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…
Katsunori Kikuno (16-5-2) vs. Yasuaki Kishimoto (14-4-2)
If there’s one promotion that has benefitted in the demise of Sengoku and Dream, it might be Deep. The promotion’s recent efforts have displayed depth that was lacking during the era of Japan’s larger promotions. Among the stars that now call Deep home is the promotion’s former lightweight champion, Katsunori Kikuno. At Deep’s 60th Impact offering, Kikuno meets Yasuaki Kishimoto.
Kikuno, whose base lies in the arts of judo and karate, might be an even .500 over his last eight outings, but losses to the likes of Eddie Alvarez, Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante, Mizuto Hirota and Satoru Kitaoka are hardly something to be ashamed of. Kikuno’s career kicked off with a 12-1-2 mark before he ran into Alvarez and the subsequent 4-4 stretch.
Kishimoto displays a much more rounded attack than his counterpart. Whereas Kikuno has just one submission win versus nine by some form of knockout, Kishimoto has earned six by way of submission and three via (T)KO. The 28-year-old has also never been stopped, though Kikuno has only been stopped once.
Kishimoto is coming off a loss to Daisuke Nakamura in a bout to determine a new lightweight champion. Kishimoto’s offense was limited in the outing, as he had to fend off Nakamura’s aggressive submission attempts. He was able to do damage on the feet, but that’s an area where he’ll be outmatched by Kikuno’s karate in this affair.
Kishimoto’s best line of attack is to get Kikuno to the mat and seek a submission. That’s easier said than done, however, as Kikuno was able to stuff takedowns from a much more talented wrestler in Kitaoka and proved sufficient enough at avoiding submissions when Kitaoka did ground him. With both fighters rarely suffering stoppage losses, this bout is likely to go the distance. Kikuno’s combination of karate and judo will earn him the judges’ nods.
Other key bouts: Daisuke Nakamura (26-13) vs. Takafumi Ito (36-31-13), Yoshiyuki Nakanishi (11-2) vs. Yuki Niimura (3-1), Ryuta Sakurai (22-16-6) vs. Kazuhiro Nakamura (15-11), Toshiaki Kitada (13-5-3) vs. Daiki Hata (13-9-6), Ken Hamamura (17-8-4) vs. Yasuhiro Kawasaki (8-3-1), Takafumi Otsuka (12-11-1) vs. Naohiro Mizuno (10-5-2)
Chris Horodecki (18-4-1) vs. Brad Cardinal (16-8)
The first fight card for the Score Fighting Series since signing its broadcast deal with AXS TV will feature a face that should be familiar to U.S. fans—IFL, WEC and Bellator veteran Chris Horodecki. The former lightweight, who now competes at featherweight, was to meet Kalvin Hackney in the headlining attraction for the Canadian promotion, but Hackney was forced to bow out after an illness interrupted his training camp. Now, Horodecki gets a new opponent in Brad Cardinal on just two weeks’ notice. These two were to meet just over a year ago under the Freedom Fight banner, but that fight never ended up taking place. Now, they’ll finally lock horns.
Horodecki was once the golden boy of the upstart IFL. He won his first seven IFL fights, including a pair of epic battles against Bart Palaszewski. But since losing to Ryan Schultz in the 2007 IFL World Grand Prix finals, the Polish-Canadian has failed to string together more than two straight wins. His losses have come against UFC veterans Donald Cerrone and Anthony Njokuani, plus current Bellator tournament participant Mike Richman.
Horodecki’s striking has been a huge weapon throughout his career, but he also tends to wilt upon getting hit hard. In fact, three of his losses have come via some form of knockout. Horodecki’s recent stint with Bellator resulted in a 1-1-1 mark under the promotion’s banner, far from the impressive young lightweight that ruled the IFL ring for much of that promotion’s existence.
And taking on Cardinal with just two weeks’ notice isn’t going to help Horodecki. The journeyman fighter might just be 16-8 overall for his career, but he’s gone 11-3 after starting his career at with a 5-5 record through his first 10 pro bouts. Furthermore, Cardinal has earned stoppages—nine via submission and six via (T)KO—in all but one of his wins.
Cardinal’s finishing ability could make this a long night for Horodecki, and the short notice won’t help either. The fight is taking place at a 150-pound catchweight, as Cardinal has fought at lightweight in the past. Despite the lack of preparation time and a possible size disadvantage, Horodecki should get the nod here. He has fought some quality opposition during his time in the WEC and Bellator—and really, even in the IFL—whereas Cardinal’s losses are troublesome. Outside of the standard puncher’s chance, Cardinal has to be considered the underdog in this fight.
Horodecki’s primary battle will be in maintaining his focus. He’s a scrappy fighter and his skill set should allow him to outclass Cardinal, who has been stopped four times in his career. The two most recent defeats came via TKO against fighters whose striking isn’t on par with what Horodecki has to offer. This could be a back-and-forth battle, but in the end, Horodecki should have little trouble securing a TKO victory.
Other key bouts: Tyler Toner (13-4) vs. John Fraser (10-4), Rick Glenn (11-2-1) vs. Lyndon Whitlock (7-2), Gerald Meerschaert (15-5) vs. Sergej Juskevic (11-7-2)
Vaso Bakocevic (11-1-1) vs. Piotr Hallmann (10-1)
Slovenia isn’t a place often associated with mixed martial arts events, especially ones featuring the depth of World Freefight Challenge’s 17th offering. However, with four WFC belts on the line and a number of European prospects set to do battle, this card is definitely a gem. Among the most recognizable names in the lineup is that of lightweight Piotr Hallmann, who will vie for the lightweight crown against Vaso Bakocevic.
At this point, Hallmann might be one of the best European fighters to have never graced the UFC’s Octagon or Bellator’s cage. The Polish fighter has destroyed numerous opponents with his heavy hands. Those hands have carried him to five TKO victories and two knockout wins. His other three victories have come by way of rear-naked choke submissions, but his ground-and-pound tends to convince opponents to give up their backs and succumb to the choke instead of enduring a further beating to their faces.
His adversary, Bakocevic, has also managed to put together a resume filled with stoppage wins. He’s earned more by way of submission than via his striking, but he has shown an ability to finish quickly regardless of the method. The “Psychopath,” who hails from Montenegro, specializes in boxing and wrestling.
Bakocevic will need that wrestling. His best opportunity to claim victory will come by taking Hallmann down. Anywhere else, Bakocevic is probably in trouble. While he might possess a boxing background, Hallmann’s knockout power carries too great a risk for the Montenegrin to stand toe-to-toe with him. And Bakocevic won’t even be safe from the knockout if he keeps the Pole in his guard—Hallmann has knocked out an opponent from that position in the past.
Hallmann is a legitimate European prospect, and he should have little problem disposing of Bakocevic in devastating fashion. His size advantage—he just recently dropped to lightweight—and his heavy hands will leave Bakocevic with few paths to victory. Hallmann continues to make a case for a ticket to the big time with a ground-and-pound TKO stoppage of his opponent in the early moments of this contest.
Other key bouts: Emil Zahariev (19-4-1) vs. Nandor Guelmino (10-3-1) for the heavyweight title, Svetlozar Savov (11-4) vs. Bojan Velickovic (6-0) for the middleweight title, Ivica Truscek (19-12) vs. Sergei Churilov (10-0) for the welterweight title, Simone Tessari (7-0) vs. Adin Buljubasic (4-1)
Photo: Piotr Hallman (Tim Leidecker/Sherdog)