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Beyond the Octagon: Bellator champ Minakov, UFC vet Brandon Vera victorious

Your weekly update on how big-show veterans are fairing on the small stages of the MMA world

Before Saturday's UFC on FOX 17, why not an aperitif of MMA results from last weekend's regional shows?

Probably the most significant news coming out of last weekend's regional action was Brandon Vera's main-event showing against Paul Cheng for One Championship in Manila. With his debut at UFC Fight Night 2 against Fabiano Scherner, Vera (14-7-1NC, 8-7-1NC UFC) kicked off a four-fight winning streak that saw him tabbed as one of the future stars of the division, if not a champion. Losses to former and future champions Tim Sylvia and Fabricio Werdum would, however, disrupt Vera's seemingly relentless momentum, and an uneven, disappointing run at light-heavyweight fairly suffocated whatever championship air Vera once possessed.

Now over a decade removed from his sensational UFC debut, however muddled his path and however more humble the banner under which he finds himself, Brandon Vera has finally claimed a championship title. The victory came by way of a kick to the head of Paul Cheng (5-2-0), whose four-fight win streak was halted within the bout's opening minute. In addition to the title, this latest win moves Vera to 2-0 since his release from the UFC in 2013; it's the first time he's won consecutive bouts in over six years.

Check out Vera vs. Cheng here. Action at 2:30.

Speaking of champions, Bellator's wandering heavyweight kingpin Vitaly Minakov maintained his dustless record with a second-round kimura of Joshua Copeland (11-3, 0-2 UFC). This, at Fight Nights: Battle 20 in Moscow. Minakov, three fights removed from his last appearance in Bellator, improves his record to 17-0-0. Meanwhile, Copeland suffers his first-ever defeat outside the UFC.

And in that event's headlining spot, featherweight prospect Rasul Mirzaev likewise kept his undefeated record intact as he claimed a unanimous decision victory over Ilya Kurzanov (9-5-0).

Also last weekend, Luke Barnatt (9-3, 3-3 UFC) took the first step of his post-UFC campaign, challenging Mattia Schiavolin (12-2-2) for his middleweight title in the main event of Venator FC 2. The two would fight into the fourth round, during which Barnatt caught Schiavolin in a fight-ending rear-naked choke. With this submission, "The Big Slow" pulls himself out of a three-fight slump. Conversely, Schiavolin sees a three-fight win streak come to a close.

Earlier that night, Karl Amoussou (21-7-2, 5-4 Bellator, 0-1 Dream) made short work of Hakon Foss (4-3-0), using his ubiquitous heel hook to elicit the tap less than a minute into Round 1. Amoussou moves to 4-0 since last appearing in Bellator in 2014. Foss, who stepped in as a replacement for UFC vet Simeon Thoresen, sees a promising win streak fizzle out at two.

Other Fights:

Justin Jones (7-2, 0-2 UFC) improves to 4-0 in his post-UFC career with a third-round TKO of Luc Bondole (5-2-2) at RFA 33. UFC vet Ernest Chavez (9-3, 1-2 UFC) also found success that night, edging out Adam Townsend (14-4-0) on the scorecards for a split-decision victory that puts him at 2-0 since his departure from the Octagon.

In the main event of Fight Lab 52, former TUF 15 hopeful Jordan Rinaldi (12-4, 1-0 WSOF) submitted Lashawn Alcocks (5-7-0) with an armbar in Round 2, thus extending his win streak to five, which includes victories over UFC vets Clay Harvison and Diego Saraiva.

At MFP: Cup of the Western Borders, Evgeny Erokhin (13-4-NC, 1-0 WSOF) scored a first-round knockout of Jimmy Ambriz (17-19-1, 0-2 Dream). Erokhin is undefeated in nine fights, a stretch that includes knockouts of Mike Kyle, Brett Rogers, Tim Hague, and Jeff Monson.

In England, at Phoenix Fight 28, Rafael Dias (17-12, 0-1 Bellator, 1-2 WEC, 1-1 IFL) returned from a two-year hiatus only to suffer a fight-ending injury in Round 2, thus yielding a TKO victory to opponent Alex Enlund (13-2-0). Enlund has won six in a row, a stretch which includes a submission of TUF 22 runner-up Artem Lobov (11-11-2).

At Pancrase 273 in Tokyo, prospect Victor Henry's tear up the ranks was finally halted bantamweight champion Shintaro Ishiwatari (20-6-4), who earned a unanimous decision victory at the end of five rounds. Henry (11-2) sees his win streak come to a close at five; Ishiwatari has won two in a row.

Also on the card, Issei Tamura (9-7, 1-2 UFC) put himself on a win streak for the first time six years with his unanimous-decision-worthy effort against Takumi Nakayama (19-16-6). Tamura improves to 2-3 post-UFC.

Flyweight pioneer Mamoru Yamaguchi (28-10-5) came up short on the scorecards against Yuki Yasunaga (13-8-1) for a split-decision loss. It's Yamaguchi's third bout in a row to result in a split verdict from the judges.

Former middleweight King of Pancrase Ryo Kawamura (17-9-4, 2-3 Sengoku) likewise went the distance in his bout with Givago Francisco (6-2-0), ultimately being awarded a unanimous decision.

And Atsushi Yamamoto (18-10-3, 2-2 Dream) found himself upset by Senzo Ikeda (8-5-1), who rendered Yamamoto unconscious with a rear-naked choke in Round 1.