This Week in Face Punching – Brandao Wizardry, 2 on 2 MMA Madness

1/26/17 – 2/1/17

This Week in Face Punching #15 – Featuring news from 15 MMA shows from around the world, plus more video highlights than you can shake a stick at!  Good stuff from EFN, CES, Iron Warrior Team MMA, Super Fight League and many more.


EFN 58 (Russia)

When Diego Brandao (21-11) hit the cage for his first post-UFC bout against elite Russian lightweight Murad Machaev (20-1) it promised to be a competitive affair that would tell us a lot about whether the mercurial Brandao still has the skills to hang with the big dogs. For a while it looked like hometown star Machaev would prove to be the stronger fighter, as he managed to impose his will on Brandao and force the fight to the ground a few times early in the contest. But Brandao showed a much more measured approach then we’re accustomed to seeing from him, keeping his movements sharp and efficient rather than burning all of his gas looking for a round one finish. Diego’s patience paid off in the second round, as he lured Machaev into going for a pass while trapped in guard. When Machaev took the bait, Brandao kicked his opponent in the air and simultaneously latched on a perfect helicopter armbar that had Machaev tapping before he hit the ground (See GIF!). This was some of the best work yet from the 29 year old Brandao, who earned the goodwill of the Dagestani crowd with a gushing post-fight interview in which he called for more high-profile bouts in Russia. For Machaev, this was a heartwrenching way to lose out on an 11 fight winning streak that dated back to a Bellator tournament loss via decision to Marcin Held in 2012.

EFN’s undercard also provided some suspense and surprises, although things didn’t really get going until a trio of fights featuring Magomedovs that took place just before the featured attractions. Welterweight Kamal Magomedov (3-0) and featherweight Marat Magomedov (8-1) looked stellar in earning first round knockouts against Rasul Abdulaev (3-2) and Maksim Maryanchuk (6-4), respectively. Bantamweight Shamil Magomedov (6-1-1) had a tougher task in a competitive, back and forth bout against Bachachali Bakhachaliev (4-2-1) that easily could have been scored for either prospect but was ultimately ruled a slightly head-scratching draw (it required two judges to issue a 10-10 round). And in the co-main event, rising heavy hitter Abusupyan Alikhanov (8-2) earned his eighth straight win and moved into the Fightmatrix world Top 100 at middleweight by battering undersized UCMMA champ Pavel Doroftei (18-4) until his corner stopped the fight before the third round. All-in-all this was a solid offering from EFN, and if you have Fight Pass then each of the final five fight cards is definitely worth watching (the lower card is probably worth a skip).


CES 41 (Rhode Island)

The momentum behind featherweight Matt Bessette (21-7) has built to a fever pitch in recent months, and the Connecticut native made a bold case for his immediate elevation to the UFC ranks with a Fight of the Night performance in the CES 41 co-main event. Of course it take two to tango, and “The Hard Hitting Hillbilly” Kevin Croom (17-8) was up to the task of putting on a barnburner for the fans in attendance and watching on AXS TV. Croom employed an almost Gaethjesque headfirst style, but against the technical and evasive Bessette that proved to be a recipe for absorbing a ton of clean punches and kicks. Croom’s dogged pressure did earn him a number of offensive opportunities in the first two rounds, but Bessette’s chin held up against the Missouri native’s heavy hands and by the end of two rounds the “Hillbilly” found himself dazed by his more polished foe’s crisp counterattacks. Finally Bessette poured on the pressure at the start of round 3, finishing Croom with a Tekken-style combination that brought the New England crowd to their feet (see GIF!). Bessette has proven nearly untouchable since a 5-2 run in Bellator, winning eight of nine since his departure from the company and avoiding the judges’ scorecards entirely during that run.


The rest of the card featured most of the best talent that CES has to offer, which proved to be a recipe for a (very AXS Fights) night of finishes. Three heavyweights made a strong impact on the card, with ex-UFC middleweight Greg Rebello (21-7) punching out a clearly overwhelmed Danyelle Williams (8-6), former two-fight big show brawler Pat Walsh (10-2) choking out Kevin Haley (6-4) for his fifth straight post-UFC duke, and stout journeyman Keith Bell (8-9) putting an end to former WSOF winner Tyler King’s (12-5) four fight streak with a crushing first round KO. Between Rebello, Walsh, Bell, and the still-relevant King CES is building a strong heavyweight division that looks to be an appealing testing ground for any heavyweight prospect in the U.S. regionals. If 6’4” light heavyweight Mike Rodriguez (6-2) packs on a few pounds he could add his name to that list as well, especially on the heels of a CES-record seven second KO of Hector Sanchez (3-14) via jumping front kick. Aside from that prelim-card highlight, move of the night had to go to former CES title challenger Kody Nordby’s (8-4) gogo choke submission of surprisingly tough regional talent David Garcia (4-3) – check the GIF to admire Nordby’s ability to effectively pull off the Rothwell-style submission all the way down at bantamweight.


Bellator 171 Prelims/Postlims (Kansas)

Bellator’s streamed prelims and dark postlims produced plenty of action for the Kansas faithful, nearly all of which went entirely unnoticed by the MMA community. The most significant dark bout was a match between welterweight grapplers Chance Rencountre (9-2) of Alliance MMA and former UFC and Victory FC talent Jake Lindsey (11-6). After three rounds of action the 30 year old Rencountre emerged with the most substantial win of his career, while Lindsey suffered yet another defeat when attempting to compete above his optimal 155 pound weight class. In a battle of talented Kansans who came late to the MMA game, 38 year old welterweight Manny Meraz (9-3) scored his first Bellator victory in three tries with a unanimous decision over previously undefeated 38 year old Scott Heston (8-1). Meanwhile, on the prelims several young talents showcased the skills that may eventually lead them to a more prominent spot in the promotion. For TWIFP’s money the top showing of the entire card was authored by 22 year old middleweight Jordan Young (6-0), who executed a stick-and-move gameplan to perfection in a thorough three round trouncing of favored Chris Harris (8-1). This was a seriously impressive win for the 6’4” Iowan that is likely to propel him into a significant matchup in the thin Bellator middleweight division later this year. Other prospects to come out on top on the prelim stream included Brazilian flyweight prospect Bruna Ellen (3-1), young heavyweight grappling talents Jarod Trice (2-0) and Tyrell Fortune (2-0; see GIF for a glimpse of the man’s stellar takedown skills), and featherweight Justin Overton who convincingly outgrappled Uruguayan prospect Gaston Reyno (6-2) en route to an upset RNC win.


Around the World in 11 Shows

Legend MMA 1 (Australia) – James McSweeney’s brand new promotion showed a lot of promise in its first iPPV outing that included several top names in Australia MMA and saw all nine bouts end in the first or second round. Top Aussie welterweight Steven Kennedy (24-8) earned the victory in the main event, which saw him take out short notice replacement Ben Kelleher (11-9) with a second round arm triangle. The victory was the ninth straight for Kennedy outside the confines of the UFC octagon, and his second since being released from the big show last year. Invicta veteran Arlene Blencowe (8-6) also put in solid work in her bantamweight co-main event bout opposite Janay Harding (2-3), as a flurry of punches forced the TKO stoppage just 68 seconds in. And 28 year old Phuker Top Team welterweight Luke Jumeau (11-3) knocked out former UFC fighter Vik Grujic (7-6) to earn his sixth straight finish and toss his name into the hat for an upcoming big show callup.


URCC: BETS (Philippines) – The latest edition of Manila-based URCC featured a four man, one night tournament with a spot in the field of ROAD’s $1 million tournament on the line for the winner. URCC mainstay Reyden “Red” Romero (12-6) was the odds on favorite coming into the contest, and he easily advanced to the finals with an RNC sub of Filipino countryman Patrick Manicad (1-5). Romero’s opposition in the finals was Singapore-based Rahul Raju (3-1), who earned a decision over Andrew Benibe (6-9) in the opening round; once again “Red” proved superior to his less-experienced competition, taking a decision over three rounds in the finals and booking himself a spot at hitting the MMA lottery in the upcoming ROAD competition.


HKFC 53 (Canada) – The renaissance of the Canadian MMA scene continued this past weekend as Calgary, Alberta played host to a variety of prospects and veterans in the venerable HKFC cage. The main event saw hometown bantamweight Noah Ali (9-3) earn a win over Corey Gower (6-3), while the biggest name on the undercard was undoubtedly former Bellator competitor Dan “The Dragon” Spohn (15-5) who worked his way to a unanimous nod in his bout versus Brazilian Flavio Magon (10-8). That win pushed the 32 year old Spohn to 7-1 since his 2014 UFC release and elevated his FIghtmatrix ranking to #43 in the 205 pound division. With credentials like that Spohn may be due another shot in a major promotion like Bellator or ACB. Also on the undercard, rookie heavyweight Dustin Joynson (2-0) made the MMA world take note of his striking skills with a highlight reel head kick/finishing punch combo that left Christiano Catala (1-4) in a heap (see GIF!).


Shooto Brasil 69 (Brazil) – Nothing terribly notable emerged from Shooto Brasil 69, although as always the ex-Fight Pass promotion had a handful of solid regional competitors on display. In the top bouts light heavyweight Douglas Rakchal (10-4) earned a decision win over Natalicio Filho (4-2), 24 year old ex-RFA competitor Pedro Falcao (10-2) notched the biggest win of his career with a decision over journeyman featherweight Jairo Soares (17-12), the featherweight iteration of Thiago Silva (10-5) ended Max Alves’ (7-7) night with a nasty neck crank submission, and the bantamweight bout between Alexandre Cirne (8-3) and Elvis Silva (8-4) hardly got started before it was rendered a no contest due to a cut opened by an accidental clash of heads.


Shooto (Japan) – An ocean away, the original version of the Shooto promotion (still broadcast on Fight Pass) brought a series of strong lighter-weight bouts to the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. In the headliner Tapology #6 ranked UK regional featherweight Mike Grundy (9-1) made his first trip overseas to face former Shooto featherweight champion Yutaka Saito (13-2-2), who attempted to rebound from a recent split decision loss to ex-Bellator fighter Isao Kobayashi. Saito had absolutely no luck keeping things on the feet, as Grundy closed distance with ease and spent the fight controlling position and landing glancing blows. The ground game is certainly there for Grundy, although he’ll have to show a lot more in the striking and offensive grappling departments if he’s going to catc the eye of a major promotion anytime soon.

The undercard was highlighted by a pair of undefeated prospects taking on the toughest tests of their young careers. In the co-main, flyweight Hiyato Ishii (9-0) kept his undefeated ledger intact and ran his Shooto promotional record to 5-0 with a decision victory over 15-year veteran Yoshiro Maeda (34-16-5). Hayato showed competent striking in short bursts, which he used to set up his quick and persistent shot, but Maeda was quick to countergrapple and kept the prospect from achieving many dominant positions aside from a close armbar attempt in round 3.  Meanwhile the highlight of the night had to go to Okayaman featherweight Jin Aoi (5-0-1), who scored the first KO finish of his nascent campaign with a stunning right hand that put 12-year journeyman Yoshihiro Koyama (22-11-2) fast asleep on the canvas (see GIF!).


WFF 33 (Arizona) – Welterweight Kyle Stewart (6-0) may not be on anyone’s prospect radar just yet, but if the 28 year old Californian continues running through competition like he did in the main event of World Fighting Federation 33 then he will be soon. Stewart needed just 93 seconds to knockout out Misael Inarritu (6-2), although that may have seemed a relatively lengthy outing given that he already has 7 and 12 second knockout wins on his resume. The path that Stewart has chosen hasn’t been particularly easy, either, as he’s never faced an opponent with a record under .500 or who had less pro experience than him.


Big Guns 22 (Ohio) – Nevermind Big Guns, it takes massive cojones for a journeyman to step into a match opposite career Bellator competitor Brian Rogers (13-9) on less than one day’s notice. Yet that’s just what Lewis Rumsey (13-15) did this past weekend, essentially going from a weigh-in attendee to the biggest main event spot of his career in the blink of an eye. Matters ended predictably for Rumsey, as he found himself on the wrong side of a nasty KO from the top-level pro just one minute into their nominally heavyweight bout (see GIF!). The light work was just what the doctor ordered for Rogers, who last found himself on the wrong end of an Alessio Sakara KO in the co-main event of Bellator’s June 2016 Italian debut. The show’s other pro bout pitted a pair of undefeated lightweights, with mustachioed Clevelander John Gunther (5-0) keeping his perfect record intact via a third round TKO of knockout artist Devonte Smith (4-1).


Cage Titans 32 (Massachusetts) – Along with his brother Max, “Slippery” Pete Barrett (8-0) has been carving a niche for himself as one of the top lightweight competitors making the rounds in the northeastern regionals. The aggressive and skilled Barrett finally saw the judges for the first time in the main event of Cage Titans 32, as journeyman Vince McGuiness (5-6) didn’t pose a strong threat to Barrett’s undefeated record but did manage to last the full scheduled 15 minutes. At age 30, Barrett definitely has the athleticism and skills to challenge at a higher level, and now’s the time for him to make it happen. A featherweight or lightweight title fight in CES would seem to be a logical next step, as Barrett has yet to record the type of victory that’s necessary to catch the eye of UFC matchmakers.


NLFC 6 (North Carolina) – Like many FloCombat-broadcast MMA shows, Next Level Fight Club 6 lacked in top-level professional talent but the show made up for it with a genuinely crushing finish in the main event. Local competitor Allen Crowder (7-2) has made a strong early-career impression as a takedown artist and ground finisher, but the sizable heavyweight has suffered defeat when forced to stand with quality strikers like current UFC contender Curtis Blaydes. The North Carolina powerhouse had no such issues in his first promotional title defense against fellow Tar Heel Chase Gamble (2-2), who stepped up to heavyweight as a late fill-in for veteran Richard White. The short notice risk didn’t pay off for Gamble, who found himself on the wrong end of the early contender for 2017 MMA Slam of the Year – see GIF!


SCL 57 (Colorado) – WMMA devotees didn’t have much to sink their teeth into this week, aside from the big Shevchenko vs Pena match. One under-the-radar bout of some note featured Invicta flyweight veteran Shannon Sinn (3-4), whose subpar record masks the fact that her losses have come to talented big show competitors Jenny Liou, Christine Stanley, Andrea KGB Lee, and Alice Yauger.  Sinn came through in the main event of Facebook-streamed Sparta Combat League 57, ending Ashley Deen’s (2-3) two fight knockout streak via split decision victory – fans starved for women’s MMA action can check out the embedded video for a replay of their fight. The card also featured a strong performance from Colorado featherweight Justin Gonzales (3-0), who maintained his undefeated record with a decision win against Henry Barahona (1-2).


XKO 34 (Texas) – Dallas-based XKO has a habit of putting on pretty solid cards that barely make a blip on the sport’s radar, and there were a couple of fights worth noting at their most recent outing this past weekend. 24 year old welterweight Kevin Holland (8-2) is the company’s headline attraction, and the talented striker and submission finisher added another quality win to his record with a third round TKO of two-time Legacy main card victor Geoffrey Neal (6-2). Recent WSOF competitor Chris Gutierrez (10-2-1) was also in action on the heels of his two fight series against top prospect Timur Valiev. Gutierrez got back on the winning track with a knockout of Kory Vialet (4-3) shortly after the round 3 bell. And Jeremie Holloway (7-2), who was last seen tapping to a Michael Venom Page achilles lock at Bellator 153, earned a decision victory over former Mickey Gall opponent Mike “The Truth” Jackson (0-2).   Jackson could really use a slightly easier opponent after facing off with two killers to start his career; we hear CM Punk might be available!


Super Fight League (India)

SFL is in the midst of a monthlong run of three shows a week in which teams of competitors do battle in a league format.  The action’s pretty sloppy, but a free fight’s a free fight. Here are a few highlights from last week’s YouTube-streamed SFL shows:


Nasty heavyweight KO from Ravindra Balhara:


Nikhil Bhatt shows off the right way to run out the clock:


Great KO by Matt Baker – if it was legal:


Combat Sports Highlights o’ the Week


2 on 2 MMA is fairly insane


Actually, 2 on 2 MMA is completely insane


Muay Thai Hellbow KO


Bow and Arrow Choke at SUG 3.  Gi Required.




Very Funny, Chad.


That’s all for This Week in Face Punching.  Be sure to follow video wizards @Grabaka_Hitman, @Jolassanda, and @ZPGifs to catch all the regional highlights as they happen – there should be plenty of good stuff from Akhmat Fight Show, Lion Fights Muay Thai, and UFC Houston to enjoy this weekend.

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