This weekend was almost one of the most jam-packed MMA weekends of the year.
With UFC on Fuel 5 and a huge Strikeforce title fight set to take place on Saturday and overlooked Bellator and XFC cards taking place later tonight, the next couple of days could have been filled with quality MMA action.
Unfortunately, a last-minute injury to Strikeforce lightweight title-holder Gilbert Melendez forced Showtime to pull the plug on the Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Healy event, and we effectively lost the most meaningful fight of the week in the process.
Even without a Strikeforce title fight on the menu, this weekend has the potential to give fans three separate great events, and there are numerous fights set to go down that should get MMA fans excited.
The UFC on Fuel card will dominate the headlines, and Bellator is likely going to win any ratings battle against XFC later tonight, but all three cards have something to offer in the way of quality fights, and these five bouts are slipping under the radar prior to a great weekend of action.
Yes, this may be the main event of XFC 20, but can anyone really deny that this fight is being overlooked?
It’s almost a shame that Eric Reynolds and Lorenzo Borgomeo had to fight on such a stacked MMA weekend, because these two could put on a hell of a show that is likely to be ignored due to Bellator taking place at around the same time.
Reynolds is a former Bellator veteran himself, going 1-2 inside the promotion back in 2009, but his losses against Eddie Alvarez and Jorge Masvidal could have only helped him improve and he lasted long enough against both men to prove his worth.
Having finished in all but two of his 15 wins, Reynolds has proven to be equally effective at stopping fights with his fists and his submissions, and he should be a serious threat to the XFC belt if he can get past Borgomeo.
The 33-year-old Italian fighter, Borgomeo, stepped into this fight on short notice, replacing Danny Salinas nearly a month ago, and he hopefully had ample time to prepare for one of the biggest tests of his young career in Reynolds.
Borgomeo is a solid MMA veteran, having fought in Bellator, EliteXC and Shark Fights over his five-year career, and he’s usually a legitimate threat to end the fight on the mat if he can get it there.
Both on the feet and the ground, this should be an entertaining fight and a good reason to tune into XFC on Friday.
Almost every time he steps into the cage, you can bank on Marius Zaromskis putting on a show for the fans.
The unorthodox striker has truly pulled off some of the most memorable knockouts in MMA over the last few years, and his inclusion in Bellator’s latest welterweight tournament adds a lot of excitement to a field filled with little-known fighters.
Despite his opponent Nordine Taleb’s lack of star power, the Canadian fighter has been making some serious noise over the last year with big wins over Pete Sell and current Ultimate Fighter cast member Matt Secor.
With an 8-1 record, it is time for the 31-year-old Taleb to take the next step in his MMA career, and he’ll have a huge chance to make a statement if he is able to finish Zaromskis this weekend.
At just 22 years old, Andrey Koreshkov is quickly becoming one of the most highly-touted international prospects in the sport.
The Russian youngster has won all ten of his fights by knockout or submission, and he’ll look to continue both his undefeated streak and his run of finishes against tough regional-scene veteran Jordan Smith at Bellator 74.
Smith is a tough out for anyone on the Bellator roster though, and although he’s only gone 3-3 in his last six bouts, he possesses a finishing instinct that makes this a very dangerous fight for Koreshkov.
With a win over former UFC contender Karo Parisyan and big-fight experience against Josh Burkman and David Rickels, Smith comes into this fight with a big advantage having faced a number of quality opponents in his MMA career, and he’ll look to use his toughness and experience to cool off the hype behind Koreshkov.
With Tom Watson, Jimi Manuwa and Gunnar Nelson all set to make their UFC debut this weekend, a potential barnburner has been seriously overlooked on the Facebook prelim portion of the fight card.
Both Andy Ogle and Akira Corassani proved they were willing to stand toe-to-toe and let punches fly during their respective runs on The Ultimate Fighter, and since injuries have kept both men out of action since they left the show, it’s hard to believe that they won’t be eager to go out and throw down.
Corassani hits extremely hard for weighing just 145 pounds, but for some reason that power hasn’t translated into knockout wins, as he’s finished the fight by TKO just once in his MMA career.
That could spell trouble for him against the fast and accurate puncher Ogle, who’s earned a solid 8-1 record for himself over the last three years and will be looking to make a statement in front of his home country crowd.
This easily could end up being the best fight of the weekend.
Whenever Duane Ludwig steps into the cage, you know you’re at the very least going to see a fight.
But when another talented striker like Che Mills is standing across the cage from “Bang,” things could turn into the type of technical slugfest that MMA fans crave.
Both fighters possess serious knockout power and have the striking skills to put on a clinic if they start to get too comfortable on the feet. Throw in that over 75 percent of their combined victories have come by finishes, and this one could get fun pretty quickly.
Mills made a big impression in his UFC debut a little under a year ago, knocking Chris Cope senseless with some brutal knees from the clinch, but his subsequent beat down at the hands of Rory MacDonald has pushed him back to the middle of the pack in the welterweight division.
A win over Ludwig could change that, but it will have to be earned the hard way.
Ludwig is in serious danger of losing his spot on the UFC roster if he doesn’t pick up the win here, and the added motivation should ensure that this fight kicks off the Fuel TV broadcast with a “Fight of the Night”-worthy battle.
Photo: Duane Ludwig (R) throws a head kick (James Law/Heavy MMA)