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Beyond the Octagon: UFC vets go 3-1, Kalib Starnes gets heavyweight belt

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Your update on how UFC, PRIDE, and Bellator vets are fairing on the regional circuit.

Last weekend yielded up another crop of fight results featuring former big-show talent, including a TUF veteran cementing his claim to a middleweight championship. But first, at Road FC 26 in Seoul, South Korea, a five-time PRIDE heavyweight suffers the first lost since his MMA resurgence.

Mu Bae Choi (12-5, 4-1 PRIDE, 1-2 Sengoku) won his first four bouts under the PRIDE FC banner, which included a submission victory over a then-undefeated Soa Palalei. A subsequent TKO at the hands of Sergei Kharitonov would serve as Choi's first loss and his final appearance in the organization. He bounced from one organization to another in the years following, during which time he knocked out Gary Goodridge and captured an upset victory over a then-undefeated Dave Herman. He fought sparingly since 2009 but made a return-in-earnest this year, rattling off two TKO victories in Road FC.

Choi's opponent last week, Siala-Mou Siliga (7-5, 3-1 Bellator, 0-1 Dream), better known as Mighty Mo, underwent his own career resurgence in 2013, returning to competition under Bellator and finishing three opponents straight (thereby doubling his number of career wins). A loss to former champion Alexander Volkov closed out his time with Bellator; combined with unexpected losses to Dennis Stojnic and Alexandru Lungu, Siliga had a three-fight losing streak hanging over his head en route to his fight with Choi.

The former K-1 mainstay wasted little time putting himself back in the win column, stunning Choi with only the second punch of the fight. Choi's ensuing attempt at a clinch was shrugged off and, as he tried to brawl his way back into phone-booth range, Siliga landed a right hook to the ear that sent "The Heavy Tank of Busan" crashing face-first to the mat. The knockout came just over half a minute into the round. With the victory, Siliga evens out his record for the year at 1-1. Choi loses for the first time since 2009 and falls to 2-1 for 2015.

Watch Siliga vs. Choi here.

Also on Friday, in Krasnodar, Russia promising heavyweight Denis Goltsov (16-4-0) successfully defended his Tech-KREP championship for the third time, delivering a first-round TKO of John Hawk (11-6, 2-1 Bellator) on the strength of a very sharp jab. The 25-year-old, six-foot-six Goltsov has won eleven straight in the last three years, including victories over Brett Rogers, Peter Graham, and James McSweeney; he's finished his last four opponents. For Hawk, last week's defeat closes out a recent win streak at three.

Watch Goltsov vs. Hawk here. Fight starts at 1:40.

And at Xcessive Force FC 7 in Alberta, Canada, TUF 3 alum and former UFC middleweight Kalib Starnes (17-10-1) continued his heavyweight sojourn, submitting Craig Hudson (4-6-0) with a rear-naked choke in Round 2 to capture the organization's vacant heavyweight title. Starnes was one of the favorites to win the TUF 3 tournament but wound up losing to eventual show-winner Kendall Grove in the semi-finals. He went a fair 2-3 in his official UFC career, which included a solid win over Chris Leben, but his UFC tenure is most often remembered by a bizarre fight with Nate Quarry, during which Starnes spent the better part of the third round avoiding any interaction with his opponent. He afterwards was promptly released. Since leaving the middleweight division behind, Starnes is 5-2.

Meanwhile, in the main event of RFA 31, Gilbert Smith (12-4, 0-1 UFC) successfully defended his middleweight title with a TKO of Bristol Marunde (16-10, 0-2 UFC, 0-1 Strikeforce, 1-3 IFL). Marunde appeared to have pulled ahead on the scorecards during the first three rounds, but Smith would end Marunde's night in Round 4 with a short left hook that broke his jaw. Smith is 7-2 since his appearance at the TUF 17 finale in 2013. Marunde falls to 4-2 since his last turn in the UFC.

In the co-main event, Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (6-1, 1-0 Invicta) overcame a significant gap in experience to take a unanimous decision over former Bellator champion Zoila Frausto (12-5, 6-1 Bellator, 0-2 Invicta, 1-1 Strikeforce), capturing the vacant strawweight title in the process. Jones-Lybarger has won four straight. As or Frausto, the former top-ranked strawweight has lost four in a row and hasn't won a bout since a 2012.

Highlights from RFA 31 can be seen here. Footage from Jones-Lybarger vs. Frausto starts at 0:55, Smith vs. Marunde follows.

And on Saturday, at M-1 Challenge 52, Vyacheslav Vasilevsky (27-3, 1-1 Bellator) rebounded from his surprising submission loss to Ramazan Emeev last April with a submission win of his own. The victory came at the expense of Kristijan Perak (8-2-1) via rear-naked choke in Round 2. Vasilevsky moves to 1-1 for the year and ends a three-fight surge for Perak.

And at West Coast FC 15 out of Sacramento, California, Justin Jones (5-2, 0-2 UFC) took out Jordan Powell (5-6-0) with a first-round guillotine to remain undefeated outside the UFC. He's 2-0 since the unanimous decision loss to Ron Stallings that ended his first tour in the Octagon.

In the night's main event, former TUF 16 hopeful Max Griffin (11-2-0) defended his welterweight title with a TKO of Buddy Wallace (11-4-0). The win marks a return to the win column for Griffin, who dropped a split-decision to Chidi Njokuani last May.

Finally, at Deep Cage Impact 2015 in Osaka, MMA pioneer Jutaro Nakao (25-19-4, 0-1 PRIDE, 1-1 UFC) came up short on the scorecards against Ryuichiero Sumimura (7-5-0). Nakao, who can claim victories over Pat Miletich and Shinya Aoki, is 2-2 in the last three years.