Justin Wetzell (Phil Lambert/Combat Press)

Out of Obscurity: Brave CF 51, LFA 109 and KSW 61

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…


Brave Combat Federation 51: The Future is Here
Falcon Club in Minsk, Belarus
Event Date: June 4
Website: bravefights.com
Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Twitter: @bravemmaf

Spotlight Fight:
Roman Bogatov (11-1) vs. Abdulmutalip Gairbekov (15-2-1)

The tagline for the 51st show from the Brave Combat Federation is “The Future is Here,” and the company is certainly trying to deliver on this promise. The show is stacked with both veterans and up-and-comers, which makes it difficult to single in on just one fight for this preview. However, it’s certainly worth looking at the featherweight clash between UFC castoff Roman Bogatov and his fellow countryman, prospect Abdulmutalip Gairbekov.

Bogatov’s brief UFC stint consisted of a loss to Leonardo Santos via unanimous decision at UFC 251. He had previously been an undefeated mainstay under the M-1 Challenge banner, where he reigned as the league’s lightweight champion. Bogatov has collected victories over Rubenilton Pereira, Michel Silva and Mickael Lebout since turning pro in 2016. The 30-year-old has tallied five of his wins by way of submission. He returned to the win column in his first post-UFC outing when he decisioned Nurzhan Akishev at Brave CF 46.

Gairbekov is far less heralded. He has bounced around the regional scene in Russia and the surrounding areas, and this will serve as his Brave debut. The 31-year-old started his pro career in 2011 and had a rocky road through his first five fights, leading to a 3-2 mark. He’s gone undefeated, though, since 2014 while racking up 12 victories and fighting to a draw against Akhmed Balkizov. Gairbekov is a decision machine who has only stopped his opponent on three occasions.

Bogatov’s UFC release after just one fight might seem surprising at first glance, but his inability to avoid illegal strikes was his undoing. In his fight with Santos, Bogatov was warned after landing two low blows in the third stanza. He then delivered a knee to his downed opponent, which prompted the referee to deduct two points. The point deduction didn’t significantly impact the outcome of the contest, which would have been awarded to Santos regardless. However, Bogatov’s reputation took a hit as a result. Brave decided to scoop him up, though, and give him a shot at redemption. He has thus far delivered with a solid win over Akishev.

Gairbekov arguably should have won his fight with Balkizov. He controlled much of the bout with his wrestling. In addition, the Russian has a striking arsenal that at times resembles that of Alexander Shlemenko. Gairbekov will throw spinning back fists and kicks. He also regularly switches stances, giving opponents both orthodox and southpaw looks.

Bogatov may have come out flat in his UFC bout — and only made things worse with his infractions — but he was already accustomed to a higher level of competition in his time with M-1. He finished Silva and essentially stopped Lebout. He also tapped out Tahir Abdullaev and Raul Tutarauli, a pair of fighters who held a combined 29-4 mark when they collided with Bogatov. Meanwhile, Gairbekov has been tussling with a slightly lower level of opponent, though he has encountered the likes of grizzled vets Masahiro Oishi, Michel Lima and Sergey Andreev.

Bogatov was fortunate to have survived round two in his fight with Santos. The Brazilian had Bogatov reeling, but he just couldn’t seal the deal. All of the fouls came in the third round, a frame that began with the Russian bent over in exhaustion. The groin strikes seemed accidental, but the knee to the head was a complete mental lapse by the former M-1 champ. Santos exposed some holes in Bogatov’s striking game, but Bogatov is a skilled grappler who can cause trouble for anyone on the ground.

Bogatov is a Master of Sport in both freestyle wrestling and MMA. His physicality was on display in his recent victory over Akishev, and it should also give him an upper hand here. Gairbekov sometimes has to drag his opponent to the mat rather than getting them there through skillful takedowns. He’ll find even more difficulty in this area against a skilled wrestler like Bogatov. Unless Gairbekov can connect with one of his spinning attacks, he’s going to have a hard time converting a win in this one. It should be a grueling battle, but it will ultimately be the UFC veteran who emerges with his hand raised in a decision victory.

Other key bouts: Lucas Martins (20-5) vs. Mohamed Grabinski (21-6), Denis Maher (7-0) vs. Rinat Sagyntay (9-0), Ylies Djiroun (18-6) vs. Sam Patterson (6-1-1), Yanis Ghemmouri (9-1) vs. Vladislav Novitskiy (9-3), Badmatsyren Dorzhiev (5-0) vs. Almanbet Abdyvasy Uulu (9-4), Aydemir Kazbekov (7-0) vs. Abdul Karim Badakhshi (4-0), Anastasia Feofanova (7-1) vs. Sevde Türk (4-0), Vadim Kutsy (15-1) vs. Daniyar Abdibaev (8-2), Muhammad Mokaev (4-0) vs. Ibragim Navruzov (5-1-1), Artem Lukyanov (4-0) vs. Bakhtovar Yunusov (4-0)

Legacy Fighting Alliance 109
Grand Hotel Casino and Resort in Shawnee, Okla.
Event Date: June 4
Website: lfafighting.com
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Twitter: @LFAfighting

Spotlight Fight:
Askar Askar (11-1) vs. Justin Wetzell (6-1)

For its 109th edition, the Legacy Fighting Alliance has given the headlining duties to Terrance McKinney and Michael Irizarry Ortiz. While that fight is definitely an intriguing showdown of lightweight prospects, the fight just below it on the bill should also help to identify a future UFCer. That bout takes place in the bantamweight division, where Askar Askar meets Justin Wetzell.

After a strong amateur run, Askar made his pro turn in 2015. “Ak-47” hit the ground running and reeled off 10 straight wins. This included notable victories under the Titan Fighting Championship, LFA and Island Fights banners. Six of his wins during this streak came via stoppage. The 26-year-old was then stunned in his first outing of 2020 when he was put away in just 39 seconds by Saidyokub Kakharamanov. The Palestinian-born fighter rebounded with a decision nod over Kevin Wirth at LFA 92.

The 29-year-old Wetzell is just seven fights into his own pro campaign. The Elevation Fight Team product put together an outstanding 10-fight run as an amateur before making the transition to the pro ranks in 2016. Wetzell’s debut was a success, ending in a decision nod over the formerly undefeated Jaime Medina. His sophomore appearance, though, was a disappointment, with Wetzell coming out on the wrong end of the scorecards against six-fight veteran Joseph Richardson. However, just like Askar, Wetzell has rebounded nicely. He’s won five straight, including two LFA contests. He has just two finishes in his pro career, but they both came via strikes in the first round.

Askar should be in the UFC right now, but he was released by the company when a short-notice Octagon debut against Cody Stamann fell through because Askar couldn’t get medically cleared. Now, Askar instead finds himself back in the LFA and in a spot where he has to prove himself worthy of the big show once more.

Askar’s loss to Kakharamonov came in a barnburner in which both men swung for the fences. This is where Askar can struggle. He throws caution to the wind and takes a very aggressive approach in his outings. It makes for an entertaining time for fans, but it doesn’t help Askar’s chances at victory. He rushes forward in a way that can leave him open for counters. Wirth couldn’t take advantage of this and lost, but fighters who can find a way to land with power will have a chance to put Askar to sleep. Given that Wetzell can finish a fight with his fists, Askar might want to take a more measured approach in his exchanges on the feet.

Wetzell is just emerging from the early stages of his career. His best opponents so far have come under the LFA banner in the form of Michael Aquila, who was 1-0 when he encountered Wetzell, and Teshay Gouthro, who was 3-0 at the time of their clash. Askar, on the other hand, is already a UFC recruit. It’s a huge step up for Wetzell and a chance for him to make an impression that will resonate all the way to the UFC matchmakers.

Wetzell has some knockout power, but he’s the more likely of this pair to opt for a grappling match. He switches stances often, but his technique is awkward. He doesn’t really display the countering ability that would be necessary to flatten Askar. Instead, he will change levels and shoot for his opponent’s legs. He was only partially effective in bringing the fight to the canvas against Gouthro, and Askar will be an even tougher task for him.

Askar is probably too much and far too soon for Wetzell. The UFC hopeful will push forward, touch up Wetzell, and even get the better of any wrestling or grappling exchanges. Askar might go as far as to punctuate this one with a knockout.

Other key bouts: Terrance McKinney (9-3) vs. Michael Irizarry Ortiz (12-3), Robson Junior (3-0) vs. Edwin Cooper Jr. (3-1), Gerrica Trias (1-0) vs. Ky Bennett (1-2), Jacobi Jones (1-0) vs. Caleb Hall (2-0), Haris Talundžić (2-0) vs. Gabriel Gideon (0-0)

KSW 61: To Fight or Not To Fight
Ergo Arena in Gdańsk/Sopot, Poland
Event Date: June 5
Website: konfrontacja.com
Watch Event: pay-per-view stream via KSWTV
Twitter: @KSW_MMA

Spotlight Fight:
Salahdine Parnasse (14-1-1) vs. Filip Pejić (15-4-2)

Poland’s KSW organization is back with its 61st effort, and the answer to the tagline most assuredly is “to fight.” The lineup features plenty of familiar names, including strongman Maruisz Pudzianowski, but the duo with the most future potential consists of featherweights Salahdine Parnasse and Filip Pejić.

Parnasse, 23, is one of the most promising up-and-comers to emerge from France. The Atch Academy fighter debuted in 2015 and won his first four outings before fighting to a draw in his first venture outside of his homeland. Parnasse redeemed himself five months later with a victory over that same opponent, LiGe Teng. The win over Teng sparked a 10-fight winning streak for the Frenchman that included five victories with the KSW organization. His list of victims in the KSW cage isn’t too shabby, either. His promotional debut ended in a majority nod over Łukasz Rajewski, and he has added unanimous verdicts over Artur Sowiński, Marcin Wrzosek and Ivan Buchinger while also stopping Roman Szymański via strikes. Parnasse finally stumbled in his most recent outing when he was dropped in less than two minutes by Daniel Torres.

Croatia’s Pejić has been toiling around the pro scene since 2011. He put together a 10-1-1 mark before signing with the UFC. His stay in the big show was brief, with just a single fight in which he lost to Damian Stasiak in just over two minutes. The 28-year-old went 3-0-1 over his next four contests before joining KSW. He has thus far had mixed results in the Polish promotion, with victories bookending a four-fight stint in which he also suffered losses to the aforementioned Torres and Szymański. “Nitro” is a knockout artist who has stopped 10 of his foes via strikes.

The southpaw Parnasse is a kickboxer with lightning-quick hands. He often targets his opponent’s head with left high kicks. He fights long, but he’ll actually give up both height and reach to Pejić in this one. Despite his preference for the stand-up game, the Frenchman has shown excellent all-around skills. He scrambles and sprawls well, scores takedowns via throws and trips, and has excellent leverage in the clinch. He’s aggressive when in top position, where he will rain down a barrage of ground-and-pound strikes. Despite his capabilities on the mat, he won’t get baited into a grappling affair when he knows he has a clear edge on the feet.

There appears to be no area where Pejić has a distinct advantage over Parnasse. The Croatian is very vulnerable to the takedown and can be controlled on the mat, but Parnasse is unlikely to take this approach. On the feet, Pejić’s best weapons are his spinning attacks, especially spinning kicks. However, he also tends to loop his punches, and his movement is far slower than that of his French foe. In addition, Pejić keeps his chin up and moves back in a straight line. This combination should make him an easy target for Parnasse.

While the LFA’s Askar was under UFC contract at one time, Parnasse is clearly the most UFC-ready competitor among those featured in this week’s preview. He’s an absolute beast whose only loss came not due to a skill disparity with his opponent but rather from a bizarre forearm strike that grazed his head and left him on rubber legs. Outside of that defeat and a draw, he’s outclassed the remainder of his competition. He lit up the aforementioned Buchinger for the better part of five rounds in his fight prior to the setback against Torres. Pejić should prove to be another scalp for Parnasse’s growing collection, likely via a TKO finish.

Other key bouts: Mariusz Pudzianowski (14-7) vs. Łukasz Jurkowski (17-11), Patrik Kincl (23-9) vs. Tomasz Romanowski (13-7), Ivan Erslan (9-1) vs. Przemysław Mysiala (24-10-1), Donovan Desmae (14-6) vs. Roman Szymański (13-6), Andrey Lezhnev (19-9) vs. Damian Stasiak (12-7), Monika Kucinic (1-0) vs. Karolina Owczarz (3-1), Darko Stošić (14-4) vs. Michał Kita (20-12-1)

The Best of the Rest

Battlefield Fight League 67: Kyran Cameron (5-0) vs. Dejan Kajić (12-7-2) for the welterweight title Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass

Double G FC 7: Bo Hyeon Park (3-1) vs. Yerin Hong (3-1) for the women’s atomweight title

Eternal MMA 60: Steve Erceg (6-1) vs. Cody Haddon (2-0) Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass

Arena Global 12: Paulo Henrique (9-3) vs. Joelson Pantoja (5-0) for the 165-pound title

In Hindsight

[Ed. Note — Out of Obscurity was on hiatus last week. The following results are for events previewed in the May 19 edition of this preview series.]

Last Week’s Scorecard
Fight Prediction Outcome
Josh Fremd vs. Gregory Rodrigues at LFA 108 Fremd by knockout Rodrigues by knockout
Michel Silva vs. Eduard Vartanyan at Open FC 4 Vartanyan by decision Vartanyan by decision
Alexander Vertko vs. Aboubakar Tounkara at NFC 3 Tounkara by knockout Fight cancelled

Rodrigues flipped the script on the prediction and scored a big first-round finish of his own over Fremd. He wobbled Fremd with multiple right hands, the last of which separated Fremd from consciousness. His performance also landed him a quick turnaround booking with the UFC for the big show’s June 5 card…Vartanyan was able to secure the predicted decision nod over Silva, but he played with fire. He caught Silva’s kicks and dumped the Brazilian to the mat, but he also jumped into Silva’s guard and had to fend off a couple of triangle attempts. Still, Vartanyan managed to otherwise smother Silva on the mat en route to the win…Tounkara never got a chance to knock out Vertko, whose visa issues caused the fight to be scrapped…”Best of the Rest” selections Marcin Jabłoński and Kerim Engizek finished their opponents.