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…
Event Date: Nov. 1
Paulo Dantas (23-8-1) vs. Leandro Rodrigues Pontes (14-4-1)
The last time that Brazilian King Fighter hosted a show, UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo was a VIP guest at the event. This time around, BKF gives the VIP treatment to another UFC champion, interim bantamweight title holder Renan Barao. Barao will bear witness to a welterweight title tilt, and will also look on as Paulo “Guerreiro” Dantas, a fighter that Barao defeated via unanimous decision more than three years ago, locks horns with submission specialist Leandro “Naja” Rodrigues Pontes.
Barao isn’t the only significant name on Dantas’ record. The 37-year-old has fought Hacran Dias, Patricio Freire, Willamy “Chiquerim” Freire and current BKF welterweight kingpin Carlos Alexandre Pereira. Unfortunately for the veteran, all of those fights ended in defeat. Dantas does hold wins over Jason Dent and Diego Saraiva, however.
Dantas’ fight with Naja is actually a rematch of the finals of a one-night tournament from Nov. 2011 at Pi Pro Fight 3. There, Dantas stormed through his first two foes with a knockout and a TKO. Naja, meanwhile, nabbed two armbar submissions to advance to the finals. In the finals, Dantas and Naja went the full three rounds with the end result being a draw.
Dantas, as evident in his tournament performance at PPF 3, tends to be a striker, though he does have five submission wins. On the flipside of the coin, half of his eight losses have also come by submission. Normally, that would be reason for concern, but there are a few details that ease any doubt about how Dantas will fare against Naja’s submissions. First is the fact that despite already fighting twice in the same night, Dantas lasted a full 15 minutes with Naja in their first meeting without falling victim to a submission. And second is the fact that Dantas’ submission losses have come against some of the cream of the crop competition he’s faced—an arm-triangle choke versus Hacran Dias, a heel hook at the hands of Patricio Freire and a rear-naked choke courtesy of Chiquerim.
Naja’s biggest advantages come in the form of his submission game and his youth. The 24-year-old is 13 years the junior of Dantas. And perhaps his two fights on that night in 2011 drained him more than it did Dantas, so fighting fresh could also play a role. Naja might be young, but he’s been fighting for nearly nine years now. That makes him as much of a seasoned veteran as his counterpart in this fight.
Given the outcome of their first fight, it’s safe to assume that this will also be a close fight. Naja has an impressive record and youth on his side, but Dantas has shown the ability to hang in there against veteran submission fighters such as Barao and Johnny Eduardo. The Guerreiro Team fighter will survive against Naja as well, emerging with a razor-thin decision victory.
Other key bouts: Carlos Alexandre Pereira (32-10-1) vs. Nathan Coy (11-4) for the welterweight title, Francisco Mario Marinho (22-4) vs. Rafael Alves dos Santos (7-3)
Maro Perak (21-3-1) vs. Travis Wiuff (68-15)
Some events, regardless of lineup, manage to fly under the radar. The upstart Abu Dhabi Warriors FC promotion has managed to do just that with its inaugural card. On a weekend that includes offerings from World Series of Fighting, Resurrection Fighting Alliance and Bellator, the fact that this show includes a heavyweight tilt featuring recent Bellator light heavyweight tournament participant Travis Wiuff, top Croatian fighter Maro Perak and three undefeated prospects peppered in with veterans such as Jose Landi-Jons and Mikhail Zayats has gone mostly unnoticed.
Perak and Wiuff step into the headlining roles for this show. Wiuff is fresh off a five-fight run in Bellator that saw him defeat that promotion’s reigning light heavyweight champion Christian M’Pumbu in a non-title affair and come within one win of earning a rematch—this time with the title on the line—against M’Pumbu. His hopes were cut short by Attila Vegh, who needed just 25 seconds to knock out the veteran.
Whereas this will be the fifth fight of 2012 for the 34-year-old Wiuff, Perak will be fighting for the first time since 2011. And it’s difficult to even count that last fight as a real one—it was a title defense against Bob Sapp, a fighter with a reputation begging for mercy almost before his opponent throws a punch. In his previous fight, Perak lost a unanimous decision to Jeff Monson.
Wiuff experienced a career resurgence with his non-title win over M’Pumbu. That resurgence was based in the light heavyweight division, but that doesn’t mean Wiuff will be outsized by Perak in this battle at heavyweight. Perak weighs in at roughly 230 pounds, but Wiuff has been known to cut significant weight for his fights at 205 and could tip the scales much closer to the 265-pound upper limit of the division.
Perak might have seven submissions on his record, but he tends to stand with his opponents and look for the knockout or TKO. He also has the distinction of being a European fighter competing against a two-time NJCAA All-American wrestler and one-time national runner-up in the 265-pound division. European fighters have a reputation for a weak wrestling and ground game, and Wiuff will take advantage of that. He’ll look for the takedown early and often, and seek submissions once he grounds Perak. Perak has to look to keep this fight standing and go for the early knockout, testing a chin that was rattled recently by Vegh.
Wiuff’s recent knockout and the fact that he’ll be travelling halfway around the world for this fight, something he hasn’t done in more than three years (in a stint with Sengoku where he went just 1-2), provide reason for concern. There is a chance that those factors could combine to spell doom for Wiuff. However, the Minnesotan is such a veteran that he should bounce back nicely. Only once has Wiuff experienced a streak of losses, and that was in 2006. He’ll stick to a winning strategy in this fight, taking Perak down and grinding on his with a combination of ground-and-pound and submission attempts until the Croatian wears out. Wiuff might manage a late stoppage, but there’s also a good chance that he takes a decision instead.
Other key bouts: Jose Landi-Jons (27-14) vs. Jevgeniy Mahteenko (9-4), Kurt Kinser (7-0) vs. Amir Visalimov (5-3), Benjamin Brinsa (11-0) vs. Simone Tessari (7-0), Mikhail Zayats (18-6) vs. Marcin Elsner (8-4), Kazunori Yokota (15-5-3) vs. Anatoly Safronov (13-12)
Fredson Paixao (10-4) vs. Lance Palmer (4-0)
Resurrection Fighting Alliance continues to expand its reach and its roster heading into its fourth event. The promotion acquired Titan Fighting Championship and its AXS TV broadcast deal. Now, fans will be able to enjoy RFA fights on their televisions, rather than their computers. One of those fights is the headlining affair between UFC veteran Efrain Escudero and Tyson Griffin, but since my colleague Rob Tatum analyzed that fight in-depth in Monday’s edition of Fight of the Week, we’ll focus instead on a clash involving one of MMA’s biggest prospects, Lance Palmer. Palmer will square off with UFC and WEC veteran Fredson Paixao in a featherweight scrap.
Palmer is taking a huge step in this fight. He picked up his last three wins over fighters swimming just above the .500 mark. Now, he’s up against a much more difficult challenge. Paixao has been in the cage with top competition in the UFC and WEC, as well as internationally. The Brazilian is a highly-decorated jiu-jitsu black belt, with four World championships and nine Brazilian National championships to his name. Paixao is exactly the type of fighter that could pose a significant danger to an inexperienced wrestler such as Palmer.
Palmer has used his wrestling to get fights to the mat. In two cases, the result was a submission finish. In the other two, it was a decision. He might want to test his striking to a larger extent against Paixao. The Brazilian only has one victory via TKO and isn’t known for his striking. However, even if this fight does head to the mat, Palmer has had the good fortune of training with Team Alpha Male, a camp known for its fighters’ abilities at avoiding submissions.
This is the perfect next step in Palmer’s progression. Paixao is a world-renowned grappler, but he hasn’t been a dominant mixed martial artist. Still, he’s a veteran who has battled the likes of Yoshiro Maeda, Marcos Galvao, Masakazu Imanari and Wagnney Fabiano. He is coming off a knockout loss and hasn’t fought in nearly two years, so there will be ring rust and possibly a chin that can be tested by Palmer.
The four-time NCAA Division I All-American, Palmer, will have his work cut out for him here. He’ll be out to show that he can hang with a veteran who has reached the biggest stages in MMA. Although striking might be his best route to victory, Palmer might engage Paixao on the mat just enough to test his own submission defense against the jiu-jitsu ace. In the end, Palmer won’t have enough to finish Paixao, but he will take the nod on the judges’ scorecards.
Other key bouts: Tyson Griffin (15-6) vs. Efrain Escudero (18-5), Chidi Njokuani (8-3) vs. Phil Dace (8-2), Joe Yager (5-0) vs. Marcio “Pe de Pano” Cruz (7-3), James Krause (16-4) vs. Guilherme Trindade (8-0), Derrick Burnsed (10-2) vs. Dakota Cochrane (12-3), Sergio Pettis (5-0) vs. Jimmy Jones (4-1), Chris Holdsworth (3-0) vs. Tyler Shinn (3-0)
Photo: Lance Palmer (top) delivers ground and pound (Lester Muranaka/Sherdog)