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…
Combate Global: Superfly
Univision Studios in Miami Event Date: May 7 Website:combateglobal.com Watch Event: Univision and TUDN (United States), TUDN Mex (Mexico) Twitter:@combateglobal
Juan Puerta (21-6) vs. Lloyd McKinney (14-7)
Combate’s latest transformation from Combate Americas to Combate Global has been accompanied by a regular set of late-night events. The latest, dubbed “Superfly,” features an interesting flyweight scrap between Juan Puerta and Lloyd McKinney.
The 33-year-old Puerta made his pro debut in a losing effort in 2011, and he ultimately went just 3-3 through his first six fights. Of course, the American Top Team Atlanta product’s record has improved since then. He reeled off five straight wins before suffering a knockout loss courtesy of Johnny Campbell. Another three victories followed, but then Puerta hit a rough patch in which he dropped back-to-back fights against Darren Mima and Jared Scoggins. Yet again, he has gotten back on track with 10 consecutive wins, including a finish of Gustavo Balart, a title victory over Kazbek Ashimov, and a decision nod over veteran Claudio Ledesma. Overall, “Leadfeather” has 11 submission finishes.
McKinney is one year older than Puerta. The 21-fight veteran debuted in 2006 and won his first three fights. It’s been a series of ups and downs ever since, though. His biggest winning streak in the years that followed has spanned four fights. Meanwhile, he’s suffered back-to-back losses once and is just 1-2 over his last three appearances. “Albie” made one appearance for Bellator in 2018 in a winning effort, but he’s been a mainstay of the Legacy Fighting Alliance over the last few years. Under the LFA banner, he was decisioned by Sid Bice and submitted by Victor Altamirano. He sandwiched a first-round submission finish of Gonzalo Ponce in between these two setbacks.
Puerta is adept at turning his opponents into pretzels rather than flattening them. This could be bad news for McKinney, who has suffered five submission losses. McKinney actually prefers the grappling realm, though, and has nine tapouts to his credit. He might be willing to go against his own best interests and engage in a grappling affair with Puerta.
While Puerta is not particularly known for his striking arsenal, he did pull off a beautiful flying knee for the knockout against Balart, and he could have a similar approach here if McKinney is the one seeking to shoot in for takedowns. The Georgia-bred Puerta has been feeding on a similar level of competition recently with opponents like the aforementioned Ledesma, Jorge Calvo Martin and Nate Williams.
While he has also sprinkled some truly subpar opponents in between those fights, Puerta has more than proven that he’s capable of handling a fight of McKinney’s caliber. Meanwhile, McKinney has experienced struggles against far worse competitors. Puerta should have his way with his upcoming opponent and in all likelihood coax a tapout for the win.
Other key bouts: Jonathan Sepulveda (9-2) vs. Martin Davila (6-3), Jaime Alvarez (8-3) vs. Jesus Santos Aguilar (5-1), Ivan Lopez (14-4-1) vs. João Camilo (6-4), John Simon (2-0) vs. Javier Reyes Rugeles (9-3)
Daniel Zellhuber (10-0) vs. Jafeth Herrera Quiros (4-1)
The 13th show from Mexico’s Lux Fight League has quite the lineup. There’s a flyweight championship tilt at the top of the bill, plus a featured spot for UFC veteran Polo Reyes. The card is so deep that the best prospect is almost lost in the mix. That prospect is the “Golden Boy,” Daniel Zellhuber. The 21-year-old remains undefeated through 10 fights and now clashes with Jafeth Herrera Quiros in a lightweight affair.
Zellhuber won his first five fights, including four via finish, before joining the Combate organization. His success continued there with victories over José Luis Medrano, Salvador Izar and the formerly undefeated Gian Franco Cortez. In 2020, Zellhuber made his first appearance with the Lux Fight League, where he submitted Miguel Arizmendi with a calf slicer. He then jumped to the iKon Fighting Federation for just over two minutes of work in a stoppage victory over Alexander Barahona in December. Now, he returns to Lux for his sophomore appearance with the company. The young fighter has drawn comparisons to Yair Rodriguez due to his Muay Thai techniques, length, and aggression.
Quiros actually seems to be a step back in competition for Zellhuber. The Costa Rican fighter has just five pro fights under his belt, and he lost one of those contests. The Mandarina MMA representative put together a flawless amateur campaign before turning pro in late 2018. He won his debut via third-round submission over Rafael Murillo Morera, but lasted just one round against Fabian Miranda in his next outing. Quiros returned to the win column in his third fight and tacked on victories in his subsequent two bouts, including a rematch with Miranda. His Lux debut came in early 2020 when he needed less than a full round to submit Alan Dominguez.
Zellhuber, at 6-foot-1 and sporting a 77-inch reach, is a lanky lightweight who is eventually expected to move up to welterweight or even middleweight as he continues to grow. The “Golden Boy” knows how to use his length, too. He throws kicks from range and will punish opponents, especially shorter ones, with knees from the Muay Thai clinch. He has been vulnerable to landing on the bottom when the fight goes to the ground, but his length has often helped to minimize the damage he takes and also has contributed to his ability to gain leverage for sweeps against his opponent.
Of course, Zellhuber is most effective on his feet and in top position. The Team Romero representative can get a little overzealous on the ground and lose position or put himself in danger of a submission. Thus far, however, he’s been able to survive such mistakes and continue to emerge victorious. He’ll need to correct these mental lapses, though, as he begins to encounter more experienced and skilled competition.
Fortunately, this affair seems to be a stay-busy fight for Zellhuber against an opponent who has been shown to be vulnerable. Quiros lacks the experience of Zellhuber’s last two opponents, both of whom were easily dispatched by the young prospect. He also lacks the winning percentage of Zellhuber’s previous foe before those two most recent affairs, and that fight also easily went Zellhuber’s way. Quiros has a steep uphill fight on his hands.
Zellhuber should continue to showcase the skills that have made him one of the best up-and-comers out of Mexico. Quiros could prove to be tougher than expected, but Zellhuber will use his superior striking and his length to keep his opponent at bay. Quiros is typically a quick finisher, but this might lead to a reckless rush here that causes him to fall prey to a Zellhuber TKO finish.
Other key bouts: Jorge Calvo Martin (12-5) vs. Alessandro Costa (8-2) for the flyweight title, Marco Antonio Elpidio (11-3-1) vs. Polo Reyes (9-7), Kike Gonzalez (10-2) vs. Luis Solorzano (5-6), Tania Torres (3-0) vs. Yaneth Vidal (1-1), Francesco Patron Manzo (6-0) vs. Uriel Cossio Dominguez (5-5), Erick Rodriguez (5-1) vs. Jordi Maya (4-1), Carlos Ochoa (2-0) vs. Gabriel Morales (2-2)
Riley Dutro (14-5) vs. Eric Shelton (13-7)
Caged Aggression was not satisfied with just one night of fights this weekend, so the promotion opted to extend its offering to a second day. It’s that second night that features the most intriguing pairing: a flyweight title contest between Riley Dutro and Eric Shelton.
Dutro has not competed since a September 2019 win over Toru Ogawa under the Pancrase banner. He should be a somewhat familiar face to American fans after his failed bid at a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series, where he was stopped by Jordan Espinosa in the third round. “The Perfect Storm” has spent much of his career in Japan and the Pacific region. He debuted in 2009 and has tangled with such notables as Russell Doane, Darren Uyenoyama and Takumi Tamaru in the years that followed. The 33-year-old Hawaiian has six knockout victories, but he’s also been put away by strikes on two occasions.
Shelton is another familiar face, thanks to his time on The Ultimate Fighter 24 and the UFC stint that followed. He claimed victories over Yoni Sherbatov and Ronaldo Candido on the show, but he fell short against Tim Elliott. After the reality competition concluded, Shelton stuck around in the UFC for six fights. He notched victories over Jenel Lausa and Joseph Morales, but he didn’t fare so well against Alexandre Pantoja, Jarred Brooks, Alex Perez or the aforementioned Espinosa. Since his departure from the big show, Shelton has gone 1-1 in MMA action while also winning a boxing match in late 2020.
This is an intriguing fight between two fighters who have proved to be just short of borderline UFCers. Shelton provided a surprise on TUF when he topped Sherbatov, but his UFC resume as a whole is rather disappointing. He couldn’t defeat mid-tier guys like Espinosa and certainly came up short against the likes of contenders like Elliott and Pantoja, but he slammed the proverbial gates shut on Lausa and Morales. However, his post-UFC loss to 3-0 upstart Juancamilo Ronderos is cause for concern.
Dutro has had his own struggles, while often preying on lesser competition to secure his wins. He’s fared especially well in Japan, but he was outworked by Shohei Masumizu in a 2019 Pancrase bout. There’s a possibility that Shelton, who has thrived in underdog spots and tends to keep fights close, could follow the Masumizu blueprint to a victory.
There’s a reason Shelton was a very low seed in the TUF competition. He had a few notable wins by the time of his reality-show appearance, but he had also suffered losses to Sid Bice and Kevin Gray. Both on the show and after its conclusion, he engaged in a number of fights that went to either a majority or split decision. While he won one of these close fights, Shelton often didn’t do enough to get over the hump.
Dutro is a veteran fighter who could make life difficult for Shelton. If Shelton continues to have trouble pulling away from his opponent on the scorecards, then he’s going to struggle in big spots like this one. Dutro should outwork him and take the nod from the judges.
The Best of the Rest
AMC Fight Nights 101: Primorsky Krai Governor’s Cup: Alexander Shlemenko (60-13) vs. Márcio Santos (16-5)
Extreme Fighting Championship Worldwide 85: Nkazimulo Zulu (11-4) vs. Fafa Dwama (4-1) Watch Event: Live main card on DAZN (United States), SuperSport (Africa), Fight Sports (Europe and Asia), 2 (Norway), vip (Croatia and Slovenia), Huawei (Myanmar) and efcworldwide.tv (worldwide).
X-Force MMA 10: Rodrigo Carlos (24-17) vs. Marcos Brigagão (13-2) for the light-heavyweight title Watch Event:YouTube
Last Week’s Scorecard
Paweł Pawlak vs. Sergey Guzev at Babilon MMA 21
Guzev by decision
Pawlak by decision
Andres Luna Martinetti vs. Marcos Muñoz at FFC 45
Martinetti by submission
Martinetti by decision
Kirill Kornilov vs. Wagner Prado at RCC 9
Kornilov by knockout
Kornilov by decision
Guzev was outworked by Pawlak and failed to clinch the predicted decision victory. Instead, it was his Polish foe who had his hand raised when the verdict was read…Martinetti couldn’t coax a tapout from his opponent, but he also secured a decision victory…Kornilov was equally unsuccessful in scoring the expected knockout against UFC veteran Wagner Prado, but he also walked away with a decision win…”Best of the Rest” selection Joshua Silveira needed just 41 seconds to submit Rafael Viana in the Legacy Fighting Alliance 106 headliner. Meanwhile, Ivan Castillo and Petr Kníže scored stoppage victories.
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