Evan Cutts (L) (Andy Hemingway/Sherdog)

Out of Obscurity: CFFC 98, Shooto and Open FC 6

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…


Cage Fury Fighting Championships 98
2300 Arena in Philadelphia
Event Date: July 3
Website: cffc.tv
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Twitter: @CFFCMMA

Spotlight Fight:
Evan Cutts (12-4) vs. Yohan Lainesse (6-0)

East Coast staple Cage Fury Fighting Championships returns on Saturday with its 98th show. The headliner is a welterweight championship tilt between titleholder Evan Cutts and undefeated challenger Yohan Lainesse.

The 30-year-old Cutts won the belt in an April showdown against Bassil Hafez. He barely eked past Hafez with a split verdict to give him back-to-back victories since his most recent loss, a split decision against Eric Scallan. The Texan fighter has been bouncing around the regional circuit since 2011. Prior to his current run with Cage Fury, “The Butcher” had made his most high-profile stops in the Legacy Fighting Championships and its successor, the Legacy Fighting Alliance. Cutts has been on the losing end in fights against future UFC fighter Sean Spencer, UFC veteran Colton Smith, and two-time Dana White’s Contender Series participant Victor Reyna. His most significant wins came under the LFA banner over Ramiz Brahimaj and in the XKO cage against Hayward Charles. Cutts is a grappler who has eight submission victories on his record.

Canada’s Lainesse enters this title challenge with an unblemished mark through six pro outings. The 28-year-old had previously gone 1-1 as an amateur. He made his pro debut in 2018 and won his first two fights via strikes in the first round. After notching three wins with the TKO promotion, he joined Cage Fury in 2020 and has reeled off another three victories. Two of his victims, Connor Dixon and Troy Green, were undefeated prior to their clashes with Lainesse. The “White Lion” has added another two first-round stoppages, including one of Dixon, since joining Cage Fury.

Cutts was lucky to leave the cage with the title at the end of his clash with Hafez. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt was often on the wrong end in grappling scenarios against Hafez. In addition, his stand-up could use work. He throws looping punches, and his striking guard can easily be penetrated. Cutts rarely dominates in his fights, but he’s a scrappy veteran who can often find a route to victory, especially on the canvas.

As his resume would suggest, Lainesse packs a lot of power. His flying-knee knockout of Lirim Rufati was as violent as they come. The Canadian changes stances frequently and throws a high volume of kicks. He tends to load up on his punches and swing for the fences, which often gives his opponent plenty of time to get out of the way. His striking proficiency overshadows an underrated wrestling game. He’s capable of taking down opponents and smothering them from the top position, but his submission attacks lack technique and he fails to always keep control of his foe.

The outcome of this affair will be determined by a couple of factors.

First, it depends on who is able to dictate where this fight takes place. On the feet, Lainesse, despite his telegraphed home-run swings, could pick apart Cutts and even find a finish. On the mat, Cutts has a decided grappling advantage. If Cutts can catch a kick and convert a takedown, he could make life difficult for his Canadian counterpart. If Cutts opts to pull guard, though, he might risk getting blasted by Lainesse’s ground-and-pound blows before he can set up a submission.

The other factor is the duration of the bout. Lainesse looked somewhat gassed in the third round of his most recent outing against Green, and he even seemed tired within just one frame against Dixon. If Cutts can drag this into the championship round(s) — remember, Cage Fury uses an odd four-round format with a sudden-death fifth round only when necessary — then perhaps he could take advantage of Lainesse’s fatigue and pick up the submission victory.

While either outcome is easy to envision, Cutts has proven too easy to hit in past fights. If he eats a few of those big swings from Lainesse, Cutts is going to be in trouble. Odds are that Lainesse will ring Cutts’ bell before the wily vet has the chance to implement his game plan.

Other key bouts: Santo Curatolo (5-1) vs. Dilshod Zaripov (4-1), Solomon Renfro (7-1) vs. Lee Henry Lilly (7-4), Miles Lee (1-0) vs. Liam Anderson (2-1), Feraris Golden Jr. (3-0) vs. Ryan Rizco (3-1), Isa Dalipaj (2-0) vs. Tyson Craig (1-0)

Shooto 2021 Vol. 4
Mielparque Hall Osaka in Osaka, Japan
Event Date: July 3
Website: x-shooto.jp
Twitter: @xshooto

Spotlight Fight:
Ryuya Fukuda (12-5-1) vs. Tatsuro Taira (8-0)

The small guys take center stage at Shooto 2021 Vol. 4. The card features a pair of men’s strawweight affairs, including one that could impact the top-10 rankings in the division. Meanwhile, the headliner is a flyweight title showdown in which champ Ryuya Fukuda puts his belt on the line against undefeated upstart Tatsuro Taira.

The 29-year-old champion Fukuda already has 18 pro fights under his belt. He debuted in 2011 and has had a history of ups and downs throughout his career. He has never won more than three fights in a row, and he’s currently at this mark once more. Through much of his career, Fukuda struggled when taking a step up in competition. This has seemingly changed in his current winning streak, which includes triumphs over Seigo Kameshima, Kentaro Watanabe, and Pride veteran Yoshiro Maeda. Fukuda tends to either rely on his fists or the judges for his victories.

Taira is just 21 years old, but he’s already put together a strong pro run. He debuted in 2018 after a 7-2 amateur campaign. His first two outings came against inexperienced foes and resulted in a pair of first-round finishes. Taira then took a step up in competition while continuing to find success. In his third pro appearance, he decisioned 20-fight veteran Yuto Sekuguchi. His next fight, in which he fought 29-fight vet Takahiro Kohori, lasted just one minute before the youngster blasted Kohori with a punch on the ground for the knockout. His rampage has continued with an additional three stoppages through four total victories. He needed just 61 seconds to submit the aforementioned Maeda.

The southpaw Fukuda has strong low kicks that can take the legs out from under his opponent. He sprawls well and has excellent takedown defense. However, the champ can also be hit fairly easily. Maeda scored his best early offense when he drew Fukuda into a brawl. When Fukuda does end up on his back, he’s able to stifle his adversary’s attack effectively and stall until the referee intervenes to bring the fight back to the feet.

Taira fights long and also features an arsenal of low kicks. He’s far more likely than Fukuda to take his fights to the ground. He has great top control and attacks with both submissions and ground-and-pound strikes. Despite his youth, Taira has already demonstrated his skills against established veterans like Maeda, Sekuguchi, Kohori and Kiyotaka Shimizu. He was not intimidated by their experience and even finished two of those four men.

As is typically the case in his fights, Taira will enjoy a height advantage here against Fukuda. While Fukuda looked good in his encounter with Maeda, he has proven beatable in the past. Shooto introduced him for the Maeda bout with a record much closer to the .500 mark than what any fighter database indicates. This is a favorable fight for Taira, who can add another veteran name to his list of victims.

It really comes down to Fukuda’s takedown defense here. If the champ can keep this fight upright, then he has a chance to edge the young up-and-comer Taira. However, if Fukuda is unable to stuff Taira’s takedowns, then this one will go Taira’s way when the judges’ scorecards are tallied. Given Taira’s success against a slew of veterans already, Fukuda has his work cut out for him.

Other key bouts: Masayoshi Kato (12-11-2) vs. Ken Asahina (6-3), Koyuru Tanoue (5-0) vs. Shuto Aki (5-3-1)

Open Fighting Championship 6
DS Olympus in Krasnodar, Russia
Event Date: July 4

Spotlight Fight:
Oleg Popov (11-1) vs. Fernando Batista (10-6)

Russia’s Open Fighting Championship continues to deliver solid offerings. The bill for its sixth show includes such notables as Vladimir Vasilyev, Adriano Rodrigues, Viktor Kolesnik and Wanderson Silva. However, these men will serve as the supporting cast to headlining heavyweight prospect Oleg Popov. Popov meets Fernando Batista on Sunday’s card.

Popov has been competing professionally since 2015. He debuted with the Fight Nights Global organization and won his first two contests. He suffered his lone setback in his third pro appearance in a decision loss to Yusup Suliemanov. The 29-year-old has been perfect ever since, with a run of nine wins that includes six stoppages. Popov has recorded notable victories over seasoned veterans Gerônimo dos Santos and Baga Agaev. The smallish heavyweight has five career wins by knockout.

Brazil’s Batista has experienced far less success in his pro career, which began in 2014. However, the 36-year-old has seen some legitimate competition in his time in the sport. He debuted against — and lost to — Caio Alencar, who has gone on to compete for the World Series of Fighting and the Professional Fighters League. His third fight, another defeat, was against current UFC fighter Carlos Felipe. More recently, he was able to score an upset with a knockout finish of Marcos Brigagão, who entered their fight at 12-1. Batista has suffered six losses in his career, but he’s also dished out six knockouts and four submissions. He has yet to see the scorecards in a winning performance.

Popov has made a habit of steamrolling his foes in recent years. Only one of his last six fights went the distance, and that was a rather one-sided affair in which Popov controlled the aforementioned veteran Agaev on the ground through three rounds. The Russian will close the distance and look for the takedown early. He’s persistent and usually finds it, even if he has to get it on the second or third effort. Popov is most likely to end a fight with his ground-and-pound barrages, but he has demonstrated that he can find the submission as well.

Batista is a big, lumbering heavyweight who also seeks the clinch and the takedown. He has to exert far more effort than Popov to complete his takedowns, and he can be reversed. His power is always a threat, but his skill set is unpolished. He’s not going to win any awards for technique, but he showed against Brigagão that he can play the spoiler.

As the clichéd saying goes, anything can happen in MMA. Batista could do to Popov what he did to Brigagão. However, Popov’s smothering style should result in another one-sided affair where the Russian dumps his opponent to the canvas, works from top position, and eventually finds the finish. It’s likely that Popov will overwhelm Batista with a flurry of ground-and-pound strikes for the TKO.

Other key bouts: Vladimir Vasilyev (8-1) vs. Adriano Rodrigues (18-6), Viktor Kolesnik (18-6-1) vs. Wanderson Silva (14-3), Rafael Abrahamyan (3-0) vs. Patrick Mbonda Nubisi (0-2), Alex Coruja (10-4) vs. Sergey Belostenniy (6-2), Nestor Machado (14-6) vs. Ilya Freymanov (7-2), Lucas Marques (12-1) vs. Alexey Lyapunov (9-2), Anatoliy Moiseev (2-0) vs. Kanybek Abiev (5-1), Gogo Shamatava (15-9) vs. Azizbek Keldibek Uulu (5-2), Maxim Kolosov (10-3-1) vs. Angelo Lomboni (5-1-1), Elvis Silva (12-5) vs. Artem Belakh (7-2)

The Best of the Rest

Titan Fighting Championship 70: Roybert Echeverria (4-0) vs. Andrew Richardson (4-0) Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass

Legacy Fighting Alliance 110: Charles Johnson (8-2) vs. Yuma Horiuchi (8-3) for the flyweight title Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass

Road Fighting Championship 58: In Soo Hwang (5-1) vs. Il Hak Oh (4-0) for the middleweight title Watch Event: SPOTV

Elite MMA Championship 7: Denis Stojnić (13-3) vs. Ivo Cuk (19-11) Watch Event: Fite TV via Combat Press

In Hindsight
Last Week’s Scorecard
Fight Prediction Outcome
Sam Creasey vs. Aaron Aby at Cage Warriors 123 Creasey by decision Creasey by decision
Agy Sardari vs. Joe McColgan at Cage Warriors 124 Sardari by knockout McColgan by submission
Ian Garry vs. Jack Grant at Cage Warriors 125 Garry by knockout Garry by decision

As expected, Creasey thoroughly dominated Aby with a combination of superior striking and wrestling to advance to the finals of the Cage Warriors flyweight tournament. Creasey will meet Luke Shanks for the belt…Sardari’s grinding approach was ineffective against McColgan, who quickly gained the upper hand with an active striking attack and solid takedown defense. McColgan didn’t give Sardari much chance at the predicted knockout and instead caught the defending champ in a choke for the third-round finish…Garry wasn’t able to score the knockout after all, but he did outwork Grant to take the decision and the welterweight strap. Grant provided a tough test for the up-and-comer Garry and threatened with numerous submissions over five rounds of action, but the Irishman survived to emerge as the new champ…”Best of the Rest” selections Azamat Bakytov and Jo Arai starched their respective opponents in less than a minute. Meanwhile, Keito Yamakita secured a first-round submission victory over Tatsuki Ozaki. In addition, Kamil Kraska notched a decision victory.