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…
Maxim Butorin (19-3-1) vs. Makhmud Gaziev (8-1)
The rebranded Fight Nights Global organization returns this weekend with its 102nd card. The promotion, now known as AMC Fight Nights, remains among the leaders in Russia’s regional scene, and fights like the welterweight affair between Maxim Butorin and Makhmud Gaziev are a prime example of what the company can deliver.
The last time we took a look at Butorin, the league was still known as FNG, and Butorin was its welterweight champion. However, he lost the belt in the previewed fight when he was decisioned by Dmitry Bikrev in a very close fight. The 26-year-old has rebounded with wins in three of his four subsequent fights. Butorin made his pro debut in 2015, but he’s had his ups and downs. He fought to a draw against Mike Hill, who entered their fight with a modest 9-4 mark. In addition to his setback against Bikrev, Butorin has also dropped fights to a sub-.500 Alexander Chernov and a 9-2-1 Goity Dazaev. The Russian has tallied 12 submission victories in his career.
Gaziev also debuted in 2015, but he’s fought far less frequently than Butorin in his pro career. After his unblemished run came to an end in his fourth outing when he lost to rookie Maxim Kurchatov, the Russian took more than two years off. He returned in early 2018 and started a new winning streak that now sits at five fights. However, he has only fought once in the last two years. That appearance was a March promotional debut with AMC Fight Nights that ended in a decision nod for Gaziev over the aforementioned Chernov.
Butorin is perhaps one of the more overrated prospects out of Russia. At first glance, his record seems impressive. However, a deeper dive reveals additional losses that came during what counted as amateur outings after he turned pro. These fights were part of Russian tournaments where Butorin lost to Alibek Suleymanov and Rasul Mamaev. This would suggest that he can even struggle against mediocre competition.
Gaziev still has a lot to prove, despite his own stellar pro mark. His resume features a number of low-level fighters, with only Chernov carrying a decent amount of experience. By the time Gaziev fought Chernov, the veteran fighter had recovered from the 2-4 start to his pro career to achieve a respectable 8-3 record. The next best fighter on Gaziev’s docket was a 3-0 Ruslan Goncharov, whom Gaziev submitted within a single round.
Butorin and Bikrev engaged in an all-out war in their title fight, and it illustrated both the strengths and weaknesses in Butorin’s game. The southpaw packs plenty of power in his punches, but he can be dropped as well. Butorin is capable of scoring takedowns, but he struggles to secure a position and control his foe on the mat. Bikrev was able to repeatedly sweep Butorin or escape from the bottom without much effort. Butorin has made a habit of tapping opponents, but this could be attributed to the quality of his competition more so than his finishing ability.
Gaziev appears lighter on his feet than Butorin and utilizes a more varied striking arsenal that includes spinning attacks and kicks. He’s a more traditional wrestler with his takedowns and can often find success even when his initial shot fails. He was able to control Chernov on the ground through much of their three-round encounter with smothering wrestling and a ground-and-pound attack.
Gaziev has the tools to get the win here as long as he can avoid eating many powerful punches from Butorin on the feet. He does well to set up his takedowns by throwing combinations and then changing levels. He should find success in this approach against Butorin, and he can also reverse the veteran if somehow Butorin is the man to initially gain top position. Gaziev’s wrestling will ultimately be enough to carry him to a decision nod.
Other key bouts: Armen Petrosyan (4-0) vs. Hasan Yousefi (6-4-1) for the light-heavyweight title, Vyacheslav Vasilevskiy (35-8) vs. David Barkhudaryan (12-3), Andrey Laptev (6-0) vs. Zayundin Suleymanov (3-0), Murad Nukkhadiev (1-0) vs. Mikhail Tarkhanov (3-5), Magerram Gasanzade (4-0) vs. Konstantin Podoynitsin (0-0), Dalgat Magomedragimov (6-0) vs. Gennady Karnaukhov (5-8)
Jesse Arnett (18-6) vs. Ray Borg (13-5)
The most recognizable names for American fans this week are easily those from the UAE Warriors 20 headliner. That fight will be contested at bantamweight and features UFC veteran Ray Borg against Canadian journeyman Jesse Arnett.
Borg is now set for his first post-UFC bout after his last two scheduled appearances in the big show fell through. “The Tazmexican Devil” was once a top flyweight with the UFC, but a combination of issues both inside and outside of the cage have led to a far more turbulent time in his career. Borg made his pro debut in 2012 and compiled a perfect mark through six fights before joining the UFC. His Octagon debut ended in disappointment when he was on the wrong side of a split-decision outcome against Dustin Ortiz. The New Mexico native won five of his next six fights, including one over Jussier “Formiga” da Silva to earn a crack at UFC flyweight champ Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Borg lost to Mighty Mouse via a fifth-round armbar submission. After a number of injuries and personal issues led to a long streak of scrapped fights, Borg returned to action and went just 2-2 over his next four contests while mostly competing at bantamweight. His most recent appearance came just over a year ago when he dropped a split decision to Ricky Simón.
Arnett is one of those fighters that just seems like he would have had a UFC stint by now. The Canadian has been a popular name on the regional scene for years. He debuted in 2011 and endured a rough start to his career in which he went a distressing 3-4 over his first seven fights. Arnett has made quite the turnaround since then to go 15-2 over his last 17 bouts. He reeled off 12 straight wins from 2014 until 2018. His list of victims during this stretch includes Roland Delorme, Darrick Minner and Johnny Bedford. The “Big Cat” then stumbled in consecutive contests against Nate Maness and Josh Hill before getting back on track with three additional wins, including one in his most recent appearance opposite Elias Boudegzdame. The Canadian eked out a split nod in the affair, which served as his UAE Warriors debut.
At this point, the biggest question might be whether Borg actually ends up fighting this weekend. His career has been thrown off course by a number of incidents that were out of his immediate control, from the infamous bus attack by Conor McGregor that led to an eye injury for Borg to the health of his child that caused him to withdraw from fights on several occasions. He cannot be faulted for these things, but they obviously would make it hard for anyone to focus on a fight career. When Borg is competing to his fullest, though, he’s still a talented top-tier competitor. He brings a wealth of UFC experience with him, including a championship scrap. He’ll be a tough fight for Arnett.
If Arnett can emerge with a victory, he’ll surely garner the attention of the big leagues. It’s astounding that he hasn’t already had his shot. The Canadian has defeated a number of notable names and is a formidable fighter in his own right. The southpaw is a well-rounded fighter who should combine with Borg for one of the more entertaining fights of the weekend.
Both men are grapplers and could engage in a chess match on the mat. However, the biggest factor could be Arnett’s size edge over the UFC veteran. The Canadian is five inches taller than Borg and will enjoy a six-inch reach advantage over the former UFC title challenger. He should be able to use his length to control where this contest takes place and when it goes to the ground. Once it hits the canvas, he’ll be able to use those long limbs to both threaten Borg with submissions and land plenty of ground-and-pound blows when he’s postured up. Only Mighty Mouse has been able to tap Borg, but that could very well change this weekend.
Other key bouts: Martun Mezhlumyan (11-2) vs. Attila Korkmaz (11-5), Daniel Skibiński (17-5) vs. Acoidan Duque (16-2), Carolina Jimenez (6-0) vs. Lucrezia Ria (8-2), Handesson Ferreira (15-3-1) vs. Amiran Gogoladze (11-1), Mohammad Karaki (9-1) vs. Gianni Melillo (13-6), John Mitchell (2-0) vs. Arbi Emiev (2-1), Andre Fialho (11-4) vs. Sang Hoon Yoo (6-1), Marcos Paulo Costa (3-0) vs. Yousef Wehbe (8-8), Atabek Abdimitalipov (4-0) vs. Abu Muslim Alikhanov (3-0), Zaakir Badat (2-0) vs. Erçin Şirin (0-0), Azizbek Satibaldiev (16-7) vs. Victor Nunes (6-4)
Reina Miura (12-3) vs. Yoko Higashi (5-2)
The 101st show in the Deep Impact series will play host to the next fight for Japanese star Reina Miura. She has bounced around at the heavier women’s weight classes throughout her career, and she’s now set for a 141-pound catchweight bout against Yoko Higashi.
The 24-year-old Miura has fought as high as 165 pounds and as low as 138 pounds since debuting as a pro in late 2016. She has been a mainstay of the Deep Jewels organization and the Rizin Fight Federation throughout her career. Miura won her first seven fights, but her only formidable opponent in this stretch was Shayna Baszler. She suffered her first loss at the 2017 end-of-year Rizin show when she dropped a split decision to Cindy Dandois. Miura rebounded with a pair of first-round submission victories against rookie opponents before again falling on the scorecards when she stepped up in competition to meet Kaitlin Young. This trend has continued in her MMA campaign, with wins in three of her last four fights while only suffering a loss to Stephanie Egger. Miura has been engaged in a kickboxing rivalry with Marina Kumagai for the last year that has resulted in one victory apiece for the two combatants.
Higashi, 35, is far less heralded as a fighter. She debuted under the Pancrase banner in late 2017 with a loss to fellow rookie Myung Bo Kim. Higashi won her next four fights, but her competition left a lot to be desired. In this span, she conquered one rookie foe and a set of fighters whose combined record at the time stood at 1-7. In 2019, she again tried to take a step up, but it resulted in a split-decision loss to Tatiana Fontes, by far the best fighter Higashi has encountered to date. The Pancrase staple responded with another victory over a winless opponent to bring her record to its current standing at 5-2.
Miura is an absolute slugger who will tee off on her opponent with a variety of punches, kicks and knees. She has the strength to easily bring the fight to the mat and control from top position. However, she often looks to be at her best against far overmatched competition. When she has encountered more experienced and skilled foes, she hasn’t fared quite as well. However, her performances against Baszler and Dandois are proof that she’s always a game opponent.
Miura resides in what is globally a very shallow weight class within women’s MMA, and her preference to fight in her homeland has only exacerbated the one-sided nature of her fights. She gets another potential cakewalk here against Higashi. The 35-year-old has never beaten an opponent who sports a winning record, and now she’s on a collision course with a juggernaut in Miura.
The Japanese star may struggle when she’s given legitimate 145-pound foes, but she tends to steamroll fighters of Higashi’s caliber. She’ll rush Higashi and get this fight to the mat early, then pound away until either a submission opens up or Higashi is overwhelmed by strikes. Given Miura’s more recent trends, the latter outcome is the more likely one.
Other key bouts: Ryuichiro Sumimura (16-8) vs. Nao Yoneda (7-4-1), Koichi Ishizuka (16-6-1) vs. Kosuke Terashima (17-16-5), Ayumu Yamamoto (2-0) vs. Taisei Nishitani (2-2), Yuki Ito (7-1) vs. Tomohiro Adaniya (16-14-3)
Naciones MMA 2: Alejandro Flores (18-3) vs. Teo Londoño (5-0)
Mergen Fighting Championship: Roman Golovinov (10-4) vs. Kuat Khamitov (22-6-2)
European Pro Fighting 1: Jose Sanchez (10-0) vs. Felipe Maia (9-4)
Last Week’s Scorecard
Aaron Cañarte vs. Alexander Barahona at UWC 27
Cañarte by decision
Cañarte by decision
Igeu Kabesa vs. Reinaldo Ekson at EFC Worldwide 86
Kabesa by knockout
Ekson by submission
Sharaf Davlatmurodov vs. Kleber Silva at Open FC 5
Davlatmurodov by knockout
Davlatmurodov by decision
Barahona was actually the one to initiate and secure the early takedowns against Cañarte, but “Tommy Gun” soon turned the tide and rocked his foe on several occasions while also controlling the action on the mat. Cañarte survived a late scare and took the predicted decision win…Ekson put on an efficient showing and thwarted Kabesa’s attempt to defend the featherweight title. The Brazilian became the new EFC Worldwide champ when he caught Kabesa in an arm-triangle choke just 92 seconds into the fight…Davlatmurodov was not able to score the predicted knockout of Silva, but he still managed to claim a decision victory over the Brazilian…”Best of the Rest” selections Alexander Durymanov and Gadzhimurad Gasanguseynov scored decision victories.
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