Every Thursday, The MMA Corner will take a look at three regional or international cards, previewing from each a single fight to which people should pay close attention. We will also list other significant bouts from the card, as well as information on how to follow each promotion and watch the events.
Let’s discover those prospects that fight in the obscurity of the regional and international circuits, waiting for their shot at the bright lights and big stage of the UFC, and those veterans looking for one more chance at stardom. It all begins here, in the small convention centers and high school gymnasiums. It all begins with promotions such as these…
Jared Rosholt (4-0) vs. Derrick Lewis (7-2)
Legacy Fighting Championship is having bad luck when it comes to the flyweights. First, UFC veteran Will Campuzano was to face Chad Robichaux for the 125-pound strap at Legacy FC 12, but Robichaux was forced to withdraw with medical issues. Campuzano was then shifted to this card, where he was to meet undefeated prospect Jimmy Flick for the belt. But now Campuzano has been forced to bow out with an ankle injury. Therefore, Legacy has gone to the other end of the spectrum as far as scales are concerned, serving up a heavyweight title tilt as the replacement headliner for Legacy FC 13. The fight pits Jared Rosholt, younger brother of WEC and UFC veteran Jake Rosholt, against Derrick Lewis.
Rosholt, a three-time NCAA Division I All-American and 2010 runner-up, definitely has the wrestling pedigree to become a successful mixed martial artist. He’s also competing in a rather shallow—especially outside of the confines of the UFC—heavyweight division. His approach is to use his wrestling to ground his opponent, where he can then blast away with a ground-and-pound attack or go for a submission. When the former Oklahoma State wrestler has used his fists, he finishes the job in the first round.
Lewis, having competed under the Bellator banner, is a good test for Rosholt. The 27-year-old has only lost to King of the Cage prospect Tony Johnson and UFC veteran Shawn Jordan. Lewis likes to finish via TKO.
Lewis’ loss to Johnson, which took place at Bellator 46, is a good sign of things to come in this fight. Johnson didn’t exactly please the crowd with his performance, but what he did was put Lewis on the mat with relative ease through the use of single-leg and double-leg takedowns, as well as some slams. If the Iowa State wrestler could take down Lewis in such a dominating display and pass the Silverback MMA product’s guard, it’s hard to imagine Rosholt finding anything but success here.
Unless Lewis has been drilling takedown defense around the clock, there’s little chance he’ll remain on his feet for long in this fight. Rosholt has shown a liking for aggressive ground-and-pound once he gets his opponent down, and it’s a no-brainer that he’ll attack Lewis in such a fashion. Lewis is in for a rough night, as Rosholt will get him down, mount him and pound away for yet another first-round stoppage.
Other key bouts: Chris Tickle (7-5) vs. Douglas Frey (10-8), Derek Campos (9-3) vs. Donnie Bell (5-1), Sean Spencer (8-1) vs. Hayward Charles (4-4), Matt Hobar (5-0) vs. Steven Peterson (6-2)
Jessica Eye (7-1) vs. Angela Magana (11-4)
Despite what has mostly become Invicta FC and Strikeforce territory (oh, and don’t forget the once-in-a-blue-moon contribution of Bellator), it is still possible to find the occasional gem of a women’s fight on a regional show. NAAFS has managed to find two of the few top female competitors that have yet to set foot inside either the Invicta or Strikeforce cage. Jessica Eye, who has appeared under the Bellator banner, will square off with Angela Magana.
Eye, who ranks No. 5 at flyweight in the Unified Women’s MMA Rankings, is riding a four-fight winning streak and has only tasted defeat at the hands of Aisling Daly. Eye tends to win by decision, though she did score two victories by way of TKO early in her career. The Ohio native is coming off a dominant unanimous decision win over Anita Rodriguez in the Bellator cage.
Although Magana holds an experience edge over Eye, the knock against her comes in regards to her inactivity. Injuries have limited the 29-year-old to just one bout per year for the last three years. The good news is that Magana picked up wins in all three of those contests, including a split decision over Barb Honchak. Magana’s finishing ability might be the big factor in this fight, as she has only gone the distance in three of her fights.
Ronda Rousey has a reputation as an armbar hunter, but the same can be said of Magana. The New Mexico native’s six submissions have all come by way of the armbar. If Eye isn’t careful, she could find herself tapping to the move.
Magana’s wrestling could be a difference-maker in this fight. If she can take Eye down and work towards the armbar, she might be able to pull off the upset. However, ring rust has to be a concern for Magana. Eye has fought more frequently than her adversary in recent years, and it might show once the opening bell sounds.
Also working to Eye’s advantage will be the home crowd advantage. The 26-year-old has fought numerous times under the NAAFS banner as both an amateur and a professional, and she’ll be headlining the event in her hometown of Cleveland.
Magana will be another interesting test for Eye, but she should prove to be up to the challenge. Eye will outwork Magana en route to a close decision win.
Yoshiro Maeda (29-11-4) vs. Tatsumitsu Wada (8-6-1)
What better way to snap a two-fight losing streak than by winning gold? That’s exactly what Yoshiro Maeda, a veteran of numerous top Japanese promotions as well as the Zuffa-owned WEC, accomplished in his last outing when he secured a second-round rear-naked choke to finish Takafumi Otsuka. Now, Maeda returns to action to defend his crown for the first time. He’ll do so against a fighter—Tatsumitsu Wada—whose record is extremely deceptive.
Wada might be only two wins above the .500 mark, but it must be noted that he started off his career with five straight losses, including three against Seiji Akao, who sports an impressive 15-5-2 record and is also featured on this card against Daiki Hata. Wada, who was just a teenager at the time of the losing streak, has turned his career around since that extremely disappointing 2008 campaign. He has gone 8-1-1 with one no-contest since 2009. His most recent victories—both of which were majority decisions—have come against Hata and former champ Otsuka. That proves that he truly does belong in a championship tilt, probably more so than the champion.
Wada has proven to be a grinder, utilizing effective striking and wrestling to work for decisions. In addition to his two recent majority nods, he claimed unanimous verdicts in the two previous bouts. He has scored one TKO victory and captured two wins with first-round rear-naked chokes. But expecting a finish from Wada would be foolish. He’ll look to stagger Maeda on the feet and then wrestle the champ to the mat, rinse and repeat while scoring points on the judges’ scorecards.
Maeda put together a strong resume early in his career, but more recently he has fallen upon hard times. Since joining WEC in 2008, Maeda has managed just seven wins in 14 outings. Granted, he did give then-surging WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres a stiff challenge for the belt, but he has failed to string together more than two victories in a row in that span. Maeda has relied heavily on his fists to carry him to victory, but he has also shown a questionable chin.
A quick glance at these two competitors’ names and records might lead one to believe Maeda has a cake walk on his hands. But it’s actually far from that. Wada has been surging lately, whereas Maeda has struggled. Maeda definitely has the experience advantage, and he is still a tough foe for any fighter to take on, but getting the job done isn’t a guarantee here. Maeda could end this fight at any time with his fists, and Wada isn’t immune to the physical effects of a hard shot to the cranium, but Wada has power in his hands as well and the ability to ground Maeda.
Given Wada’s grinding style and Maeda’s experience, this should be a close fight. In the end, it will most likely head to the judges. Maeda might have the known name, but Wada’s momentum will carry the confident 23-year-old to victory.
Other key bouts: Masakazu Imanari (25-11-2) vs. Masahiro Oishi (22-16-9), Daiki Hata (12-9-6) vs. Seiji Akao (15-5-2), Doo Ho Choi (8-1) vs. Kosuke Umeda (11-11-3), Yusuke Kagiyama (14-6-2) vs. Masahito Hisataka (5-0), Yuta Watanabe (14-5-4) vs. Yoshitomo Watanabe (12-13-3)
Photo: Tatsumitsu Wada (top) battles Daiki Hata (Taro Irei/Sherdog)