While Bellator is still cooling its heels after a major doubleheader weekend, and the UFC has an... oddly interesting card in Canada this weekend, remember that there’s a wealth of other MMA to keep an eye on.
From Myanmar to Mexico, Pakistan to Tokyo, we’ve got you covered.
ONE Championship brings us Pursuit of Greatness (so, do they have a name generating algorithm or for these?), with what should be an absolutely raucous crowd. Myanmar’s own Aung La Nsang (23-10) fights in front of his home crowd once again to defend his middleweight title against Mohammad Karaki (9-0). Nsang is the dual middleweight and light heavyweight champion under the ONE banner, having pulled off some impressive submission victories and taking on larger opponents. Karaki is the middleweight champion for both Desert Force and Phoenix FC, both Middle East-based organizations. Karaki’s game is most impressive when he’s able to implement his ground strikes, and he’s shown some submission defense skills but mostly a lot of aggression and tenacity. Karaki will have something of a disadvantage having faced less experienced and less complete opposition in terms of skill, but this should be a great fight based on athleticism and aggression.
BJJ standout Rafael Nunes (11-2) faces dangerous undefeated Russian talent Movlid Khaibulaev (13-0) at featherweight. Violent striker and fellow hometown favorite Phoe Thaw (6-0) will attempt to keep his savage streak alive against Keanu Subba (6-3), a fighter that hasn’t had a decision win as of yet. Brazilian welterweight über-veteran Luis “Sapo” Santos (64-11, 1 draw - yikes) will take on former UFC fighter and former Pancrase champion Daichi Abe (6-2). This is Abe’s first fight since his second UFC loss against Li Jingliang (jangle leg, jangle leg), and Santos’ first fight since his decision loss in August. Abe perhaps may not have been a good fit for the UFC, but he can deliver. Then again, so can Santos.
The man known affectionately as Tobikan Judan shows no signs of slowing down. Masakazu Imanari (36-18-2) brings his patented frightening submission style to take on Singapore’s Radeem Rahman (3-1). Rahman is absolutely facing an experience disparity, but might have some good looks in this fight if his previous performances are any indication. Radeem suffered his only career loss in 2014 and didn’t return to action until earlier this year, where he had a stellar submission win over Da Fen Tang.
ONE Championship: Pursuit of Greatness begins on Friday morning, starting at 7:00am EST via their proprietary app (it’s still great) or on YouTube.
Combate Americas returns to Mexico this week, with Combate 25: La Batalla de Guadalajara. This card mostly features talent that has found success on the Mexican regional scene, and is chock full of action fights.
The main event features hard-nosed Mexican Marco Elpidio (7-3, 1 draw) against Spain’s Enrique Marin (11-5). You may remember Marin as a former Ultimate Fighter Latin America contestant, as well as having two fights under the UFC banner. His most memorable of the two was against Sage Northcutt at UFC 200, which resulted in a submission loss. He’s gone 2-1 since, and has sharpened up his grappling. Elpidio is looking to bounce back from a decision loss to Andres Quintana back in May, in which he was soundly outpointed as the fight went on.
Also on this card is Argentina’s Marcelo Rojo taking on Jesse Strader (3-0), with Rojo looking to do another dinosaur impression if he gets a chance. Rojo’s done some training at Alliance MMA, and his submission game is lethal. Lanky finishing machine Edgar Chairez (4-0) takes on Axel Osuna, who makes his professional debut. This should be guaranteed action, which Chairez really putting work into his standup game. “Problem Child“ Christian Quiñonez (12-2) will have his hands full with the physicality of one of last year’s Copa Combate tournament, Victor Hugo Madrigal (6-2).
Combate 25 takes place Friday night at 10:00pm EST, with the prelims on Facebook and the main card on DAZN.
DEEP 86 has three title fights on deck, and they all look great.
Longtime veteran Satoru Kitaoka (14-17, 9 draws) is going to really have that veteran card tested as he defends his lightweight title against Koji Takeda (7-0). Never heard of Takeda? Get used to him. I’ve brought him up before, and for good reason. He’s making waves and we should all hope he hangs around for a while. Don’t let the numbers fool you, this is a very winnable fight for Takeda, and Kitaoka is a great test for him after taking out some of the better lightweight talent out there.
Yuki Motoya (21-5) is scheduled for his fourth fight this year, having won three straight after his loss to Kyoji Horiguchi last year. His last two wins in particular have been some of the most exciting of his career, as seen here and here. He’ll be contending for the vacant bantamweight title against Makoto Kamaya (31-16, 4 draws).
Takahiro Ashida (21-9, 2 draws) fights for the featherweight title in a rematch against Satoshi Yamasu (9-4).
DEEP 86 begins at 2:00am EST Friday night into Saturday morning. The internet is your friend on this one.
Brave CF 17 will be taking place during breakfast hours for those of us that are stateside, as they venture off to Pakistan. Brazilian bomber Rodrigo Cavalheiro (23-7) will have to deal with finisher Abdoul Abdouraguimov (8-0). Abdoul has a wild highlight reel so far, but will have to contend with the experience and durability of Cavalheiro.
South Africa’s EFC champ JP Buys might not have fared well last year during Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, but he bounced back big against Phillipe Rouch this past April after a staredown incident that was on the stereotype level of a Punch-Out!! game. He’s up against Gamzat Magomedov (3-0). Another South African will be featured as Frans Mlambo (5-3) fights Welshman Aidan James (2-0).
BRAVE CF 17 takes place live on Saturday morning at 7:00am EST, and will be streaming live on FITE.tv for $14.99
Finally RCC 4 will be headlined by people’s champ Fabio Maldonado (24-12) against Ivan Shtyrkov (14-0, 1 draw). Maldonado’s had mixed success on the Russian circuit, having lost his last fight against Nikita Krylov (DA GAWD) in devastating fashion. Shtyrkov has been fighting more international talent as of late, including his fight against Bigfoot Silva, Rodney Wallace, Ricco Rodriguez (in 2016), Satoshi Ishii, and current KSW heavyweight champion Phil De Fries. He’s a hard hitter with a very overwhelming physical style, and this could get ugly for Maldonado unless he fights smart and manages to outlast him.
Another fighter that has found a new life outside of U.S. orgs is Steve Carl (22-6), now fights Evgeniy Bondar (7-0), and French striker Kevin Petshi (15-4) attempts to make it three in a row after his RIZIN decision loss to Shintaro Ishiwatari when he steps in against Nikita Chistyakov.
RCC starts at noon EST this Saturday.