How much time do you have?
No, really. How much? Perhaps the better question is “how much do you love this sport?“ Because this weekend has a lot of action going on internationally, with hours and hours of programming on the docket. A lot of it includes people you know, and also people might not know but really should be paying attention to.
There’s a ton of stuff to wade through for this weekend, and if you’re a super-dedicated fan, you probably owe it to yourself to at least check out the highlights later on. There’s a total mixed bag of veterans and rising prospects, as well as middling action fighters that put on a show.
In other words, this should be a phenomenal weekend. Be sure to make some time.
First up, we’ve got M-1 Challenge 88 on Thursday, with a 12-fight card.
The main event is a lightweight title fight between Georgian Raul Tutarauli (18-4) Damir Ismagulov (15-1). Tutarauli is blazing hot with an eight-fight win streak, and has an aggressive come-forward style. Ismagulov is a more clinical fighter that isn’t as burly, but has a very active ground game with strikes and always seeks to improve position. The co-main event is a strange one, with former M-1 light heavyweight champion Stephan Puetz (15-3) facing Khadis Ibragimov (2-0?). Odd that there is such an experience disparity, but these things are unfortunately quite common on the international scene. Puetz has wins over UFC fighter Marcin Tybura, Luis Fernando Miranda (a.k.a. Hulk) and Viktor Nemkov. He’s also lost to former UFC fighter Joachim Christensen and the aforementioned Nemkov in their 2015 rematch.
The card also plays host to a few other good fights. Sergey Morozov (10-2) faces Movsav Evloev (8-0) for the bantamweight title. Finisher Bair Shtepin (5-2) takes on tough Brazilian Heliton dos Santos (15-6), while former Ultimate Fighter contestant Joseph Henle (10-3-1 draw) faces another fighter known as “The Russian Hammer“ in Valery Myasnikov (12-1-2 draws) at middleweight.
M-1 Challenge 88 streams live this Thursday morning, starting with the prelims at 11:00am EST, and the main card after that via FiteTV.
Later on Thursday, Fight Nights Global 83 offers up some goodies with undefeated Magomedsaygid Alibekov (9-0) defending his lightweight championship title against Akhmet Aliev (16-4). This is shaping up to be one of the very best lightweight fights outside of the UFC or Bellator. Aliev is coming off wins against Efrain Escudero and a highly controversial win against Diego Brandao. This will be Alibekov’s second title defense.
Sambo phenom Marina Mokhnatkina (4-0) looks to stay undefeated against another Georgian, Liana Jouja (6-2). Mokhnatkina has taken to MMA like a fish to water as she continues to make waves for FNG. Staying undefeated won’t be easy - Jojua’s riding a four fight win streak, all submissions. Former UFC fighter Dominique Steele (16-9) was released by the organization, but has since racked up back-to-back wins in Cage Warriors and Colosseum Combat. He’ll be facing Nikolay Aleksakhin (20-5), who has a majority of wins via finishes. Aleksakhin has losses to current UFC talent Bojan Velickovic and former Bellator/ONE champion Ben Askren, as well as consecutive wins over Yasubey Inomoto (via injury) and former TUF contestant and UFC fighter Mike Graves.
What is perhaps the most intriguing element of this card comes in the form of Omar Nurmagomedov (5-0) vs Shyudi Yamauchi (16-8). Yes, you’re reading that right. Yes, they are related to more famous fighters. Omar is the 22-year-old younger brother of UFC title challenger Khabib Nurmagomedov, and has one TKO win with three submissions. All of his fights have been in Russia so far, but it’s not unreasonable to expect for that to change relatively soon. His opponent is the cousin of Bellator fighter Goiti Yamauchi, and only three of his wins have come by decision, with ten submissions on his record.
Fight Nights Global 83 starts at 5:00pm EST, and will have their fights available via their YouTube channel. The fights may not be available online until after the event has concluded.
Finally, we have ONE Championship: Quest for Gold, which begins on Friday morning at 7:00am EST. Aung La Nsang (21-10) will be fighting on his home turf against Brazilian Alexandre Machado (8-2). “The Burmese Python” won the middleweight title in his rematch against Russian Vitaly Bigdash last June, then moved up to face Cameroonian heavyweight Alain Ngalani in November. Aung won that fight by guillotine choke, and now faces another hulking heavyweight in Machado, whose last win was also against Ngalani back in 2016.
Evolve MMA’s Amir Khan (no, not that guy - this guy) comes in with his 9-2 record against 11-3 Russian Timofey Nastyukhin. Khan’s rolling in with six consecutive wins and a hot hand, as only one of those fights ended in a decision. Nastyukhin has losses against Herbert Burns (brother of Gilbert Burns) and Kotetsu Boku, but solid wins over Rob Lisita, Koji Ando, Eduard Folayang and Yusuke Kawanago. Must-watch action fighter Dae Hwan Kim (12-2-1 draw) engages in a nifty little showdown against Shooto and VTJ veteran Daichi Takenaka (10-0-1). Kim is a fighter you should never count out, while Takenaka is a tricky fighter that has fought better and better opposition.
ONE Championship: Quest for Gold will be streaming live on PPV via their website.
We’ll be back with more to cover the WFCA, Shooto Japan and DEEP cards, with tons of pleasant surprises and stellar talent to discuss.