The UFC returns this weekend with an event from Brazil, but that does not mean the world of MMA will be silent otherwise. In fact, the country of Poland hosts a highly anticipated card in the KSW promotion featuring top-level MMA fighters and some of the best talent from that country.

In addition to top local draws in Mamed Khalidov and Mariusz Pudzianowski, the event will features UFC veterans Kendall Grove and Sean McCorkle, as well as Strikeforce vet Melvin Manhoef.

To get you prepared for this Saturday morning/afternoon event, here is a preview of the card and some predictions for the seven announced fights.

MW: Mamed Khalidov (26-4-2) vs. Melvin Manhoef (27-10-1)

The main event of KSW 23 will see top Polish middleweight Mamed Khalidov look to push his current winning streak to seven when he takes on feared Dutch striker Melvin Manhoef. Khalidov has been squashing UFC veterans left and right during his current streak, but gets an exotic challenge from a Strikeforce and pro kickboxing veteran in Manhoef.

Fans have long been calling for the UFC to sign Khalidov, but to no avail. The 32-year-old is a well-rounded guy with brutal submissions and power in his hands. His last five opponents are all UFC veterans (James Irvin, Matt Lindland, Jesse Taylor, Rodney Wallace and Kendall Grove), and he has finished them all in under nine total minutes of action.

Manhoef is a powerhouse, to say the least. If he’s not knocking an opponent’s head off with nasty strikes from his hands, feet and knees, he is chopping him down from below with some of the most devastating leg kicks known to the MMA world. His run in Strikeforce was met with disappointment, as he lost both of his fights. But he has come back to win three of his last four. He would be wise to stay on his feet here, as Khalidov is a beast on the ground, where Manhoef’s biggest weakness lies.

After seeing Manhoef lose his last fight to Brock Larson, who was able to drag the Dutchman down, it’s easy to see how Khalidov will take this one. He has good takedowns and isn’t afraid to take a shot in achieving that goal. He will drag Manhoef down, slap on another impressive submission and continue to be the gold standard of Polish MMA.

HW: Mariusz Pudzianowski (5-2) vs. Sean McCorkle (16-5)

Polish hero Mariusz Pudzianowski, a former World’s Strongest Man, returns to the cage with his 5-2 record when he meets UFC veteran Sean McCorkle, a guy whose potential is only overcome by his ability to blow big fights. There will be a ton of girth in the ring, as these two men combine to weigh around 600 pounds.

Pudzianowski made the leap from the strongman competition to the cage in 2009 and has been a staple of KSW ever since. His quick wins over Eric “Butterbean” Esch and Bob Sapp have shown that he is more of a novelty fighter than a contender. However, don’t let that notion fool you. Pudzianowski, when fresh, is extremely powerful, dangerous and capable of winning fights.

The big knock on the massive Polish fighter is his gas tank. If the fight goes longer than a couple of minutes, his body gives up on him. This is because of his massive muscle build, which requires a lot of oxygen. The lactic acid buildup tires him out, therefore hurting his stamina.

Luckily, he is fighting another guy with a short gas tank and a history of short fights. McCorkle is a crafty submission artist, but the super-heavyweight-sized American finds himself on a three-fight losing streak, with two of those losses coming in under three minutes. He loves armlocks, but to pull of an armlock early against a guy as strong as Pudzianowski would be incredibly tough.

Pudzianowski has good takedowns and his superior strength will allow him to get on top of McCorkle and uncork (pun intended) a barrage of punches from the top. That will be good enough for a TKO victory in the first round.

MW: Michal Materla (18-3) vs. Kendall Grove (17-12)

An intriguing middleweight bout goes down before the main and co-main events when top Polish prospect Michal Materla meets UFC veteran Kendall Grove. Materla is the KSW champion and has proven to be one of the top 185ers not currently in the UFC.

Materla is on a six-fight winning streak and has looked impressive in that time. His last three wins are over UFC veterans Rodney Wallace, Jay Silva and Matt Horwich, showing he can hang in the ring with tough talent. He is known for his solid submission game and his nasty guillotine choke, although his striking has been on display lately (see his 21-second knockout of Wallace in his latest bout).

Grove’s release from the UFC has resulted in a much busier schedule. Since getting cut in mid-2011, he has fought eight times, running his post-UFC record to 5-3 against solid competition. He is also known for his submission prowess, though he can use his reach and long limbs to score points on the feet.

Grove has not looked like a world beater since his late UFC days. His losses to Jay Silva and Jesse Taylor raise red flags in how he is going to compete with a very good fighter in Materla. Expect the Polish fighter to ground Grove after scoring points on the feet, therefore tallying another decision victory over a UFC vet.

WW: Aslambek Saidov (13-3) vs. Ben Lagman (6-3)

Polish welterweight Aslambek Saidov makes his return to KSW when he meets Strikeforce and Bellator veteran Ben Lagman. Though Lagman has less fights than Saidov, he does have an equal amount of experience fighting under the bright lights of a big MMA promotion.

Saidov is another under-the-radar, well-rounded Polish fighter that does not get the spotlight he deserves. As a solid striker with good submission grappling skills, he can beat an opponent in many ways. He has built most of resume off of wins over European talent, so this encounter with an experienced American fighter like Lagman will determine if he can sink or swim against seasoned big-show fighters.

Lagman is currently riding a two-fight losing streak, but those losses came in Strikeforce and Bellator to Anthony Smith and Sam Quito, respectively. Lagman is similarly well-rounded, but falls under the category of “jack of all trades, master of none.” Like how Saidov built a resume on local European talent, Lagman has done the same with regional American opponents.

Saidov does have a good upside and is an intriguing prospect coming out of Poland, a potential hotbed of talent. Saidov loves armlocks, but he won’t score a finish here. Saidov will earn a decision in his home country in an entertaining bout.

FlyW: Karolina Kowalkiewicz (2-0) vs. Marta Chojnoska (1-0)

Females and relative newcomers Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Marta Chojnoska look to stay unbeaten when they collide in the ring. Kowalkiewicz is a one-time KSW veteran and has shown that she is a lioness in the ring. She is aggressive and powerful, which makes her extremely dangerous. Chojnoska is similarly a KSW veteran, and in her only pro fight, she won with an impressive scarf hold armlock in under a minute. Though Chojnoska is impressive with her grappling and judo, experience is a factor along with striking ability, so Kowalkiewicz will take a decision here.

WW: Mateusz Piskorz (8-0) vs. Luiz Ricardo Simon (5-2)

Nastula Team fighter Mateusz Piskorz puts an undefeated record on the line against Luiz Ricardo Simon, a Brazilian import who will likely hold the size advantage. Piskorz has power in his hands and has shown to be a solid striker in his young career. Simon has also shown to be a striker, though he does have some grappling chops to go with it. Look for the 21-year-old Polish fighter to maintain his unblemished mark by taking a decision from the Brazilian.

WW: Mateusz Zawadzki (9-1-1) vs. Mateusz Gamrot (3-0)

Lightweight Mateusz Gamrot fights up a weight class and puts his undefeated record on the line when he meets the more experienced Mateusz Zawadzki. Since losing his pro debut, Zawadzki has not lost a bout and has pulled off seven finishes in nine wins. He is powerful and has a solid submission game. Gamrot’s lightweight record is spotless, but one has to think size and experience will be the x-factor here that drives Zawadzki to a TKO win.

Photo: Mamed Khalidov (Jumana Totongi/Sherdog)

About The Author

Riley Kontek
Staff Writer

Riley Kontek is a Chicago-land native that has been an addict of mixed martial arts since the first Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz encounter. He has been writing on MMA for the last year and is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. In addition to that, he used to host a weekly radio show on MMA. Though he has no formal training in mixed martial arts, Riley is a master in the art of hockey fighting.