Busy times, my friends. Bellator and the UFC both had events last week, and both will stage events for this weekend as well (although you’d be forgiven for forgetting Bellator had an event at all). But, That doesn’t mean that the rest of the sport’s landscape isn’t going to put on some high-quality fights, and there’s a lot of that this weekend.
It all starts Friday night with Brazil’s Brave Combat Federation presenting BRAVE 11. This one’s headlined by former UFC fighter Lucas Martins (19-3) fighting for the interim lightweight title against 12-2 Luan Santiago. Martins was not re-signed by the UFC coming off a split decision win against Rob Whiteford in 2016, and has gone on to add two submission wins to extend his win streak to three in the time since. This will be his first fight since March of last year. Santiago appears to be one of the most promising Brazilian fighters not currently signed to a major organization. There’s good reason to be excited to see him take on an established veteran like Martins.
Well-travelled Brazilian Gesias Cavalcante (21-11-1 draw) tries to recover from two consecutive TKO losses when he faces Erivan Pereira (11-1) who defeated Carlo Prater in 2016. After suffering his lone professional loss in 2017, Pereira’s earned four straight decision wins. BJJ sensation Bruno Malfacine (1-0) returns in his second MMA bout against Rafael “Mini Man“ Pereira (5-2) at flyweight. If you missed Malfacine’s debut, feel free to remedy that by watching this.
BRAVE 11 starts at 7:00pm EST, and their videos will be posted via their YouTube channel.
Stateside, Combate Americas begins their Combate Estrellas series, which will showcase some of their all-star talents. This card was initially headlined by a rematch of from their one-night Copa Combate tournament in Cancun last November, between Dana White’s Contender Series veteran John Castaneda (16-3) and Marc Gomez Sariol. Unfortunately, Gomez suffered a detached retina less than a week out from the fight, making him ineligible to compete under the California State Athletic Commission. Now Castañeda fights Jose Alday (10-3-1), who has fought for Jungle Fight and Pancrase, bringing a sneaky range and a smooth submission game.
The co-main event has another late replacement, with California native Corina Herrera facing decorated boxing champion Amanda Serrano – who makes her pro debut. Jose Estrada (4-1) returns to face yet another late replacement in Rudy Morales (5-6). Danny Ramirez (6-3) gets a rematch from Combate 11 last February when he meets Erick Gonzalez (7-2).
Combate Estrellas I starts at 10:00pm EST online at UnivisionDeportes.com, with the main card streaming at midnight EST live and free on Univision.
Night owls are in for a massive treat this weekend, with Pancrase 295 bringing serious heat this Sunday. Mitsuhitsa Sunabe (28-7-4 draws) defends his strawweight title against Shinya Murofushi (13-5-1 draw). Both are scramble-y fighters with a ton of tenacity and pretty consistent finishers. Koyomi Matsushima (9-2) faces Isao Kobayashi (22-5-4) for the interim featherweight belt as well.
After a loss to Marlon Sandro in 2016, Matsushima has racked up three straight wins under the Pancrase banner to earn his title shot. Kobayashi has had tremendous success on the Japanese circuit, and mixed results elsewhere, but is battle-tested and a very well-rounded fighter.
Lightweight Satoru Kitaoka (40-16-9) faces Ukranian Taras Sapa (13-3). Nicknamed the ‘Predator,’ Sapa has four consecutive wins as of late, three of them being finishes. He started off on the European/Ukranian scene, but has found recent success in China. Kitaoka is on a two-fight losing skid in RIZIN, with his last win being a submission over former UFC fighter Daron Cruickshank in 2016. Kitaoka’s getting up there in age, but should never be counted out. Finally, Tatsuya Watanabe puts his 15-10-2 record on the line against slick Costa Rican BJJ ace Andre Barquero Morera (4-1).
Pancrase 295 streams live on UFC Fight Pass, starting at 2:00am EST.
Disclaimer: Victor Rodriguez works as a member of the Combate Americas digital content team.