While Bellator and the UFC are running shows this weekend, the regional and international scenes still have plenty on tap for the dedicated fan. Besides, the big two events aren’t exactly either promotion’s A-list efforts. It’s a good weekend for any hot prospect looking to make a name for his/her self, with some intriguing pairings and chances for upwards mobility.
Friday night brings Ring of Combat 65. Pioneer and regional legend Lou Neglia continues his tradition of finding the absolute best prospects in the northeast and pitting them in grueling action fights against other bright prospects. This card is a prime example of the organization at it’s best.
Featherweight champion, 10-3 Bill Algeo defends his belt for the second time since winning the vacant crown against Tim Dooling last November. His slick Muay Thai and BJJ background will face a serious challenge against fellow Pennsylvanian Scott Heckman (27-8), a submission specialist that also cut his teeth on the New Jersey/CFFC circuit. Heckman’s wrestling and physicality should be a major asset for him here, as well as his cardio and strength.
Former UFC fighter Louis Gaudinot (8-4) fights for the bantamweight title against surging prospect and current champion Phil Caracappa (6-0). Caracappa is young and somewhat unheralded, but he’s trouble. With mostly wins via decision, he’s putting the tools together to be a bona fide talent.
Former Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series contestant Sidney Outlaw (10-3) also defends his welterweight title against crafty veteran Krzysztof Kułak (31-15, 2 draws). The aforementioned former champ Tim Dooling is also on the card, taking on Jeff Lentz (11-6, 1 draw). Further down, wrestling standout Saidyokub Kakharamonov (5-1) was last seen in PFL over the summer, but will be on this card facing Georgi Kudukhashvili (3-1).
LFA continues its consistent schedule, with yet another title fight headlining this week at LFA 50: Allen vs. Hiley.
Roufusport’s Brendan Allen (9-3) faces Tim Hiley (7-0) for the middleweight title that was vacated by Ian Heinisch after his success on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender series. Allen’s had all of his professional wins come by finish, mostly via strikes. His submission game is still dangerous, and he’s patient with great timing standing. Hiley’s good at making very smart decisions in a split second, with brutal knees from the clinch and a relentless top game.
Heavyweights Raphael Pessoa (31-16) and Brian Heden (8-0) square off. And very good welterweight fight between Bobby Lee (8-2) and Ben Neumann (13-5) is set for the undercard, with the winner not too far from a title shot down the line.
LFA 50: Allen vs Hiley takes place Friday night starting at 9:00pm on their usual TV home, AXS TV.
Canada’s TKO also joins in on a packed Friday night at TKO 44: Hunter vs. Barriault.
Adam Hunter (7-1) faces Marc-Andre Barriault (10-1) in the light heavyweight main event. Hunter lost his pro debut and has finished every opponent since, with big strikes and a lot of tenacity. He survives whatever opponents throw at him and hits them back in the least expected manners. Hunter was scheduled to make a UFC debut against Ryan Janes in 2016, but plans fell apart after a USADA violation. This will be his first fight since June of 2016. Barriault is something of a powerhouse, riding a seven win fight streak and using his striking and clinch skills to pressure opponents at every step.
On the undercard, savage finisher Jesse Arnett (15-4) faces undefeated bantamweight Nathan Maness (9-0). And former Ultimate Fighter contestant Jesse Ronson (19-8) marches on with his kill-or-be-killed approach when he steps in against Michael Dufort (6-2). Ronson’s fought some very legit names and has racked up a fun recent win streak as well in TKO and ACB. As an additional treat, Damian Lapilus (16-12, 1 draw) steps in at welterweight against Julien Leblanc (5-0).
TKO 44 begins at 9:00pm EST, streaming exclusively via UFC Fight Pass.
ONE Championship also graces viewers with another title fight this weekend, with Conquest of Heroes: Naito vs. Pacio II.
In what I continue to personally maintain is the most exciting division on the men’s side of things, strawweights Yoshitaka Naito (13-1) and Joshua Pacio (15-2) will have a rematch for the belt. Pacio was submitted in their first go-round. These guys are lightning-fast and well rounded, so this is a must-watch fight right off the bat.
Filipino talent Danny Kingad (9-1) has had a good run on the regional and PXC circuit before coming into ONE, but now faces the stiffest test of his career against absolute madman Yuya Wakamatsu (10-2). Wakamatsu is known for landing brutal overhands and putting on great performances.
ONE vet Marat Gafurov (16-1) also returns to action against Japan’s Koyomi Matsushima (9-3), while Chinese flyweight prospect Hao Bin Ma (11-3) takes on Kazakh submission specialist Kairat Akhmetov (24-2).
ONE Championship: Conquest of Heroes takes place Saturday morning here in the U.S., starting at 7:00am EST, via their app or on YouTube.