Last July, Road FC kicked off their 16-man lightweight tournament which had a $1 million prize for the eventual winner. Although the line up may not have household names in the US, it certainly has a deep talent pool filled with UFC vets and champions from various organizations in the world.
The South Korea-based promotion returns to China for Road FC 44 on Saturday night, and it is where they will host the quarterfinal bouts.
To get you familiar on these these competitors vying for a million dollars, here are the four tournament bouts, along with a brief background on each of them.
Ronys Torres (35-5)
Accolades: Shooto Brazil champion, MMA Champions League champion
Rank: #1 LW competing in Brazil (Tapology), #1 LW competing in Korea (Tapology)
Torres had a very short UFC stint, dropping decisions to Jacob Volkmann and Melvin Guillard way back in Feb and March of 2010. He was with the UFC as a 23-year-old, and has now won 10 straight and 21 out of 23 bouts since. He’s won multiple titles since then, and has grown to be one of the biggest sports stars from the Amazonas in Brazil, along with Jose Aldo. It’s mind boggling how he was never asked back to the UFC, but their loss is Road FC’s gain, as the Nova Uniao product is now in his prime and looking better than ever.
Torres won his tournament opening round bout with an early kimura, further establishing him as one of the few favorites to win the million.
Tom Santos (7-4)
Accolades: Dragon Fight champion
Santos was just a late replacement to fight Nam Yui Chul in his return fight from the UFC. The Brazilian surprised everyone by pulling off an upset and knocking out the former Road FC lightweight champion. He rematched the UFC veteran in the opening round of this tournament last July. The ending was the same, but it was more brutal and ended much earlier. Santos swiftly knocked out Nam in just 7 seconds to advance to the quarterfinals.
Shamil Zavurov (33-5-1)
Accolades: M-1 WW champion, Octagon FS WW champion
Rank: #2 LW competing in Russia (Tapology), #2 LW competing in Korea (Tapology)
Zavurov is an Akhmat MMA product and has been a longtime training partner of Khabib Nurmagomedov for years. He campaigns in two divisions and is a former M-1 welterweight champ, who is among the most famous and highly regarded fighters from the deep talent pool in Dagestan. In the opening round, he outclassed UFC veteran Leo Kuntz on the ground, en route to a one-sided decision.
Khuukhenkhuu Amartuvshin (6-3)
Rank: #3 LW from Mongolia (Fight Matrix)
Amartuvshin has fought in major MMA promotions in China, Hong Kong and Mongolia before ending up in Road FC where he beat BJJ star Rodrigo Caporal. He’s 3-0 with the promotion and knocked out former title contender Shinji Sasaki in a little over a minute to advance to this round. Can he upset one of the tournament favorites?
Mansour Barnaoui (15-4)
Accolades: BAMMA champion, M-1 champion
Rank: #1 LW from France (Fight Matrix), #3 LW competing in Eastern Europe (Tapology), #3 LW competing in Korea (Tapology)
Recently turning just 25-years-old, Mansour has already established himself as one of the best talent from Europe by winning titles in BAMMA and M-1. A Tristar Gym product and one of the main training partners of Georges St-Pierre, this highly regarded prospect submitted one of the top lightweights from Korea to advance to the quarterfinals
Nandin-Erdene Munguntsooj (7-2)
Accolades: Mongolian kickboxing champion
Rank: #2 LW from Mongolia (Fight Matrix)
Munguntsooj is a decorated kickboxer and boxer from Mongolia, who was picked up by Road FC in 2014. All of his bouts have been with the promotion, where he is in a five-fight winning streak that includes some spectacular upset knockouts over Bruno Miranda and tournament favorite Toninho Furia. No one will underestimate the Mongolian after his last two bouts, but against yet another top flight competitor in Mansour, can he make it three big upsets in a row?
Shimoishi Kota (20-4)
Rank: #5 LW competing in Japan (Tapology), #5 LW from Japan (Fight Matrix)
Kota is a product of DEEP, Pancrase and Shooto, and has headlined quite a few of those events from Japan. He won a four-man one-night tournament in DEEP to qualify for the tournament, and submitted Park Dae-Sung to advance to the quarterfinals.
Accolades: Chinese National Sanda champion
Rank: #2 LW from China (Fight Matrix), #7 WW competing in China (Tapology)
Baoyincang is a Mongolian fighter, who is from the famed Xi’an Sports University in China. After success in the Sanda scene, he moved to MMA. With the language barrier (and just not caring about western sites) overall MMA records from China are almost never complete, but online databases have him at 11-3. He TKO’d former URCC champion Red Romero in the opening round.
Road FC 44 happens on Saturday, with the card streaming live and free starting at 5 a.m. ET for the prelims. The event will be headlined by the popular heavyweight and “Kung Fu Panda of China” in Aorigele taking on former PRIDE star Kazuyuki Fujita.