ACB 51: Sorting out the Happenings from ACB’s U.S. Debut

Catch up on all the action from Friday’s ACB 51 (plus full fight videos) right here at CombatDocket. The Russian promotion’s US debut was filled with interesting matchups and recognizable names; here’s our assessment of what happened in the Berkut cage along with predictions for where the night’s events will lead some of the more prominent participants.



Main Event: Thiago Silva decisions Jared Torgeson over 5 rounds to win the ACB Light Heavyweight Title

What we learned about Silva: Thiago Silva is still plenty good enough to beat quality regional fighters, especially ones like Torgeson who don’t pack fight-altering power. Silva has developed a much more cerebral approach since suffering TKO losses in the regionals to Teddy Holder and Marcus Sursa. In this one, he waited for Torgeson to aggress and countered with five rounds of simple, effective straight jabs that left Torgeson’s nose plenty blooded after 25 minutes. And judging by the enormous bruise running along the entirety of Torgeson’s inside left thigh, Thiago still kicks like a mule.

What we learned about Torgeson: He’s tough as nails, he’s got a hell of a poker face when it comes to leg kicks, and he’s not afraid to continue coming forward and to try and make things happen in the face of a more talented opponent. Unfortunately the athletic tools just don’t seem to be there for him to challenge fighters in the top 50 at Light Heavyweight.

Where we go from here: Thiago Silva defends the ACB 205 pound belt against either Shamil Gamzatov or Vinny Magalhaes; Jared Torgeson showed enough skill and grit to likely earn another chance in the promotion.

Co-Main: Luis Palomino TKOs Musa Khamanaev, Round 2

What we learned about Palomino: Takedown defense is still somewhat of an issue for Palomino, but if you give him a chance to stand in the pocket and throw heat you’re in for some trouble. Once this became a standup affair in round 2 “Baboon” blasted through Khamanaev with surprising efficency.

What we learned about Khamanaev: In round 1 of this fight Musa looked like a carbon copy Khabib, ragdolling Palomino to the mat and inflicting ground and pound. But when the second came along for some reason Khamanaev was content to flick half-hearted jobs and never really pursued the takedown; that proved to be a recipe for a sure TKO defeat.

Where we go from here: Luis Palomino vaults toward the top of the ACB rankings and should get another high profile fight soon. Khamanaev obviously needs to work on his striking skills, and maybe cardio as well if that’s why he failed to initiate grappling attempts in round 2.

Shamil Gamzatov split decisions Rodney Wallace

What we learned about Gamzatov: When faced with a defense-oriented and hard-to-take-down fighter like Wallace, the undefeated Gamzatov had a hard time making adjustments and figuring out a way to create opening and initiate his offense. The undefeated light heavyweight is frankly quite lucky to have earned this decision, and will hopefully use the experience as an opportunity to connect with the cognitive side of the game and learn to adjust to tricky and unorthodox opposition.

What we learned about Wallace: He’s a man who knows how to take advantage of his strengths and minimize his limitations. Wallace is happy to keep the fight at a snail-slow pace, avoid damage, and score key takedowns. On this night, and others, the judges were not impressed with the heady and unexciting approach that “Sho Nuff the Master” brings to the cage.

Where we go form here: After sneaking out of Irvine with a decision, Gamzatov remains one of the top ranked 205 pounders in ACB and figures to earn a title shot or a #1 contender bout next. For Wallace this wasn’t the kind of performance that endears you to promoters, so who knows where we’ll see him competing next.

Leandro Silva knocks out Pat Healy (with assistance from an eye poke), Round 1

What we learned about Silva: Buscape is a fluid and dangerous striker, just as he showed during his Octagon tenure. After some tentative showings against elite-level competition he looked more comfortable in the cage on this day against a slower and generally less threatening opponent. We also learned that if Buscape pokes you in the eye and the ref doesn’t call it, you better be ready for him to try to put your lights out as soon as possible.

What we learned about Healy: Not much, really.  He continues to be a man plagued by bad luck. Given how fast Silva looked next to him, the eye poke may have only accelerated an inevitable result.

Where we go from here: ACB adds another lightweight contender to a very strong field – it’s probably their deepest division. If he sticks with the promotion, Buscape should be testing guys like Eduard Vartanyan, Alex Shabliy, and Abdul-Aziz Abdulvakhabov before long. For Healy, it’s probably back to main eventing regional cards.


Christos Giagos decisions Alexandre “Pulga” Pimentel

What we learned about Giagos: He’s quick, he has good footwork, and he hits pretty hard. Christos also showed that he could hang in the cage with a BJJ master like Pimentel and avoid falling prey to any of the black belt’s traps. Giagos got better as the fight progressed, which has been a pattern for the “Spartan” in many of his higher-level fights.

What we learned about Pimentel: Anyone who was high on the 38 year old Pimentel’s chances to impact the sport at the top level probably has to pump the brakes on that sentiment. “Pulga” showed a decent all-around game to go with his known submission wizardry, but wasn’t able to force a more athletic all-arounder into enough dangerous positions to take advantage or make an impression with the judges.

Where we go from here: Christos Giagos could well play a role in the burgeoning ACB 155 pound ranks, but the 26 year old is long on talent and riding a three fight win streak against top shelf regional competition and a call back to the UFC may well be in his future. For Pimentel this wasn’t a bad performance, but it probably put a ceiling on how far he’s going to climb in the professional ranks.


And the Rest of the Card:


Arthur Estrazulas KTFO Dave Courchaine, Round 1

What we learned: Arthur Estrazulas has seriously quick hands, good head movement and the power to knock his fellow pro fighters out cold.  This was a huge win for Estrazulas, who washes away the taste of a loss to Christos Giagos and reasserts his position as a prospect to watch. Dave Courchaine is a tough regional hand, but against a dangerous and evasive competitor like Estrazulas it wasn’t nearly enough.



Terrion Ware decisions Nick Mamalis

What we learned: Nick Mamalis had the biggest chance of his career against longtime prospect Ware, and did very well early in the fight with takedowns. Eventually Terrion Ware’s cardio proved superior, and once he could keep things on the feet where he likes it he was simply too good for the Wyoming regional veteran. Still, this close showing did little to dispel doubts that the 30 year old Ware has probably topped out in terms of fulfilling his potential; we’ll see how does as this win probably means that a more stern test in the ACB cage is forthcoming.


Mike Kyle KTFO Dan Charles, Round 1

What we learned: This one appeared to be a close contest for a while, as Big Country lookalike Dan Charles seemed to have the hand speed necessary to match veteran striker Mike Kyle on the feet. But then Kyle scored with a devastating right hook that ended Charles’ hopes instantly. At 36 Mike Kyle is still a threat to most heavyweights and is a solid gatekeeper for testing regional prospects; look for ACB to likely use him in that capacity if they continue their working relationship. Meanwhile, Charles has had a few chances against higher-level competition and it’s starting to look like he’s probably not going to make the strides necessary to win fights against top opponents.


Guillermo Martinez Ayme decisions Ivan Castillo

What we learned: Guillermo Martinez Ayme is a beast in round one; he delivered a bunch of fine judo tosses to Ivan Castillo, and even dropped him on his head with a German suplex. Seriously, you’ll see some cool stuff if you watch the first frame of this one. After the first few minutes the heavily muscled Martinez Ayme turned into an economical standup fighter of middling quality – think Hector Lombard style – but still did enough to beat Castillo. For Ivan Castillo, this fight showed that he’s tough as nails and capable of persevering to the final bell against a more talented opponent.


Kyle Reyes decisions Mario Israel

What we learned: This was one of the gems of the ACB 51 prelim card. Both men brought the offense, with plenty of momentum shifts throughout, but Guam’s Kyle Reyes probably deserved the nod he received after 15 minutes. Reyes has a lot of skills at his disposal and he put them together as well as he ever has in this one, while doing a solid job of avoiding Israel’s power. For Mario Israel this was a second straight tough test on U.S. soil and he seemed to fade late; his skillset appears to be a few notches shy of the top prospect status he was granted in advance of his 2016 stateside debut.


Danny Martinez decisions Cory Alexander

What we learned: Cory Alexander made a scrap out of this one against an opponent with far greater experience and credentials. But Danny Martinez is extremely consistent against sub-UFC competition, and as expected he managed to improve as the fight went on and implement the advantages that he held over Alexander in all facets of the MMA game.



After a successful debut on American soil it won’t be long until fans enjoy more action from the Berkut cage as ACB 52 will be streaming live at Noon EST next Saturday, January 21st from Vienna, Austria. The show features a pair of top-level bouts as welterweights Arbi Aguev and Patrik Kincl head up the main event, while heavyweight talents Denis Smoldarev and Michal Andryszak do battle in the co-feature.



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