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…
Dilano Taylor (5-1) vs. Carlos Matos (8-1)
Titan Fighting Championship returns for its 69th event on Friday. The show is a co-promotion with the Dominican Republic’s Fighting Force organization and features title fights for both companies. The Titan championship affair is a clash for the vacant welterweight title between prospect Carlos Matos and up-and-comer Dilano Taylor.
The 24-year-old Matos made his pro debut in 2017 and has been nearly perfect ever since. “El Matador” secured each of his first four victories by rear-naked choke. He added a triangle-choke submission of the formerly undefeated Reynaldo Acevedo in his fifth outing and then resorted to using his fists to secure his next two victories. Matos was finally stopped by Joziro Boye in a November 2019 fight. His most recent appearance opposite Islam Bagavutdinov was a return to the basics: it ended in a first-round rear-naked-choke finish for Matos. This will be the highest-profile contest yet for the Team Mordan representative.
Taylor, who is also age 24, knows a little something about chokes. He finished two amateur opponents via a rear-naked choke during his 5-1 ammy campaign. He has added one more of that particular type of submission as a pro. “The Postman” now holds a 5-1 pro mark as well, and he’s secured three finishes at this level. Throughout both his pro and ammy runs, the Sanford MMA product has been an all-or-nothing kind of guy. If he doesn’t get the first-round finish, he has a tendency to either go the distance in victory or lose the fight.
Taylor is a long, lanky welterweight who, despite his propensity for the choke, likes to stand and trade. He mixes in a lot of kicks into his array of attacks. His strategy is to rattle his opponent and then take the back. He’ll even jump onto his foe’s back from a standing position in order to go for the rear-naked choke. He did exactly that in his 90-second Titan debut against Michael Lilly. Taylor does hold his lead hand low at times and can get caught. However, he showed his ability to recover against Michael Cora at Titan FC 66. After Cora landed on him, Taylor was able to get the double-leg takedown and sink in an Ezekiel choke for the finish.
Taylor is here as a result of his win over UFC and World Series of Fighting veteran Lewis Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who has victories over the likes of Emmanuel Sanchez and Antonio McKee, tested Taylor’s limits, but Taylor did well until very late in the fight. The Sanford rep’s combination of striking, wrestling and grappling makes him a very well-rounded and tough opponent for anyone, and he’s a legitimate threat to hand Matos a loss.
The 6-foot-2 Matos is the rare man who will enjoy a height edge over Taylor. The Dominican fighter likes to stand as well, but he’s actually at his best on the ground. Matos is great at reversing his opponent, transitioning to mount, and landing a ground-and-pound barrage or attacking with a submission. However, his recent adversaries have exposed some potential holes in his game. The aforementioned Boye was able to repeatedly put Matos in bad spots before finally putting him away in the third frame of their outing. The much shorter Boye also clipped Matos on several occasions. Bagavutdinov was also able to work from top position for a good part of the first round before getting reversed and submitted.
Taylor, despite a shorter resume, appears to be the more complete fighter in this pairing. He has a far superior strength of schedule and even topped a UFC vet. Taylor has a great camp behind him, and it should be evident in this fight. He’ll hold the upper hand regardless of where this fight goes. Taylor might not get the stoppage in the first frame, but this doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll need the judges here. Instead, his skill level should really wear away on Matos and lead to a late submission finish for Taylor.
Other key bouts: Rami Hamed (9-3) vs. Warren Smith (7-11), Lucas Marte (6-1) vs. Jhonasky Sojo (11-3) for the Fighting Force Grand Prix lightweight title, Devon Dixon (2-0) vs. Oscar Diaz (2-2), Oscar Sosa (13-2) vs. Steven Berbin (2-2-1), Reynaldo Acevedo (8-2) vs. Dean Barry (3-1)
World Warriors Fighting Championships 19
Palace of Sports in Kyiv, Ukraine Event Date: May 15 Website:wwfc.ua Watch Event:MEGOGO (Russia) Twitter:@
Mihail Kotruţă (12-1) vs. Giorgi Tabatadze (8-5)
The Ukraine’s World Warriors Fighting Championships has taken a back seat in recent years to some of the region’s other organizations, but the league’s 19th show includes a welterweight title bout that deserves some attention. The contest pits champion Mihail Kotruţă against challenger Giorgi Tabatadze.
Kotruţă, 31, won the strap in his last WWFC fight against Arber Murati in 2018. His only appearance in the years that followed was a visit to Eagles FC in March. Prior to his long layoff, Kotruţă had been on quite the roll. After a 2012 pro debut and just four fights — all wins — in the four years that followed, he picked up the pace in 2016 with first-round stoppages of veteran opponents Yaroslav Franchuk and Sultan Kalamakhunov. Kotruţă suffered a setback against Alexander Butenko in his next fight, but he rebounded with another five wins, culminating in the title victory over Murati. In his recent return to action, Kotruţă outworked Vitaly Tverdokhlebov to take a unanimous nod from the judges.
The 32-year-old Tabatadze has had a much more tumultuous pro career since his 2014 pro debut. The Georgian fighter lost that first outing, but he answered with a pair of first-round finishes. Another step up in competition led to back-to-back defeats, including one to Nariman Abbasov. Tabatadze then reeled off six straight wins, albeit mostly against far inferior foes. In late 2019, he hit another rough patch and suffered back-to-back losses once more.
On paper, Tabatadze seems like a sacrificial lamb in this one. He’s relied on favorable match-ups to tally his eight wins, but he struggles when the competition gets stiffer. His wins came against fighters with a combined mark of 22-18-1 at the time of their encounters. Meanwhile, he suffered his losses to a set of opponents who held a combined record of 40-13.
Tabatadze’s fights tend to go to the mat, but it’s not always the Georgian fighter in full control. He’s rather easily taken down, and when he is on top, he has a bad habit of leaving his arms for the taking and diving right into triangle chokes. Both of his recent setbacks came via submission due to a triangle.
Moldova’s Kotruţă has some major flaws in his game as well. He tends to load up on haymakers while rarely throwing technical combinations. He also fails to set up his takedown attempts, instead shooting in from way too far out. When on the mat, he, too, has a bad habit of putting himself in risky situations. Kotruţă’s strength lies in the volume he throws, especially with his leg kicks. The damage can pile up on his opponent, or he can simply outpoint them en route to a decision, as he did against Aktilek Zhumabekov.
This is a tricky match-up for both men. Tabatadze appears to have the more polished game, but history suggests that he’ll falter against a fighter who has experienced plenty of success in MMA action. Meanwhile, Kotruţă’s lunging punches and naked takedown attempts probably won’t do much to trouble Tabatadze. It could be a close fight that goes the distance. Given Tabatadze’s past struggles, though, the smart pick here is a decision nod for Kotruţă.
Other key bouts: Vitaliy Yakimenko (2-0) vs. Roman Akhremchik (3-2), Yaroslav Chokobok (5-1) vs. Dmitriy Orlov (1-2)
Hayato Ishii (16-3-2) vs. Yasuyuki Nojiri (5-0-1)
Japan’s Shooto organization provides one of this weekend’s most compelling international contests. It takes place in the company’s bantamweight division, where undefeated upstart Yasuyuki Nojiri tries to take a huge scalp when he faces the highly successful Hayato Ishii.
The 23-year-old Nojiri put together a lengthy resume in amateur competition from 2014 to late 2018. He advanced to the finals in numerous tournaments and even emerged as the victor in the 25th All Japan Amateur Shooto Championship. Overall, he went 15-6 before turning pro. He finally made the transition in 2019 and continued his success with four straight wins. He kicked off 2021 with an enormous step up in competition when he tangled with Kota Onojima. The contest ended in a split draw. Nojiri returned less than two months later and tacked on a victory over veteran Takahiro Ichijo.
Ishii represents an even more successful foe for Nojiri than the aforementioned Onojima. He has won 16 fights and suffered just three losses. Despite this long list of fights, Ishii is still just 25 years old. He made his pro debut in 2014 and rattled off nine straight wins, peaking with a decision nod over WEC and Dream vet Yoshiro Maeda. He went winless through his next two fights, which included a draw against Takumi Tamaru and a loss to Tadaaki Yamamoto. His ups and downs have continued. Every time he has strung together two wins in a row since the Yamamoto loss, he would then get derailed, first by Kiyotaka Shimizu, then by Kenta Takizawa, and finally in a draw against Onojima.
Ishii’s trend of two wins and then a setback extends back to 2017. By his current pattern, Ishii is due for a victory here against Nojiri. The Tribe Tokyo representative’s last appearance resulted in an armbar finish of Yoshizumi Kobayashi, a far out-gunned opponent. This has been a common theme in Ishii’s career. Outside of the aforementioned victory over Maeda, he has largely feasted on outmatched opponents, including fighters with losing records.
Nojiri found plenty of success at the amateur level, despite repeatedly falling short in tournament finals. As a pro, he, too, has relied on favorable pairings to build his current record. He almost edged Onojima and could push Ishii to the veteran’s limits here.
This could turn into a chess match between two skilled grapplers, but Nojiri’s power could ultimately make the most difference in this fight. The youngster has already managed three knockouts as a pro, and Ishii’s biggest weakness would seem to be his chin. Nojiri just might add to his knockout total this weekend.
Other key bouts: Yamato Nishikawa (13-3-5) vs. Nobumitsu Osawa (13-5), Yuto Uda (4-0-1) vs. Kiyotaka Shimizu (24-14-3), Kota Onojima (13-5-3) vs. Takahiro Ichijo (7-10-1), Megumi Sugimoto (5-3) vs. Mikiko Hiyama (0-7), Caol Uno (34-20-5) vs. Taison Naito (10-8-1)
The Best of the Rest
Legacy Fighting Alliance 107: Kamuela Kirk (10-4) vs. Daniel Swain (20-10-1) Watch Event:UFC Fight Pass
Fierce Fighting Championships XV: Chris Curtis (24-8) vs. Jarome Hatch (25-14)
Império Fight V: Alexandre Cirne (12-5) vs. João Pedro Saldanha (8-1)
Fury Fighting Championship 46: Lookin’ for a Fight: Cameron Graves (9-3) vs. Fernando Padilla (13-4) for the featherweight title Watch Event:UFC Fight Pass
Last Week’s Scorecard
Juan Puerta vs. Lloyd McKinney at Combate Global
Puerta by submission
Puerta by submission
Daniel Zellhuber vs. Jafeth Herrera Quiros at Lux Fight League 13
Zellhuber by knockout
Zellhuber by knockout
Riley Dutro vs. Eric Shelton at Caged Aggression XXXI
Dutro by decision
Shelton by injury stoppage
McKinney was far too willing to engage in a grappling match with Puerta, and it cost him. Puerta, as expected, turned out to be the superior grappler and took McKinney’s back early before finishing the fight with a very tight rear-naked choke…Zellhuber was far too much for Quiros, who turtled up and succumbed to a ground-and-pound TKO within the first frame…In typical Shelton fashion, The Ultimate Fighter alum couldn’t seem to find the finish against Dutro, but he was getting the better of the Hawaiian fighter on the feet and dropped Dutro on several occasions. However, the stoppage only came when Dutro’s corner threw in the towel after their fighter suffered a dislocated arm…”Best of the Rest” selection and former Bellator champ Alexander Shlemenko earned a decision victory over Márcio Santos. Meanwhile, UFC castoff Chance Rencountre submitted late-replacement opponent Cliff Wright, and TUF 24 alum Nkazimulo Zulu tapped Fafa Dwama.
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