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: April 1
Watch Event: Fite TV free stream via Combat Press
Ali Bagautinov (19-7) vs. Dustin Ortiz (19-8)
The Brave Combat Federation’s 50th show is quite the affair. Two title fights top the bill, while the league’s flyweight tournament continues with a pair of contests that feature some very familiar names for American fight fans. One of those contests includes two former top-10 members of the division, Ali Bagautinov and Dustin Ortiz.
Russia’s Bagautinov debuted in 2010 and went just 1-2 through his first three outings. Then he hit his stride and reeled off eight consecutive victories to garner the attention of the UFC. His run inside the Octagon began with three wins, including decision nods over Tim Elliott and John Lineker. He peaked with an unsuccessful title bid against Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson in 2014 before dropping two of his next three fights with the promotion. Those setbacks came against perennial title contenders Joseph Benavidez and Kyoji Horiguchi. Since departing the UFC, the 35-year-old Bagautinov has gone 6-2. He suffered losses to Tyson Nam and Zhalgas Zhumagulov, but he also notched victories over notables Pedro Nobre and Danny Martinez. This will mark his sophomore appearance with Brave.
Ortiz is a more recent UFC castoff. The 32-year-old, who also made his pro debut in 2010, put together an 11-2 mark before joining the big show in late 2013. He never quite reached title contention during his time in the Octagon, but he was a solid member of the flyweight roster for his tenure. He was able to get the better of several top fighters, including Ray Borg, Zach Makovsky, Alexandre Pantoja and Matheus Nicolau. However, every time he seemed to be on the cusp of contention, he was knocked down a peg by an established top-10 fighter. His losses came against John Moraga, the aforementioned Benavidez (twice), Wilson Reis, Jussier “Formiga” da Silva and Brandon Moreno. This will be Ortiz’s first foray back into MMA since his second loss to Benavidez in early 2019.
It’s somewhat surprising that these two men never crossed paths during their overlapping stays in the UFC. They were strong contenders for several years in the same division and each clashed with Benavidez as they pursued a title bid. Somehow, though, Benavidez is their only common UFC opponent. In terms of their remaining Octagon appearances, Bagautinov challenged for the belt, but Ortiz fought the more consistent string of top fighters.
Ortiz is an enigma. He’s an absolute nightmare for any opponent, but he doesn’t always do enough to win. He keeps fights close, however. After a win in his UFC debut, he went to a split decision in three straight fights, two of which went his way. He added another split verdict later in his tenure when he met Makovsky. Even his track record against wrestlers and grapplers is a mixed bag: he did well enough against Makovsky, Scoggins and Borg, but he lost to Reis, Formiga and Moreno.
Bagautinov is the typical grinding wrestler we’ve grown accustomed to seeing out of Russia. It’s been years since he regularly finished opponents with strikes, and that doesn’t figure to change here. This should be a very competitive and close fight, but Ortiz’s rust — he is two years removed from his last MMA outing — might put him at a disadvantage. The judges might even end up split once more, but they’ll grant Bagautinov the razor-thin victory.
Other key bouts: Jarrah Al-Silawi (15-3) vs. Ismail Naurdiev (20-4) for the welterweight title, Mohammad Fakhreddine (14-4) vs. Mohamed Said Maalem (11-3) for the light-heavyweight title, Velimurad Alkhasov (7-1) vs. Zach Makovsky (21-9) in a flyweight tournament bout, Issa Isakov (6-1) vs. Mohamed Grabinski (20-6), Brad Katona (8-2) vs. Borislav Nikolić (8-0), Carlos Belloso (7-1) vs. Carl Booth (9-4), Alexander Keshtov (9-1) vs. Bair Shtepin (9-3), Magomed Magomedov (4-0) vs. Yann Liasse (4-0), Amin Ayoub (15-4) vs. Mashrabjon Ruziboev (10-2-1), Anton Turkalj (6-0) vs. Konstantin Soldatov (5-1), Valeriu Mircea (25-6-1) vs. Omar Solomonov (9-2)
Event Date: April 2
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Zulkarnaiyn Kamchybekov (4-1) vs. Jesse Smith (4-0)
Just three weeks after its last two-night event, Cage Fury Fighting Championships is back with another weekend doubleheader. It starts with CFFC 94 on Thursday night, but the most interesting match on the slate comes on Friday at CFFC 95. The vacant lightweight title is up for grabs when Zulkarnaiyn Kamchybekov meets undefeated upstart Jesse Smith.
After a successful four-fight stint at the amateur level, mostly under the Cage Fury banner, the 28-year-old Kamchybekov turned pro in 2018. He claimed decision wins in his first two appearances, including one with Cage Fury. His third fight didn’t go quite as well, with Kamchybekov dropping a split verdict to current UFC fighter Matt Semelsberger. This prompted the former welterweight to drop to 155 pounds. He has been perfect in his subsequent two contests, both of which ended via TKO.
Michigan’s Smith went a modest 6-3 as an amateur before making the move to the professional level in late 2019. All of those ammy losses came via submission. As a pro, the 27-year-old has fared far better. “Jackpot” scored a first-round finish of fellow rookie Parris Boyd in his debut. He has gone on to record three more victories, including two more first-round stoppages. His toughest opponent thus far has been Sinjen Ruby, a six-fight veteran who held a .500 mark at the time of their clash.
Kamchybekov, who hails from Kyrgyzstan and fights out of Pennsylvania, is a very mature and polished fighter for someone so young in his career. He gave Semelsberger, who is now perfect through two UFC appearances, an extremely tough fight under the Cage Fury banner. He was able to score several takedowns against the future UFCer, but he didn’t do enough to convince the judges of his superiority.
Kamchybekov’s decision to move to lightweight could make all the difference in his career moving forward. He enjoyed a significant height and reach edge over Mike Anderson and a smaller one against Richard Brooks. In his new weight class, Kamchybekov has been able to find the first two finishes of his pro career and his striking has looked better than ever.
Smith, meanwhile, holds the unblemished record here, but that doesn’t make him the de facto favorite. His strength of schedule lacks a big name like Semelsberger, and he’s a grappler who can sometimes end up fighting off his back. He’s made quick work of three foes, but the best of them was 3-1 at the time of their clash. He can’t expect to skate through this one, which could go four or five rounds.
Smith has a far better chance of winning this contest if the action hits the mat. He has strong top control, ground-and-pound, and a variety of submissions in his attack. However, the challenge will be in getting Kamchybekov to the mat regularly. The Cage Fury mainstay is touted for his striking prowess, but he’s a solid wrestler with a deep gas tank. If this fight goes beyond the first round, cardio could also be a big question mark for Smith.
Kamchybekov appears to have all the tools necessary to win this fight. He’ll outlast Smith and wait for his undefeated opponent to tire before scoring the TKO finish.
Other key bouts: Jesse Stirn (10-4) vs. Reginald Adams (6-2), Garrett Armfield (5-1) vs. Mateo Vogel (4-1), Hilarie Rose (4-2) vs. Alannah Arnett (0-0)
Event Date: April 2
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Brok Weaver (15-6) vs. Alexander Barahona (11-4)
Lightweight prospect Brok Weaver didn’t do well in his brief stay with the UFC, but perhaps he’ll get back on track in his first post-UFC appearance. The Choctaw star assumes headlining duties opposite Alexander Barahona at iKON Fighting Federation’s sixth show.
Weaver has an extensive resume dating back to his amateur days. He went 9-8 as an ammy before making his pro turn in 2013. He streaked out to a perfect 4-0 mark before hitting a rough patch in which he won just one of his next four fights. “Chata Tuska” then found his groove and went 8-1 before getting an invite to appear on Dana White’s Contender Series. The 29-year-old took a decision win over Devin Smyth in the August 2019 bout and then signed with the UFC. He won his first Octagon outing by disqualification when Kazula Vargas landed an illegal knee on Weaver. The Alabama native suffered submission losses in his next two UFC contests and then received his pink slip.
Barahona is no stranger to high-profile fights with iKON. His last scrap came against rising prospect Daniel Zellhuber. Now, iKON has lined him up against a more manageable opponent in Weaver. “Raptor” debuted in 2014 and stopped his first four opponents. He ran into trouble over his next two contests, in which he dropped a decision to a fighter with a severe losing record and got submitted by a rookie combatant. After recording another two stoppage victories, Barahona once again fell short on the scorecards against a fighter with a losing mark. He then won five straight with a number of stoppages before he was derailed in a little over two minutes by Zellhuber.
The iKON brass really seem intent on making Barahona into its whipping boy. His reward for a decisive loss to Zellhuber? A fight with an opponent who received a healthy push from the UFC. Fortunately for Barahona, Weaver’s three-fight stay in the UFC revealed that the Alabama native was perhaps one of the more overrated fighters to receive attention from the UFC’s promotional machine.
Weaver won a grueling fight with Smyth on the Contender Series, but there were signs of areas where he could be exposed at the UFC level. While Weaver did stuff a number of takedowns, Smyth was still able to succeed with numerous trips and slams. Weaver got the better of the striking exchanges, though, and was able to emerge with the win. Vargas was doing well against Weaver with a similar approach, though Weaver did attack nicely with a guillotine from the bottom. Even Roosevelt Roberts and Jalin Turner, both of whom were touching up Weaver on the feet in their respective UFC encounters, ultimately got the submission finish via rear-naked choke after scoring a takedown.
Roberts and Turner both demonstrated that, while the takedown might be a surefire way to gain the advantage against Weaver, an effective striking arsenal can also give Weaver fits. Turner scored numerous knockdowns of the Port City MMA product and even thought he had a walkoff knockout at one point. Roberts didn’t come quite as close to a finish, but he was able to land with regularity to Weaver’s chin. Barahona, more of a brawler on the feet, could still find a home for a knockout blow.
While Barahona does have a chance here, this is still Weaver’s fight to lose. He’s not facing a UFC-caliber threat this time, which should give him more opportunities to implement his own game. He’s not much of a finisher, but he’s tough and can do just enough to win most fights outside of the major organizations. His size will also help against the much shorter Barahona. Weaver will mix in takedown attempts with kickboxing in order to outpoint the Bonebreakers representative on the scorecards.
Other key bouts: Chris Curtis (23-8) vs. Juan Ramon Grano Medina (7-5-1), Isis Verbeek (1-1) vs. Dana Yasiri Garcia (0-0), Pete Rodriguez (2-0) vs. Jose Luis Rios (1-0), Elvin Espinoza (4-0) vs. Luis Campa (3-2), Abigail Montes (1-0) vs. Teresita López (0-0)
Cage Fury Fighting Championships 94: Solomon Renfro (6-1) vs. Nick Alley (7-3) Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
CageSport 61: Chris Vasil (4-1) vs. Alex Valentino Arteaga (3-0)
Pancrase Osaka: Jun Doi (18-9-1) vs. Motonobu Tezuka (34-13-6)
Deep Osaka Impact 2021: Seiji Akao (26-15-3) vs. Shunichi Shimizu (34-24-11)
|Łukasz Sudolski vs. Joachim Christensen at Babilon MMA 20||Sudolski by knockout||Fight cancelled|
|Kyle Noblitt vs. Shaun Asher at Titan FC 68||Noblitt by submission||Fight cancelled|
|Spike Carlyle vs. Batsumberel Dagvadorj at LFA 103||Carlyle by submission||Carlyle by submission|
The showdown between Sudolski and Christensen was scrapped when Christensen withdrew during the event due to stomach problems…The fight between Noblitt and Asher was also nixed…Carlyle, as predicted, was able to score a takedown, land some ground-and-pound strikes, and find a rear-naked choke for the first-round submission of Dagvadorj…”Best of the Rest” selection and UFC veteran Jose “Shorty” Torres advanced in the Brave Combat Federation flyweight tournament with a decision nod over Blaine O’Driscoll.