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…
Paweł Pawlak (17-4-1) vs. Sergey Guzev (20-3)
Poland’s Babilon MMA returns with its 21st show on Friday. The lineup consists primarily of inexperienced upstarts, but the headliner is a pairing of veterans with gold on the line. Middleweight kingpin and UFC veteran Paweł Pawlak attempts to defend his crown when he meets Ukraine’s Sergey Guzev.
Pawlak’s short-lived UFC stint came in 2014-15. “Plastinho” entered the big show with a perfect record through 10 pro outings, but the Octagon proved to be a reality check. Pawlak lasted just over a year in the organization and only managed one win in three appearances. The victory came via decision over Sheldon Westcott, but it was sandwiched between losses to Peter Sobotta and future UFC title contender Leon Edwards. After two fights and just one win with Poland’s Fight Exclusive Night promotion, Pawlak settled in as a fixture for Babilon MMA. He has gone 5-1-1 over his last seven fights with only one foray outside of the company. The 32-year-old captured the middleweight strap in his most recent appearance in November when he defeated Adrian Błeszyński by way of a unanimous decision.
The 38-year-old Guzev has a stellar 20-3 mark, but he is years past his prime. He debuted in 2008 and maintained a busy schedule through 2013, but he has slowed to an average of one fight per year since then. The Ukrainian fell just short of beating Vyacheslav Vasilevskiy in an M-1 tournament in 2010, but won his other six appearances with the prominent Russian organization via stoppage. After back-to-back losses in 2011, Guzev has reeled off 10 straight victories. However, those wins span nearly a decade of action. His two most recent triumphs were squeakers that ended in split verdicts for Guzev over the duo of Wagner Silva and Grzegorz Siwy.
Pawlak prefers to shoot for takedowns and utilize his wrestling and grappling to control position while landing ground-and-pound shots. Despite his tendency 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. The UFC castoff does have nine finishes by some form of knockout.
Guzev is also a ground specialist, but with a far different approach. He has scored 13 victories by submission. He’ll attack by shooting for a single leg and then work to advance while waiting for his opponent to make a mistake. He can quickly transition to a number of submissions, including chokes, leg locks and armbars. Despite his affinity for the ground game, Guzev also does well on the feet, where he explodes with flurries and has yet to get caught.
Pawlak is the younger man and the more familiar name to American fans. However, Guzev should not be overlooked. The Ukrainian is something of a middleweight equivalent to Aleksei Oleinik in terms of his skill profile and age. Neither of these men has been stopped, so this one could go the distance. Given Guzev’s overall success and Pawlak’s tendency to sometimes fade late in fights, the older man could emerge with the decision nod here.
Other key bouts: Bartłomiej Gładkowicz (6-1) vs. Piotr Drozdowski (3-3), Sławomir Bryla (3-0) vs. Damian Piwowarczyk (1-0), Oskar Szczepaniak (1-0) vs. Arkadiusz Pałkowski (1-0)
Andres Luna Martinetti (9-0) vs. Marcos Muñoz (9-1)
Peru’s Fusion Fight Championship organization heads to its northern neighbor of Ecuador for a Saturday fight card that includes undefeated flyweight champ Andres Luna Martinetti. The 25-year-old Ecuadorian attempts to keep his unblemished record intact and defend the Fusion belt when he collides with Peruvian challenger Marcos Muñoz.
Martinetti made his pro debut in 2014, but he didn’t start competing on a regular basis until nearly three years later. After wins in his first two appearances, he joined FFC and became a mainstay for the league. By his third appearance with Fusion, Martinetti became the flyweight kingpin. After a two-fight diversion into the bantamweight division, the champ returned to 125 pounds and defended his belt in late 2019. His most recent fight, however, also came in the bantamweight division, where he defeated Cristian Jose Herrera Sarango via first-round strikes outside of FFC.
Muñoz struggled through his amateur career before going pro in 2016. He found surprisingly more success at this new level of competition. He won his first five fights, including two under the FFC banner, before suffering a setback to Andres Santillana at the same Fusion card where Martinetti won the flyweight belt. Muñoz has since rebounded with four more wins, albeit against a questionable set of opponents that included two rookies and one fighter with a losing career mark.
Martinetti is a long, lanky fighter for the flyweight division. He likes to fight at range and dart in to land strikes. He switches stances regularly, and his arsenal features a lot of kicks, too. While this makes him a solid striker, he’s even more effective on the mat. He controls position well and transitions while working for submissions. He’s found the finish on the ground in five of his nine victories.
While Martinetti has bounced back and forth between 125 and 135 pounds, Muñoz has spent the majority of his career at the heavier of these weights. He’s only made one previous cut to flyweight. He has an explosive takedown, but his approach from top position is to smash his foe with a barrage of ground-and-pound. He can be swept, though, and sometimes rushes his submission attempts, both of which are serious problems against a solid grappler like Martinetti.
Santillana proved that Muñoz can be touched up on the feet, put on the ground rather easily, and caught in a submission. Martinetti is a superior fighter to Santillana and should be able to dominate Muñoz on the canvas or on the feet. Muñoz is too reckless, and he’s likely to get caught in a submission once again here against Martinetti.
Other key bouts: Jaime Cordova (12-5) vs. Enrique Granados Farrera (9-5) for the welterweight title, Javier Basurto (17-7) vs. Roger Garcia (4-2), Adrian Luna Martinetti (6-1) vs. Henry Lincango (6-2), Jose Alberto Ochoa Oblitas (4-0) vs. Franklin Grifo (2-3), Miguel Grijalva (3-0) vs. Wanderson Targino (8-10-1)
Kirill Kornilov (8-0-1) vs. Wagner Prado (15-4-1)
The Russian Cagefighting Championship is back with a mix of MMA and kickboxing for a Monday event. The show includes several big names, including Vyacheslav Vasilevskiy and UFC veteran Thiago Tavares. The most intriguing prospect is undefeated light heavyweight Kirill Kornilov. The Russian has a high-profile opponent lined up in UFC castoff Wagner Prado.
Kornilov came up as a kickboxer in GLORY, where he clashed with the likes of Jahfarr Wilnis and Nordine Mahieddine. He first ventured into the MMA realm in 2019 and quickly showed that his striking acumen made him a legitimate threat. He finished his first four opponents via strikes before fighting to a draw with Sultan Murtazaliev. He responded with another four stoppage victories in MMA competition while also notching a finish in a recent kickboxing affair against Cristian Ristea. Kornilov has taken on some seasoned MMA fighters, but none who have had the level of success enjoyed by his upcoming foe.
Brazil’s Prado debuted in 2009 and compiled a perfect mark through eight fights before receiving the call from the UFC. An inadvertent eye poke marred his Octagon debut opposite Phil Davis, and Davis won the rematch. Prado fell once again when he met Ildemar Alcântara, and the UFC opted to part ways with him. He has had mixed results since his departure from the big show. Prado has gone 7-2-1 since the loss to Alcântara. This includes a victory over a still-green Johnny Walker and a loss to Magomed Ankalaev.
Kornilov has the technical striking one would expect from a former GLORY kickboxer. He leads with a crisp jab while walking down his opponent and looking to land combinations of punches and kicks, The Russian has surprisingly good takedown defense as well. The 6-foot-5 big man has competed as a heavyweight up until now, and he should enjoy an even more significant size advantage than usual against Prado, who is five inches shorter and has mostly fought at light heavyweight.
The 33-year-old Prado is a Muay Thai practitioner who has trained with Team Nogueira. The UFC veteran can punish opponents with relentless ground-and-pound from the top position, but his first inclination is not to take the fight to the canvas. He’s never scored a submission, but he does have 14 knockouts in his career. Unfortunately, he’s now set to meet a far better striker.
In the one fight that Kornilov didn’t win, he was taken down several times by his opponent, the aforementioned Murtazaliev. The key to stifling the Russian’s offense is clearly to turn the fight into a ground battle. This, of course, is easier said than done. Prado has spent time at a camp whose namesakes are skilled boxers and grapplers, but the Brazilian might not be strong enough in either of these areas to dominate Kornilov. Furthermore, Prado’s instinct is to stand and trade. The Brazilian doesn’t have the speed or technicality of his upcoming adversary. Even worse, Prado is likely doubting himself after a loss and a draw over his last two appearances. Kornilov should keep his perfect mark and add a notable name to his list of victims while scoring another knockout finish.
Other key bouts: Vyacheslav Vasilevskiy (34-8) vs. Viscardi Andrade (22-8), Timur Nagibin (17-5) vs. Thiago Tavares (24-10-1), Junior Marques (9-1) vs. Ilyas Khamzin (6-2), Evgeniy Ignatiev (15-2-2) vs. Taigro Costa (17-6)
The Best of the Rest
Legacy Fighting Alliance 106: Joshua Silveira (4-0) vs. Rafael Viana (6-1) Watch Event:UFC Fight Pass
Ultimate Warrior Challenge Mexico 26: There Can Be Only One: Leonardo Blasco (14-3) vs. Ivan Castillo (18-13) for the welterweight title Watch Event:UFC Fight Pass
Oktagon 23: Petr Kníže (11-1) vs. Andrea Fusi (8-5) Watch Event: pay-per-view stream on oktagon.tv
Sul Fluminense Fight Night 2: Daniel Lacerda (10-1) vs. Eduardo Henrique da Silva (6-1)
[Ed. Note — There was not an Out of Obscurity published last week. The following recap deals with fights covered in the April 15 edition of this preview series.]
Last Week’s Scorecard
Aaron McKenzie vs. Brandon Phillips at LFA 104
McKenzie by submission
McKenzie by decision
Danilo Suzart vs. Maicon Douglas at ReciFight 6
Suzart by knockout
Douglas by decision
Aleksandr Maslov vs. Luis Henrique at Open FC 3
Maslov by knockout
Maslov by split decision
While the optimistic prediction for the LFA 104 scrap was a McKenzie submission victory, the idea of McKenzie grinding his way to a decision was also put forth. Well, McKenzie delivered in that regard. However, rather than utilizing takedowns, McKenzie opted to mostly beat Phillips in the striking realm…Well, it wasn’t pretty. This was the one spot-on part of the prediction for the showdown between Suzart and Douglas. The two giants engaged in a sloppy striking war for three rounds. Suzart started off strong and threw everything but the kitchen sink at Douglas. Suzart appeared to be on his way to the expected knockout, but “Mamute” weathered the storm and ultimately took the decision in a close, grueling war of attrition…Maslov looked far more one-dimensional against Henrique than he had in his previous bouts. The Russian found his spots on the feet, but he had a rough time avoiding the takedown and keeping the Brazilian off of him. Maslov’s heavy hands were enough to convince two of the judges that he was the superior fighter, but this one really should have gone to Henrique…”Best of the Rest” selection Tim Eschtruth needs just 14 seconds to destroy the formerly undefeated Cole Ferrell. Meanwhile, Sho Kagane scored a decision victory and Kenneth Glenn handed prospect Will Morris a setback.
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