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Beyond the Octagon: Bellator champ Minakov, TUF finalist Taylor, and Road to UFC: Japan

Your weekly update on what big-show veterans are up to on the world's regional circuits.

Another weekend past, and another cohort of former UFC fighters look to reassert themselves on the regional circuit. Some, like TUF 7's Jesse Taylor, exhibit extraordinary consistency. Others, such as former UFC featherweight Issei Tamura, experience a precipitous drop that sends them not only out of the Octagon but into the nadir of their career, where losses mount, and to weaker and weaker competition to boot. A phenomenon for someone far more well-informed than me to figure out.

On to the results...

First, a bit of catch-up from two weekends ago, when the aforementioned Jesse Taylor faced undefeated Nick Barnes in the main event of, well, The Main Event.

Taylor (28-12, 0-1 UFC, 0-2 Strikeforce, 1-0 Dream, 1-1 WSOF) was on an impressive run leading up to his bid for the WSOF middleweight title last year, but that string of victories would be put to bed following a surprisingly prompt submission from David Branch. That defeat precipitated a three-fight losing streak, the most recent chapter of which came thanks to Maiquel Falcao last April. Barnes, meanwhile, has little official big-show experience, but did manage two upset victories en route to the quarterfinals of Bellator's Fightmaster. No upset would be forthcoming in his fight with Taylor, however, as "JT Money" was quick to tie up an opening-round rear-naked choke. Taylor's record for the year improves to 1-1. Barnes's overall mark falls to 9-1-0.

Watch Taylor vs. Barnes here. Action at 4:50.

And in Russia, at Fight Nights: Sochi, reigning Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov put his dustless record on the line against Adam Maciejewski (13-6-1). The latter entered the bout with a seven-fight win streak at his back, but it wouldn't afford him enough momentum to get past the striking of Minakov--by 21 seconds into Round 1, Minakov had snatched a leg, advanced to mount, and leveled enough ground-and-pound to force the referees hand. Minakov's record stands at 15-0-0.

Minakov vs. Maciejewski is here.

Also on the card was featherweight prospect and would-be Bellator fighter Rasul Mirzaev, who made short work the unheralded Ronny Gomez (2-1-0), putting him away with a rear-naked choke in the first. Mirzaev, who went to jail for a manslaughter charge, remains undefeated at 12-0-0.

Check out Mirzaev vs. Gomez here.

And wrapping up last week's action is Tyson Nam (13-8, 0-2 WSOF), who tasted victory for the first time since 2012. The win came by way of first-round TKO against Arnold Berdon (2-1-0) in the main event of Destiny Na Koa 10 in Hawaii. Nam made waves three years ago with his surprising knockout of Bellator champion Eduardo Dantas, but then slipped into a disappointing slump, halted now at four.

As for last weekend, Johnny Bedford (21-12-1, 2-3 UFC) returned to action for the first time since his release from the UFC last September. In Round 5 of his headlining bout for Michigan's WXC 59, Bedford dropped Josh Robinson (12-9-0) with an uppercut to the body and followed up with strikes on the ground, capturing the promotion's bantamweight title in the process.

Bedford vs. Johnson is here. Fight starts at 0:30, finishing sequence at 22:10.

And at KOTC: Warriors Collide, WEC vet Seth Dikun (9-8, 1-2 WEC) failed in his bid for the featherweight title against Jordan Griffin (11-4-0). Dikun is 1-4 since his return from a two-year hiatus.

Meanwhile, at Steelfist Fight Night 36 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Brock Jardine (12-5, 0-2 UFC) improved to 3-2 in his post-UFC career thanks to a unanimous decision victory over Michael Arrant (14-10). Jardine has won three in a row.

TUF 9 finalist DaMarques Johnson (16-15, 4-6 UFC) was also on the card. He was looking to shake off a slump three years deep. Opponent Joe Rodriguez (7-3-0, 1-1 Bellator) would not yield, however, submitting Johnson with a shoulder choke in Round 2 and extending Johnson's losing streak to six. It seemed like Johnson managed to get on the nerves of some fans, but I found him to be a dependably exciting action fighter and I'm disappointed to see him struggle like this.

Fellow TUF vet Steven Siler (26-14, 5-4 UFC), however, had a much better go of it during his appearance at Jeremy Horn's Elite Fight Night 27 (also in Salt Lake). A first-round rear-naked choke of Josh Tyler (6-4, 0-1 Bellator) put him on a three fight winning streak and improved his post-UFC record to 3-1. All of those wins have come within the distance.

And in Tokyo on Sunday, at Pancrase 269, Will Chope (24-8, 0-1 UFC) looked to extend his win streak to six with a victory over prospect Isao Kobayashi (18-2-4). It would, however, be Kobayashi who added to his impressive record, besting Chope by unanimous decision. Along with a split-decision over Marlon Sandro in April, Kobayashi is 2-0 for the year.

In the co-main event was flyweight pioneer Mamoru Yamaguchi, who had a surprisingly close fight with journeyman Yusuke Kitago (13-11-1). Yamaguchi walked away with a split-decision and saw his overall mark, sixteen years in the making, improve to 28-9-5.

Eric Prindle (9-6-1NC, 3-2-1NC Bellator), a finalist in the Bellator Fighting Championship: Critical Groin Smasher Grand Prix Absolute, also took to the Pancrase ring, where he managed to shake off the burden of a three-fight losing streak. His win came at the expense of Mitsuyoshi Nakai (1-2-0), who has previously competed as low as welterweight. The bout surprisingly went into the second round, where Nakai succumbed to strikes. His trip to Pancrase marks Prindle's first bout since being released by Bellator.

Also on the card was Issei Tamura (8-7, 1-2 UFC), who was likewise in the business of halting a losing streak--following a successful UFC debut in February of 2012 in which he knocked out Tiequan Zhang, Tamura would drop five straight, two in the Octagon and three in South Korea's Road FC. This latest bout, his first in Japan in four years, saw Tamura fight his way back to the win column as he earned the judges' verdict over Hikaru Hasumi (8-7-1).

And finally, Road to UFC: Japan saw the conclusion of its quarterfinal round this week, with Daiki Hata (17-9-7, 1-2 Dream) taking on Tatsunao Nagakura (11-5-0). The bout started off a little dull, with a low blow being the most significant strike landed in the feint-filled opening minutes. Hata thereafter began an eager but unsuccessful hunt for the body lock. It was, however, when Nagakura himself looked to clinch, that Hata found his opportunity, promptly tossing Nagakura and landing in side control, thus setting the tone for the opening frame. Team Barnett's Hata enjoyed similar success in Round 2, during which some counter striking and his grappling saw him pull ahead on the scorecards (this, despite appearing comically winded in the round's closing minutes).

Watch Hata vs. Nagakura here. Hata is in the red shorts.

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