Top 5 Fights To Watch Outside of This Weekend's UFC and Bellator cards

Top 5 Fights To Watch Outside of This Weekend’s UFC and Bellator cards

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On the heels of a weekend in mixed martial arts that failed to ultimately provide the two men on the marquee, it felt as though that the ‘MMA Gods’ had ripped yet another high-profile fight away from our grasps. If that hypotheses was to have any amount of reality to it, the higher power to fight fans everywhere has ensured that we’ll have plenty of action to witness in the coming days. Bellator MMA’s double-header at the Mohegan Sun this weekend features an abundance of compelling matchups. It also serves as the predecessor to the curtain call for the Ultimate Fighting Championship on a platform that truly is, the worldwide leader in sports.

However, the UFC and Bellator are certainly not the only promotions putting on exciting fights this weekend. On the looks of things, almost everyone in the business of MMA has an event of their own to promote as well this weekend. There are events taking place for Invicta FC, LFA (Legacy Fighting Alliance), Cage Warriors, CFFC (Cage Fury Fighting Championships), ONE Championship, and ACA (Absolute Championship Akhmat). Surely one could understand another’s inability to keep up with such a loaded slate, and that’s why i’m here to help. Here are five fights (along with some honorable mentions) you need to keep your eye on for this weekend.

5. Julius Anglickas vs. Clayton York for the Vacant LFA Light Heavyweight Title

You could make the case for the Legacy Fighting Alliance being one of, if not the highest profile feeder organization for larger scale promotions. Once a fighter captures a belt in the LFA, it’s often expected for the UFC to come calling shortly thereafter. While this is not a policy per say that the UFC operates within, it’s a frequent occurrence that comes to fruition more often than not. The LFA’s lone 205-pound champion in it’s history, Ryan Spann, proves that hypotheses to be somewhat true. On Friday night, the list of LFA light heavyweight champions will expand to two as Julius Anglickas (5-1 MMA, 1-0 LFA) takes on Clayton York (5-0 MMA, 0-0 LFA).

The 27 year-old Anglickas hails from the great state of Missouri, by way of St. Charles. Anglickas earns this LFA title shot having only fought under the promotional banner one time in the past, a third round rear-naked choke finish of Erick Murray Jr. at LFA 42 last June. His opponent, Oregon’s very own Clayton York, has never fought for the promotion in his brief five-fight professional tenure. York is nearly flawless as a pro, boasting a 5-0 record with all but one of those fights wrapping up inside of the opening frame. Anglickas and York amass an 89% finishing ratio amongst their combined victories, so it’s safe to go into this one thinking that it might not live on to see scorecards.

4. Milana Dudieva vs. Karina Rodriguez/DeAnna Bennett vs. Miranda Maverick for Invicta FC’s Women Flyweight Torunament Semifinals

On Friday night, the familiarity of commentary from TJ DeSantis can only mean that the Invicta FC cage has returned. Taking the festivities to the always promotional-friendly confines of Kansas City, the promotion has a tasty treat for fans in the form of a 125-pound title fight that we’ll come back to later on in this list. In addition to the title fight at the top of the bill, the two fights that immediately precede it will take place as a four-woman tournament in that very women’s flyweight division. Up first will be former Invicta 115 pound title challenger and Ultimate Fighter 26 alum DeAnna Bennett (9-4-1 MMA, 5-3 IFC) pitted up against Norfolk’s own Miranda Maverick (4-1 MMA, 4-1 IFC). Immediately following that fight will be the second semifinal of the four-woman tournament, matching up UFC veteran Milana Dudieva (12-7 MMA, 1-2 IFC) and Karina Rodriguez (6-3 MMA, 1-2 IFC).

The lone beneficiary by direct result of another’s demise is the addition of Miranda Maverick to the tournament, solely gaining entry into the field of four after DeAnna Bennett’s original opponent Brogan Walker-Sanchez was forced to withdraw. Maverick’s only loss as a professional or amateur, came to Walker-Sanchez by a razor thin split decision last July. The semifinal matchups are fresh, but should DeAnna Bennett defeat Miranda Maverick she will possibly inherit a rematch with a move on to the tournament final if paired against Rodriguez. Bennett holds a decision win over Rodriguez, also by split decision at Invicta 28 last March. The winner of the tournament will be deemed as number one contender for the winner of the evening’s main event.

3. Abdul-Aziz Abdulvakhabov vs. Brian Foster – ACA 92

ACA (formerly known as ACB) consistently boasts some of the deepest and high-level fight cards in the world. Their return to the Poland comes by way of the nation’s capital of Warsaw, and is headlined by a light heavyweight title fight between Doveltdzhan Yagshimuradov and Karol Celinski, a fight you will see amongst four from ACA 92 on my list of honorable mentions. The most compelling fight to many however, comes a few fights prior to the main event, and it takes place in the lightweight division.

Abdul-Aziz Abdulvakhabov (15-2 MMA, 9-1 ACA) not only claims ownership to one of the most difficult names to spell in MMA, but is also a longtime champion at 155 pounds having defended his title twice. Abdulvakhabov lost his title in his previous appearance, a majority decision defeat at the hands of current champion Ali Bagov. The Russian is 15-2 as a pro, and has finished 11 of his 15 victories before the final bell. His opponent serves as a familiar face to American MMA fans, in UFC veteran and PFL Season 1 welterweight contestant Brian Foster (28-10 MMA, 0-0 ACA). Foster looked sharp as a tack his last time out, finishing off a dominant performance over Ramsey Nijem with a flying knee follow-up strikes. Foster was unable to continue in the inaugural PFL welterweight tournament, as an injury forced him to withdraw from the field.

2. Vannessa Porto vs. Pearl Gonzalez for the Vacant Invicta FC Women’s Flyweight Title

Invicta FC 34’s main event on Friday night pits two top contenders in the women’s flyweight division for the vacant title. Vanessa Porto (20-8 MMA, 5-4 IFC) will take on Pearl Gonzalez (9-3 MMA, 3-0 IFC). The path for these ladies en route to this point have more contrasts than they do comparisons. Porto is a longtime veteran of Invicta Fighting Championships, sporting a less-than flattering pro record of 20-8. Her level of overall experience far outmatches Chicago’s Gonzalez, who is 9-3 in her pro career.

On the other side of the coin, many would be fair to assume that Gonzalez has faced the higher-level competition, having ultimately made it to the UFC unlike Porto. Gonzalez had a rough go with the promotion however, dropping both of her fights inside the octagon to Cynthia Calvillo and Poliana Botelho before being handed her walking papers. Gonzalez has been on a tear ever since, winning all three of her fights in Invicta FC in a span of just six months. Will the long-time Invicta veteran Porto finally lay claim to gold? Or will the streaking Gonzalez make it four in a row to capture the title on her journey back to the big show?

1. (C) Sean Brady vs. Taj Abdul-Hakim for the CFFC Welterweight Title

One of the most highly-acclaimed prospects in all of MMA is Philadelphia’s Sean Brady (9-0 MMA, 7-0 CFFC). Brady fights out of Renzo Gracie’s hotbed of a gym in Philly, however isn’t the submission seeking type with only two of his nine pro wins coming by tap out. Following a 7-0 start to his MMA career and a title defense in the CFFC under his name, Brady took a pair of fights outside of the promotion for the first time in his career. Brady defeated Colton Smith and Gilbert Urbina under the Shogun Fights and LFA banners respectively, and will return to defend his title in the CFFC for the first time in nearly two years on Saturday night.

His opponent will be Taj Abdul-Hakim (8-1 MMA, 1-0 CFFC) and is known by many as ‘The Black Spartan’. Abdul-Hakim comes in to this title challenge having won his last four bouts, and has finished four of his eight professional wins. A successful bid at the CFFC welterweight title would certainly make a massive statement to welterweights far and wide for Abdul-Hakim. As for Brady, it’s not crazy whatsoever to believe a win here would ultimately serve as his final fight on the regional scene.

Honorable Mentions

Invicta FC 34: Friday, Feb. 15 – Kansas City, Kansas

Women’s Flyweight Bout

Tracy Cortez (4-1 MMA, 1-1 IFC) vs. Erin Blanchfield (3-0 MMA, 2-0 IFC)

ONE CHAMPIONSHIP: CLASH OF LEGENDS – Saturday, Feb. 16 – Bangkok, Thailand

Featherweight Bout

Daichi Takenaka (11-0-1) vs. Mark Abelardo (17-5)

CFFC 72 – Saturday, Feb. 16 – Atlantic City, New Jersey

CFFC Vacant Middleweight Championship

Kyle Daukas (5-0 MMA, 1-0 CFFC) vs. Jonavin Webb (12-2 MMA, 11-0 CFFC)

Flyweight Bout
Sean Santella (20-7-1 MMA, 8-3 CFFC) vs. Naoki Inoue (11-1 MMA, 0-0 CFFC)

Flyweight Bout
Andre Barquero Morera (5-1 MMA, 0-0 CFFC) vs. Tommy Espinosa (6-1 MMA, 0-0 CFFC)

Cage Warriors 101 – Saturday, Feb. 16 – Liverpool, England

Heavyweight Bout
Sofiane Boukichou (6-2 MMA, 1-0 CW) vs. Tom Aspinall (5-2 MMA, 4-0 ACA)

ACA 92 – Saturday, Feb. 16 – Warsaw, Poland

ACA Light Heavyweight Championship
(C) Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (16-5-1 MMA, 5-0 ACA) vs. Karol Celiński (16-6-1 MMA, 4-0 ACA)

Heavyweight Bout
Daniel Omielańczuk (20-9-1 MMA, 1-1 ACA) vs. Zelimkhan Umiev (11-2 MMA, 5-1 ACA)

Heavyweight Bout
Denis Smoldarev (13-4 MMA, 1-2 ACA) vs. Tony Johnson Jr. (12-4-1 MMA, 0-0 ACA)

Featherweight Bout
Adlan Bataev (11-1 MMA, 11-1 ACA) vs. Frantz Slioa (6-0 MMA, 1-0 ACA)