UFC 228 has a simply outstanding card for this weekend, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the MMA world has to stop what it’s doing. This week’s got some developing prospects and talented fighters clawing their way to the next step in their careers, along with fun veteran fights.
Brave FC lands in Bucaramanga, Colombia of all places this Friday. Top billing goes to Colombian Alexander Torres (5-4) as he faces former UFC fighter Godofredo Pepey (13-6). Torres was a contestant on the first Latin American edition of The Ultimate Fighter, and has a loss to Masio Fullen in his lone UFC fight at UFC 184. He’s also got a win over Bruno Canetti, brother of another Ultimate Fighter contestant, Guido “Ninja“ Cannetti. This will be Pepey’s first fight outside of the UFC after he was stopped cold with a body shot by Mirsad Bektić this past January.
Brazilian vet Gabriel Miranda (12-4) faces Peruvian striker Fernando Noriega (5-1), and the well-traveled Ricardo Tirloni (23-7) faces Mexican strongman Ramon Cardozo (5-1) in a featherweight duel
Brave CF 15 streams live on Fite.TV for $9.99, starting at 6:00pm EST.
Shamrock FC 309 also goes down this Friday, with former Ultimate Fighter contestant Adam Cella (9-8) headlining against former UFC fighter James Bochnovic (8-3). Cella dug himself out of a hole after ending up with a 6-8 record, racking up three straight wins since last December, all of them finishes.
Bochnovic lost his pro debut, then rattled off all of his wins with most of them being submissions. It was an impressive string of victories that led to his signing to the UFC. Unfortunately, he was released after two straight losses, and looks to go back to his winning ways in this bout.
Shamrock 309 starts at 7:30pm EST this Friday night.
LFA brings out some heavy artillery for LFA 48 this Friday night.
Top honors go to bantamweights Raufeon Stots (9-1) and the very dangerous Ryan Lilley (9-3). Stots is a hot prospect out of Roufusport, and his lone professional loss was to Merab Dvashvili in 2016. His wins have been some pretty impressive ones, defeating Rob Emerson, Jeff Curran and most recently Arnold Berdon (husband of the UFC’s Rachael Ostovich).
Lilley’s a Bas Rutten apostole, with most of his fights being in Gladiator Challenge. While most of his opponents were pretty inexperienced (including a win over a 1-9 fighter), his LFA debut ended with a savage TKO over Jordan Winski. He’s a versatile athlete and often an accurate striker, but may be at a speed and strength disadvantage against Stots.
But a matchup that could end up being the sleeper hit here is the one between Darrick Minner (21-8) and “The Hard-Hitting Hillbilly“ Kevin Croom (18-10). Minner’s losses have come at the hands of very good competition, like Luke Sanders, Chico Camus and recent UFC signee Jordan Griffin. He’s got very good wins over Austin Lyons and Chuka Willis, and has some fantastic submission wins to his name.
Croom’s a ton of fun, and also a fighter with a ton of submission wins despite his nickname. He’s also got some losses against notable fighters such as Matt Bessette, Rasul Mizraev, Nate Jennerman, and former Road to UFC contestant Tatsuya Ando. His wins have been mostly over regional talent, but his fights end up rather exciting overall, and this should be no different.
Brandon Royval (7-3) faces Charles Johnson (7-1) in a battle of two immensely talented flyweights, while Kassisus Kayne (12-5) takes on Kansas City’s Caleb Born (5-0) at welterweight.
LFA 48 starts at 9:00pm EST on their usual home network, AXS TV.
Fight Nights Global sets up shop in Bozhou, China with what may be their most top-heavy card in recent memory. Vladimir Minaev (10-1) steps in to face Brazilian Julio Cesar Araujo (8-1) at middleweight. Minaev has had some great wins over Xavier Foupa-Pokam, Yasubey Enomoto, and most memorably against former UFC fighter Maiquel Falcão.
Araujo should be a very stiff challenge here. He defeated former Bellator champion Rafael Carvalho in Carvalho’s professional debut back in 2011, and has a win over Brazilian regional vet Christiano Frolich. He’s got a pretty good defensive ground game and a threat in the standup department.
The rest of the card is mostly China vs the world.
Fight Nights Global 89: Minaev vs Araujo takes place at midnight EST, Friday night into Saturday morning. No information is presently available for live streaming, but fights should be up shortly after they take place via their YouTube channel.
Saturday has a treat for early birds stateside, with ONE Championship bringing another fun card. This time, Chinese strawweight Jingnan Xiong (12-1) faces Brazilian challenger Samara Santos (11-5, 1 draw) in a great bit of matchmaking. Xiong isn’t just quick to adapt to her opponent, but she’s got some absolutely absurd finishing instincts. She’s got true veteran composure, and it’ll serve her well against Santos. Samara’s got a tendency to get wild in her fights and will be the larger fighter in this fight while also being the more dynamic athlete of the two.
ONE mainstay Honorio Banario (13-6) rides a five-fight win streak against Amir Khan (10-3). Khan’s an Evolve MMA product, and has improved his striking and has turned his skillset into a very improved overall game. Edward Kelly (10-5) deals with Christian Lee (9-2), brother of atomweight sensation and ONE champion Angela Lee, while Roman Alvarez (8-2) and Daichi Takenaka have an opportunity to steal the show with their respective styles.
Alvarez is capable of some fun violence and attempts to bounce back from his arm triangle loss to Leandro Issa, while Takenaka’s been making the most of his time in the Japanese circuit with wins like this and this.
ONE Championship: Beyond the Horizon starts Saturday at 7:00am EST, streaming live via their app, as well as on YouTube.
Cage MMA Finland has some nice matchups, with former UFC fighter Anton Kuivanen (26-10) locking horns with Valeriu Mircea (21-5, 1 draw). Kuivanen’s post-UFC career has looked pretty decent, going 9-4 in the process, and currently has three straight wins. His losses in that period have been to Felipe Silva, Thibault Gouti and Dakota Cochrane. His last win was at Pancrase 297 last July against Takasume Kume, where he was able to push his weight around and establish good control for most of the fight. Mircea’s fought for M-1, Venator and Bellator, with losses to Goiti Yamauchi and 907 rep Cody McKenzie.
Cage 44 begins Saturday morning at 11:00am EST. The internet will be your friend on this one.
ACB should also make waves this weekend, with a surprisingly talent-rich card with three (!!) title fights.
Abdul-Aziz Abdulakhabov (15-1) defends his lightweight title against Ali Bagov (26-10) in what should be a thrilling rematch between the two. Their first fight was a fun first round, but was stopped between rounds in an anticlimactic manner. Abdulakhabov is a very heavy hitter, and Bagov’s got a great grappling game.
Former UFC fighter Albert Tumenov (19-4) will be fighting for the welterweight title against Brazilian menace Ciro Rodrigues (22-7), while Albert Duraev (11-3) finally defends his belt against Piotr Strus (13-3, 2 draws) after two cancellations of this fight. Former UFC fighter Daniel Omielanczuk (20-8, 1 draw) slings leather against accomplished Iranian wrestler and former RIZIN fighter Amir Aliakbari (8-1), who fought like a caveman in his last fight.
Akop Stepanyan (25-10) makes an appearance here against Magomed Sulumov (5-2), as former WSOF fighter and Ultimate Fighter contestant Marcelo Alfaya reps American Top Team against Irman Abaev (5-3, 1 draw).
ACB 89 starts at noon EST on Saturday. You can follow along on Twitter, or watch the fights shortly after they conclude via their YouTube channel.
Finally, Australia’s Hex Fight Series kicks off from the Melbourne Pavillion, with JJ Ambrose (29-8) keeps trucking along in his 13th year as a professional as he works the main event against Australia’s Rob Hill (14-10, 1 draw).
Filipino firecracker and now Australia resident Darwin Sagurit (10-3) attempts to extend his winning streak to 6 against India’s Kapil Kumar. Sagurit has wins over Gustavo Falciroli, and blasted former UFC fighter Roldan Sangcha-an with the left hand from hell last September. Kumar has a win over beloved Indian fighter Irfan Khan, and almost completed an STF in real life against Rohit Pundeer in the resurrected Super Fight League.
Hex Fight Series 16 is scheduled for Sunday, Australian Eastern Time.