A lull in UFC action recently (media day brawls notwithstanding) seems to have yielded up a bonanza of high-profile bouts on the regional circuit. On account of the unusual number of fights to cover this week, we'll be breaking this week's Beyond the Octagon into two pieces, lest your brains melt by the time you get around to Yuki Kondo. On to the results...
First up is last Thursday's Tachi Palace Fights 20, which featured Joe Soto (15-2, 4-1 Bellator) versus Terrion Ware (11-3-0). Soto, who served as Bellator's inaugural bantamweight champion, halted Ware's win-streak at six, locking up a north-south choke in the closing minutes of Round 3. Soto is now 6-1 since leaving Bellator. The former champ had suffered a career-threatening eye injury that kept him away from competition for nearly a year. He returned in late 2011 as a heavy favorite against Eddie Yagin but lost by guillotine choke in the opening round (a fight, incidentally that earned Yagin an invitation to the UFC). Soto has won six straight since that upset loss, all by stoppage, and his diligence has since earned him his own UFC signing--Soto is slated to compete at UFC 177 against Anthony Birchak.
Also at TPF, Ricky Legere, Jr. (19-5, 1-0 Bellator, 1-0 Strikeforce) rebounded from his split-decision loss to Alan Jouban last June with a submission of UFC vet Nate Loughran (11-2-0). The win came by rear-naked choke in Round 3, making Legere the promotion's welterweight champion. It's a little surprising that Legere hasn't spent more time in the larger promotions given his strong record and knack for finishes. The loss to Jouban was surely ill-timed, though, as it interrupted a lengthy win streak and earned Jouban (perhaps rather than Legere) a signing by the UFC. Legere is 6-1 since 2012. Loughran, meanwhile, went 1-1 in the UFC during 2008. He was away from competition for over three years following the loss to Tim Credeur that saw him exit the UFC. He's 2-1 since his return in 2012.
And earlier in the evening, former Top 10 bantamweight Antonio Banuelos (20-11-1, 2-1 Dream, 0-1 UFC, 9-5 WEC) succumbed to the strikes of undefeated prospect Joby Sanchez (6-0-0). Banuelos, whose penchant for brawling made him a fixture in the WEC, has had trouble finding success in the last few years--since his win over Masakazu Imanari in December, 2011, he's gone 0-4-1 (though all of those losses have come against prospects, future UFC signees, or Top 10 opposition). Sanchez, meanwhile, has finished all of his opponents in his short but promising career.
Finally, Angel DeAnda (12-4, 0-2 WSOF) rebounded from his winless stretch in World Series of Fighting with a TKO of Matt Lagler (8-11-1) in the closing seconds of Round 1.
Friday's National Fight Alliance featured its share of UFC and WEC veterans, as well, including Jared Papazian (18-11-0), who topped Ara Muradyan (5-2-0) by unanimous decision in the main event. Papazian went 0-3 in the UFC, with a flyweight bout against Tim Elliot serving as his last outing. Papazian is 3-2 since then. Muradyan, meanwhile, sees a four-year, five-fight winning streak come to a close.
Papazian vs. Muradyan can be seen here. Fight starts at 8:40.
WEC veterans Chad George and Karen Darabedyan also rebounded at NFA.
For Chad George (15-8-0, 1-2 WEC), the win came by a rear-naked choke of Sam Rodriguez (4-5-0). George, who you may remember from his standing guillotine choke loss to Scott Jorgensen (in which Jorgensen cranked the choke so hard that he lifted George off the ground), is 4-2 since his stint in the WEC.
Karen Darabedyan (10-5-0) locked up an opening round guillotine of L. John Borges (1-6-0) to pull himself out of a four-fight skid. Darabedyan started off his WEC career with an upset of former champ Rob McCullough, though two subsequent submission losses (both by armbar) would see him out of the promotion. The win over Borges is his first in nearly five years.
And on Saturday, XFO 52 featured the return of Team Curran product Matt Fiordirosa (13-1-0). Fiordirosa may be familiar to those who remember the old Versus Channel's MMA programming block and its short-lived Tapout show, in which those sponsors would travel around the country observing and signing fighters, including Fiordirosa. A.k.a. "Sunshine," he came off rather well, as I recall, but wound up stepping away from competition in late 2010. He returned this Saturday after a four year layoff, though, testing the waters against Matthew Yeary (2-4-0), whom he put away with strikes early in the second round. Fiordirosa hasn't lost since his 2006 professional debut against Wagnney Fabiano.
And in the main event of North Carolina's Fight Time in the Valley, former welterweight standout Dan Hornbuckle (24-9-0, 2-1 Sengoku, 3-3 Bellator) lost his fourth fight in a row, this one against Roger Carroll (14-11-0) by way of submission in the opening round. Hornbuckle went 15-1 in the first two years of his career, but has struggled as of late, going 2-6 since 2011.
Finally, we have The Ultimate Fighter 17 contestant Collin Hart (6-3-1, 0-1 UFC), who took a unanimous decision win over Marcus Gaines (11-24-1) in the main event of Dragon House 17. Hart lost in TUF 17's quarter-finals to eventual tournament winner Kelvin Gastelum, and while usually only semi-finalists are invited back to the UFC, the field for that season was strong enough that Hart was signed to fight Luke Barnatt at the TUF 17 Finale. He made a good but ultimately losing effort and was released. As happens surprisingly often, Hart lost his first post-UFC bout, but has since won two in a row. His win over Gaines earns Hart the promotion's middleweight title.
Hart vs. Gaines his here. Be warned, it is a fan-shot video, featuring all the nausea-inducing camera work that that entails.
And that does it for now. Check back for Part 2 of this week's Beyond the Octagon, which features a couple of PRIDE veterans, members of Bellator's Russian doom patrol, and a medley of former UFC and TUF competitors.