With the UFC returning to stage a card that’s a pretty big deal this weekend, we’re treated to a set of quietly stacked cards everywhere else. Without much fanfare, a lot of these other organizations have decided this was the week to really put together some wild matchups and showcase some fantastic talent.
Of course, that means we’re somewhat spoiled. Best part is that you’ll have some availability to watch these events internationally, and a lot of them should be well worth your time and attention. It’s a great one, folks. Enjoy it while it’s good.
TKO will be starting the weekend way early with TKO 47 on Thursday night. That’s a good thing, though, as they’ve put one some compelling events with good action matchups and will be mostly standing alone for it. The headline is something of a supernova event from a title standpoint, as former UFC talent Jesse Ronson (20-8) comes off winning the welterweight and lightweight championships to defend the 155lb belt against Certified Finisher™ Charles Jourdain (8-0), who won the featherweight belt in December.
Ronson’s a sturdy veteran that’s found legitimate success in his post-UFC run, with respectable performances and improved skills. Jourdain’s been a hungry prospect that has his biggest step up so far, and a chance to make a major statement against an established vet.
Flyweights also get some shine, as former Ultimate Fighter contestant Yoni Sherbatov (8-1, 1 draw) challenges Malcolm “X“ Gordon for the flyweight championship. Gordon’s another Certified Finisher™, with only two of his wins being by decision. As interesting as the main event is, the co-main might just steal the show.
This card also features Damien Lapilus (17-11, 1 draw) against Quebec’s own Michael Dufort (6-3).
TKO 47 starts at 6:00pm EST this Thursday night, streaming live on UFC Fight Pass.
Early birds are in for a treat on Friday morning, as ONE Championship follows up their blockbuster Japan event with a return to Manila. They put on an event that doesn’t have much of the star-power as the last show, but it will have some very hot action for the more dedicated fans.
Martin Nguyen (11-3) defends his featherweight belt against Mongolia’s Jadambaa Narantungalag (14-5). Nguyen’s been a smart striker with some vicious finishing ability. He’s had some wild moments, and seems to be able to turn the tables almost instantly in most fights. Jadambaa has won a lot of fights based off of his top control, ground strikes and ability to wear down his opponent over time.
Strawweight gold will also be contested as Joshua Pacio (16-3) challenges Yosuke Saruta (19-8, 3 draws), in what can be expected to be a wild back and forth rematch between two excellent athletes that push a consistent pace. Their first fight was solid, and this should be no different in terms of quality. Interestingly enough, Saruta is also the Shooto strawweight champion.
Pacio is the owner of one of 2018’s most vicious submission wins, and has some of the best submission instincts and setups in the lower weight classes with some scary precision in his strikes.
Former UFC fighter and BJJ ace Leandro Issa (16-7) meets Chinese prospect Chang Xin Fu (9-1) at an odd weight of 150lbs, while ONE standout Eric Kelly (12-6) meets another Chinese prospect in Kai Tang (9-2). Eric’s brother Edward (11-6) faces Sung Jong Lee (4-4), who is on a three-fight losing skid. LFA/RFA veteran and MMA Lab product James Nakashima (10-0) makes his second appearance for ONE when he meets savage veteran Luis “Sapo“ Santos (65-11, 1 draw).
The flyweight tournament will also have a bout on this card as Cuban Greco-Roman dynamo and Titan FC vet Gustavo Balart (8-1) replaces Ivanildo Delfino against Tatsumitsu Wada (20-10, 2 draws). The winner will move on to face Demetrious Johnson in the next round.
Jackson/Winklejohn product Bi Nguyen (4-3) will also be in action against Dwi Ani Retno Wulan (1-0).
ONE Championship: Roots of Honor begins at 6:00am EST on Friday morning.
Friday evening is where things get thick and heavy with Rumble In the Cage goes live from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Two kill-or-be-killed contenders will square off for the light heavyweight title as Kris Lee (4-3) meets Sheldon Doll (7-3).
This card also features former UFC fighter Jesse Bongfeldt (22-7, 1 draw), scheduled to fight Micah Brakefield (7-7).
Rumble In The Cage 61 starts at 9:00pm EST, streaming live on FITE.tv for $19.99.
Combate Americas returns to Mexico this weekend with some of their more talents once again, live from Monterrey.
The winner of 2017’s Copa Combate one-night tournament Levy Marroquin (12-2) deals with Copa Combate 2018 finalist Alejandro Flores (15-2) at featherweight, in what should be an absolute banger. Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series winner John Castañeda steps in against dangerous Alliance MMA rep Marcelo Rojo (15-5).
Joey Ruquet (6-2) has had a brief but violent career, notable for being as slick as possible. He’s gonna need that against Mexican hard-hitter Alan “Beche“ Cantu, who just bounced back from losing two in a row with a knockout in his last outing. Rodrigo “Kazula“ Vargas (11-2) had a vicious knockout against former UFC fighter Mike De La Torre last May, and hasn’t fought since. He’s looking to make sure his comeback counts as he meets Ricardo Arreola (7-5)
Also, controversial pro-wrestler Dulce “Sexy Star“ Garcia makes her MMA debut against the also debuting Mariana Ruiz.
Combate Americas 34: Combate Estrellas 3 begins Friday night at 9:00pm EST, streaming live on DAZN.
When Saturday rolls around, EFC will have plenty to offer for breakfast. South Africa’s premier MMA outfit has two title fights for this weekend, with Luthando Biko (5-1) challenging JP Buys (6-2) for his bantamweight title. You may remember Buys for the time in which he hit a French opponent with a baguette at a media event. No, seriously.
But Buys is more than that. He’s trained at Team Alpha Male and improved steadily. He’s had some setbacks, including a loss to Joby Sanchez on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, but has a pretty wild highlight reel. Biko’s record may have all decision wins as a pro, but he pushes a steady pace and manages to fight smart with good defense.
Nkazimulo Zulu (11-2) was on what was perhaps the most talent-rich and diverse cast of The Ultimate Fighter, and ultimately came up short. But after returning to his native South Africa, he remained champion and has continued to defend it with his technical striking, impressive timing and a very fun style that’s sometimes unpredictable. Now he welcomes England’s Jake Hadley (3-0) to EFC and looks to put on another show.
EFC Worldwide 78 starts at 9:00am EST, streaming live on DAZN.
Fusion Fight League has a farewell show for Joe “Diesel“ Riggs (49-18, 1 draw), in what appears to be his retirement fight. At least I hope so, since the title they’re going for with this event is Diesel’s Last Ride. It’s a pro-am show in Great Falls, MT, where Riggs faces King of the Cage veteran Jared Torgeson (18-20).
Riggs has been a professional since 2001, fighting all over the world for Strikeforce, Bellator, M-1 and the UFC, and has even engaged in bare knuckle boxing competitions as of late.
Fusion Fight League: Diesel’s Last Ride takes place on Saturday night starting at 9:00pm, streaming live on FITE.tv for $14.99
Pancrase is back, with two title fights at the top. Takasuke Kume (21-6, 3 draws) has a sneaky striking style and a lot of tenacity to go with it. The question here is the following: can he avoid major damage from lethal Brazilian Tom Santos (11-6) to land the shots he needs? Seriously, Santos’ right hand is on some construction-grade level. But Kume is no slouch, and a remarkable finisher in his own right. This fight should be fantastic, and it’s a shame it’s under the radar.
41-year-old Takayo Hashi is still going at it, having fought for Invicta, ROAD, DEEP JEWELS, Smackgirl and Strikeforce, as well as submission grappling on the ADCC circuit. Having choked out Brazilian prospect Barbara Acioly in February of last year, she returns to Pancrase to fight for the flyweight championship against another Brazilian, Sidy Rocha (10-5, 2 draws). Rocha is also the same age as Hashi, and just finished Mariya Suzuki with ground strikes in December.
Also, Emi Fujino (22-11) returns to face Ksenia Guseva (4-0, 1 draw).
So, if you don’t have any plans to sleep after UFC 236 and need something to help you power through until sunrise, you can’t do any better than the wild action and zany surprises that Pancrase brings.
Pancrase 304 starts at 3:00am EST Saturday night into Sunday morning, streaming live on UFC Fight Pass.
Remember Omar Nurmagomedov (8-0)? The cousin of current UFC lightweight champion Khabib had a respectable showing in PFL last year, earning a decision victory against decorated wrestler Saidyokub Kakharamonov last August. Now he’s looking to remain undefeated this Sunday at Battle on Volga 10.
After starting his career with four finishes and most of his fights in Fight Nights Global, he’s now bouncing around but keeping his winning ways, and will be fighting for the bantamweight title against Brazilian Wagner Lima (12-3). Lima’s been fighting since 2012 and is a product of Brazil’s Astra Fight Team, and may be a sturdy test for the much younger Russian prospect.
Battle on Volga 10 takes place this Sunday, starting at 2:00pm EST. The internet is your friend on this one.