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Beyond the Octagon: UFC vet Mike Rhodes returns, plus Satoshi Ishii, and Minowaman vs. Oli Thompson

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Weekly coverage of action from the regional circuit, featuring former UFC, PRIDE, Strikeforce, and Bellator fighters.

The regional circuit this weekend yielded up another healthy dose of action from big-show alumni, including Mike Rhodes' first contest since the loss to Erick Silva that saw him released from the UFC, as well as some open weight madness out of Japan. But first, we have some results out of Moscow...

At M-1 Challenge 56, Bellator veteran and current M-1 middleweight champion Vyacheslav Vasilevsky (26-3, 1-1 Bellator) faced Ramazan Emeev, whom he took the title from last fall by way of fourth-round TKO. Emeev would, however, come out ahead in their rematch, and emphatically so, submitting Vasilevsky via rear-naked choke in the opening minutes of Round 1. Vasilevsky takes his first loss since his Bellator release, falling to 9-1 since that time. Emmeev improves to 12-3-0 overall.

You can read Karim Zidan's complete breakdown of the card here, which included dudes in full armor engaging in some Medieval-style swordplay.

And in California, at BAMMA Badbeat 15, TUF 15 rep Chris Saunders (12-7, 0-1 UFC, 0-2 Bellator) faced Darren Smith (6-5, 0-1 Bellator) in the night's main event. Saunders, who took a split-decision over Sam Sicilia during the show's filming but lose to Myles Jury in his official UFC debut, improved his post-UFC run to 3-4 thanks to a fight-ending guillotine choke in Round 1.

The TUF 15 class also turned in good results at RFA 25, where featherweight champion Justin Lawrence (7-2, 1-2 UFC) scored a buzzer-beater of a TKO over Sam Toomer, putting him away with knees and punches at 4:55 of Round 1. Lawrence is 3-0 since his release from the UFC in 2013. Toomer suffers his first loss, falling to 9-1-0 overall.

In the co-main event, Francisco France (12-3-1, 1-0 Strikeforce, 0-0-1 WSOF) and Gabriel Checco (8-2-0) each looked to capture the vacant RFA middleweight title. After five rounds, France was awarded a unanimous decision victory. He's now won four straight and is undefeated in six. Checco is 2-2 since 2014.

Also on the card was lightweight talent LaRue Burley, who made waves in 2013 with his TKO of the heavily favored Bubba Jenkins at Bellator 100. Burley was matched with another undefeated fighter in T.J. Hepburn, whom he dispatched with a guillotine choke in the first. Burley, who has a 3-0 mark in Bellator, improves to 6-0-0 overall. Hepburn falls to 4-1-0.

Highlight's from RFA 25 can be seen here.

And on Saturday in Tokyo, the Inoki Genome Federation put on its third show, featuring a contest between Oli Thompson (13-8, 0-2 UFC) and Ikuhisa Minowa (61-38, 6-4 Dream, 9-8 PRIDE, 3-3 K-1, 1-0 UFC). Thompson, who's recently dropped down to light-heavyweight, managed to avoid Minowa's submissions and hand the JMMA legend a unanimous decision loss. Thompson pulls himself out of a three-fight skid and evens up his post-UFC record to 4-4. Minowa, meanwhile, takes his third loss in a row; it's only the third time in his career that he's found himself in such a slump (and the first time in ten years).

The co-main event featured action from prospect Chris Barnett, still fighting above the 265-pound limit, but still handing out beatings. On Saturday, Barnett's quarry was Emil Zahariev (22-6-1), whom he finished with a spinning back kick and punches in Round 2, in the process spoiling a three-fight winning streak for the Bulgarian. Barnett has won eight in a row.

Further down the card, the well-traveled Dion Staring (31-11, 0-1 Strikeforce) also saw a three-fight win streak go up in smoke, this one at the hands of Yosef Ali Mohammad (5-1-0). The imposing Mohammad, a potent finisher, needed less than a minute to earn the TKO victory.

Saturday's IGF also saw the return of Satoshi Ishii (13-4-1), who successfully rebounded from a pair of losses to Mirko Filipovic with a first-round kimura of the dubiously nicknamed Nick "The Slim Shady of MMA" Rossborough (25-19-1, 1-0-1 Bellator). Ishii is 2-2 since 2014, Rossborough 2-2-1.

Finally, Wisconsin's NAFC: Explosion saw the return of Mike Rhodes (7-4, 0-3 UFC) who made short work of Tom Angeloff (4-4-0, 1NC). It took just over a minute and a half for the 25-year old Roufusport welterweight to come out with the TKO win. The victory pulls Rhodes from the three-fight slump he experienced in the UFC. It's his first victory since a 2013 unanimous decision win over Alan Jouban.