mat. He’s excellent in the scramble and constantly attacks with chokes. He won a frenzied battle with Stebbins, but he met his match in Flick on the Contender Series. Flick’s grappling skills tested Smith’s submission defense. Flick finally got the finish in the third round, but not before Smith proved that he is a very tough out. Smith’s striking, on the other hand, is still a work in progress. He doesn’t look completely comfortable on the feet, even against a grappling-first guy like Flick, but he does have a good jab and even landed a nice front kick during the Contender Series bout.
Smith isn’t a downgrade in opponents from Mota. In fact, the argument could be made that he’s the more proven upstart, given his Contender Series appearance. Altamirano will enjoy slight height and reach advantages, and the Mexican prospect tends to fight long. If this contest stays on the feet, then Smith could struggle with Altamirano’s high volume of kicks. However, it’s doubtful that Smith will entertain his counterpart’s stand-up for long. Instead, Smith will be seeking ways to close the distance and get the fight to the canvas. If Altamirano’s past fights are any indication, Smith should be successful in his takedown attempts. Smith is quick to transition to the back and look for the rear-naked choke, a hold that Altamirano already succumbed to once as a pro. Smith should find the tap and take the LFA gold.
Other key bouts: Anthony Adams (8-2) vs. Gregory Rodrigues (7-3), Karlee Pangilinan (6-0) vs. Charles Johnson (7-2), Christian Natividad (2-0) vs. Evan Woolsey (1-1), Gerald Scott (4-0) vs. Tommy Aaron (6-4), Steven Nguyen (6-1) vs. Jorge Juarez (5-2), Alden Coria (3-0) vs. Rashaad Robinson (3-1)
Ade Permana (6-0) vs. Imam Solikhin (4-2)
Just two weeks ago, we checked in with One Pride MMA to preview a men’s strawweight title clash. If you thought 115-pounders were a rarity in the sport, then the Indonesian promotion has something in store for you: a men’s atomweight championship bout. Your eyes are not deceiving you. This weekend’s show includes two 105-pound men in action. Ade Permana is the league’s atomweight champion, and he’ll put the strap on the line against Imam Solikhin.
The diminutive Permana has been a mainstay of the company since his 2018 debut. By the end of the year, he had claimed four victories to rise to the atomweight throne. He has made one successful defense of the belt in each year since, with submission finishes of both opponents in that stretch.
Solikhin has the same number of fights as his upcoming opponent, but he has faltered on two occasions. “Samson Jawa” won his 2018 debut, but he dropped his next two fights, including one by rear-naked choke. He righted the ship with a pair of victories in 2019 and one in 2020. All three wins in his current streak have been finishes.
Permana’s primary goal is to close distance, clinch with his opponent, and use the body lock to get the takedown. He has a knack for landing immediately into mount, but he also transitions well if he has to start in guard or half-guard. The champ is always on the lookout for an opportunity to sink in a rear-naked choke. He’s quick to apply this hold even during scrambles or before he fully takes his opponent’s back. In the meantime, he’s methodical in moving from position to position, and he’ll also soften up his opponents with heavy ground-and-pound barrages that include devastating knees to the body and head (these strikes are legal in One Pride).
Solikhin has already suffered losses to two fighters that were dispatched easily by Permana. In his sophomore fight, “Samson Jawa” was submitted by Wahyu Tri Wijayanto, who tapped to a rear-naked choke in the first round against Permana. Then, Solikhin lost on the scorecards to Lipin Sitorus, the champ’s most recent victim. The youngster, who debuted as an 18-year-old, also had to fend off several submissions in his first pro outing against Nizardur Rohman and was mounted at times before ultimately defeating Sutikno. Solikhin swings with reckless abandon and has a very wild overall game. He does scramble well on the mat, though, and he might have the most knockout power of any 105er.
Lorensius Andi was able to show that a strong, relentless wrestling game can give Permana some trouble. However, even Andi ultimately fell short to Permana, who attacked with guillotine chokes off his back and then destroyed Andi with knees to the head from top position in the third frame. Solikhin is not a wrestler, though. His best chance at a victory over Permana comes via his powerful haymakers. If he can rattle the champ, then Solikhin could pull off the upset here. More likely, however, is that his style gets him in trouble against such a smothering grappler. Solikhin will fall victim to a rear-naked choke and become the latest fighter to tapout against Permana.
Other key bouts: Rudy Gunawan (9-1) vs. Wilem Natalex Munster (5-1), Rio Tirto (3-0) vs. Edowar Virnanda (5-4), Gideon Manurung (2-0) vs. Daniel Pardede (0-1), Andy Setianegara (1-0) vs. Prasetyo Budi Wibowo (0-1)
Mateusz Rębecki (12-1) vs. Jose Barrios (11-1)
Fight Exclusive Night lightweight champion Mateusz Rębecki is the most established prospect among the fighters in this week’s preview. He’s set to headliner FEN’s 32nd effort. Rębecki will defend his belt against Argentina’s Jose Barrios.
Rębecki made his pro debut in 2014 and won his first three fights, all via heel hook in the first round. His fourth outing did not go so well, though, with the Polish fighter enduring a TKO loss. “Chińczyk” has bounced back with nine straight victories, eight of which have come with the FEN organization. The 28-year-old won the lightweight belt in his fourth appearance with the company when he stopped Marian Ziółkowski via TKO in early 2018. Rębecki has since made four defenses of the belt while scoring stoppages in each of those affairs. He’s an equal opportunity finisher who has scored six knockouts and five submissions in his pro career.
Barrios also debuted in 2014. He won his first 10 fights, but his only notable opponent in that span was Fabian Armoa, who was 8-8 at the time and lost the fight with an arm injury. “El Terrible” dropped a 2019 decision to Cristiano Estela Rios, who is by far the best opponent he’s encountered. Barrios rebounded with a TKO of Cesar Benitez. He was set to make his FEN debut in late 2020, but COVID-like symptoms forced him out of the fight. This will be his first appearance since 2019.
Rębecki’s only career loss came in a 2014 fight where he attacked with a heel hook and ate a number of hammerfists that left him staring at the ceiling. In his other bouts, the compact lightweight has managed to dominate with a combination of grappling skills and ground-and-pound. The Berserker’s Team export will give up five inches in height to Vargas in this contest, but he’s dealt with this before in fights such as his scrap with Magomed Magomedov. The southpaw likes to come forward and throw two- or three-punch combinations even if he’s at a disadvantage in reach. He’ll often end these combos with a big left hand. On the canvas, he has moved away from submissions and adopted a ground-and-pound attack in an effort to finish his foes. He favors a crucifix position in which he can rain down punches and elbows.
Barrios lacks a dominant game. Instead, he’ll spar with opponents or clinch up with them. His punches add up over time, though, and can lead to a finish. He’s been able to accumulate eight knockouts on his record thus far. One of those stoppages even came against an opponent who was seeking a heel hook at the time.
Barrios has not faced anyone who is anywhere near Rębecki’s league until now. He’s bounced around small organizations, some of which have used a ring that’s barely bigger than an actual telephone booth. He’s got a tall task ahead of him against a seasoned fighter in Rębecki. The Polish fighter will stick to his typical approach and get the better of Barrios in the striking exchanges before taking the safer, more conservative route to victory here in grounding his foe and punishing him with ground-and-pound until the referee steps in for the save.
Other key bouts: Ednaldo Oliveira (21-7-1) vs. Szymon Bajor (21-9), Djamil Chan (15-8) vs. Cezary Oleksiejczuk (5-2), Piotr Kuberski (7-1) vs. Mateusz Strzelczyk (9-9-1), Akhmed Salamov (1-0) vs. Bartosz Szewczyk (0-1)
The Best of the Rest
Open Fighting Championship 2: Sharaf Davlatmurodov (16-3-1) vs. Adriano Balby (16-3)
Grand Fighting Championship 66: Handesson Ferreira (14-3-1) vs. Erique Carvalho (3-1)
Deep 100 Impact: Yuki Motoya (26-9) vs. Shoji Maruyama (18-13-1)
Last Week’s Scorecard
Kevin Szaflarski vs. Filip Stawowy at Babilon MMA 19
Szaflarski by decision
Szaflarski by majority decision
Danny Sabatello vs. Da’Mon Blackshear at Titan FC 67
Sabatello by decision
Sabatello by decision
Myron Dennis vs. Fabio Cherant at LFA 99
Cherant by decision
Cherant by decision
As expected, finishers Szaflarski and Stawowy couldn’t find a stoppage in their fight. Instead, Szaflarski squeaked by with the predicted decision nod…Sabatello again showed that he can be a dominant wrestler, but his lack of finishing ability was evident once again. He picked up the predicted decision over Blackshear, but he didn’t do much to change the opinion of his critics, UFC President Dana White included. He’ll need to do more to back up his pre-fight trash talk if he wants to make it to the big show…Dennis provided the expected grueling five-round test for Cherant, but Cherant edged the GLORY veteran on the feet and walked away with the predicted decision nod…”Best of the Rest” selection Jesus Pinedo recorded a stoppage win.
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