A win against Yuya Shirai could land Paul Daley (above) a shot at Nick Diaz. | Dave Mandel
What are the leading nations in the world for mixed martial arts? Obviously, the United States, Brazil, Japan and England come to mind. We all know the promotional big guns, but which farm leagues are there to ensure the talent streams do not break down?
In our monthly “10 Tussles” series, we take you around the globe in an effort to broaden your MMA horizons, showcasing the best fights that might not get much attention otherwise.
As always, the list does not focus on the well-promoted main event bouts from major organizations you already know to watch, but rather on fights from all over the planet that are worth seeing. The UFC, Strikeforce, Dream and Sengoku Raiden Championship are excluded by design.
Hamid Corassani vs. Paul Reed
The Zone FC 8 “Inferno,” Feb. 26 -- Gothenburg, Sweden
Highly regarded Swedish prospect Corassani, on a quest to make it down to 145 pounds, hopes to hit his mark this time after missing it once and fighting at a 150-pound catchweight twice in 2010. His opponent will be Reed, the Scottish warhorse, who, at age 39, finds himself on a farewell tour from the sport of mixed martial arts. The Bristol-based redhead’s recent move to lightweight met with underwhelming results, but his last three appearances at 145 pounds have all ended in choke submissions. A hard, dogged war awaits fans at the Lisebergshallen.
Mario Rinaldi vs. Tony Lopez
G-Force Fights “Bad Blood 5,” Feb. 26 -- Grand Rapids, Mich.
Florida promotion G-Force Fights travels to Michigan to promote an event outside of Miami-Dade County for the first time in its two-year existence. In the luggage is a heavyweight clash between Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships and EliteXC veteran Rinaldi and former King of the Cage champion Lopez. The 265-pound Rinaldi posted a significant win over former UFC heavyweight titleholder Ricco Rodriguez in July 2009 but has struggled lately, winning only one of his three fights since. “Kryptonite” Lopez holds a pair of wins over current UFC heavyweight Joey Beltran and has become a good striker for a big man.
James Doolan vs. Michal Hamrsmid
On Top 1 “Celtic Park,” Feb. 26 -- Glasgow, Scotland
Even though quality promotions are popping up across the United Kingdom left and right, Scotland so far has remained underrepresented. Fledgling organization On Top Promotions wants to change that with its inaugural effort, held at the Kerrydale Suite inside the Celtic Park, the home field of 42-time Scottish football champions Celtic FC. Headlining the show will be local hero Doolan against Czech striker Hamrsmid. Doolan is currently ranked fifth in Europe at 145 pounds; “Hasa” stands at 10th. The Prague Gladiator was widely considered one of the top featherweights in Europe before a glut of injuries slowed him down in the last three years.
Cristiano Marcello vs. Oriol Gaset
Nitrix “Champion Fight 6,” Feb. 19 -- Brusque, Brazil
Southern Brazilian promotion Nitrix is entering the third year of its existence. After starting strong with four events in 2009, it only managed to put on two shows last year. Nitrix has already featured prominent names like current UFC middleweight Maiquel Jose Falcao Goncalve and Team Nogueira’s Andre “Chatuba” Santos, and it continues that tradition by booking Pride Fighting Championships veteran and former Chute Boxe Brazilian jiu-jitsu head coach Marcello in the main event of “Champion Fight 6.” His opponent will be Spanish striker Gaset, who trains out of Team Kaobon, alongside Terry Etim, Paul Kelly and Paul Taylor.
Alexis Vila vs. Lewis McKenzie
MFA “New Generation 4,” Feb. 12 -- Miami, Fla.
When asked about the best wrestlers in MMA, former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed Lawal listed Daniel Cormier, Joe Warren, Sara McMann, Stephen Abas, Yoel Romero Palacio and Vila, an unbeaten 39-year-old Cuban.
The American Top Team fighter was a two-time freestyle wrestling world champion in 1993 and 1994, as well as a bronze medal winner at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Undefeated in eight professional MMA appearances, Vila will face well-rounded King of the Cage veteran McKenzie in what will arguably be his toughest test to date.
Rosi Sexton vs. Roxanne Modafferi
Cage Warriors 40, Feb. 26 -- London
The month’s most meaningful women’s MMA match on the independent circuit was put together by arguably England’s finest matchmaker, Ian Dean, and his team at Cage Warriors Fighting Championship. In the main event of its 40th show, CWFC’s home-grown talent, Sexton, will take on the Tokyo-based Modafferi. “The Happy Warrior” is coming off the first knockout loss of her career and an unfortunate bout cancellation on New Year’s Eve; she will be even hungrier to get back in the winner’s circle. However, submission specialist Sexton has won all of her fights on British soil.
Ryan Jimmo vs. Dwayne Lewis
MFC 28 “Supremacy,” Feb. 25 -- Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Arguably Maximum Fighting Championship’s biggest domestic star following the loss of Ryan Ford in September, heavy-hitting karateka Jimmo will enter the MFC ring for the ninth time to headline its “Supremacy” event. In the other corner will be a familiar face in Lewis. Jimmo and Lewis faced one another four years ago. The first meeting between the two strikers ended in Jimmo winning a decision. Jimmo is riding a 13-fight win streak, and Lewis has won nine of his last 10 fights. The confidence of both men figures to be at an all-time high.
Masakazu Imanari vs. Hiroshi Nakamura
Deep 52 Impact, Feb. 25 -- Tokyo
Originally scheduled to fight Korean tune-up opponent Jae Hun Moon at Deep’s cancelled Macao debut on Jan. 8, Shinya Aoki’s adopted brother, Imanari, will get a significantly tougher start into his 2011 campaign, as he faces Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships finalist and Shooto veteran Nakamura. A teammate of UFC veteran Yoshiyuki Yoshida, Nakamura is known for his strong top game and stifling submission defense. Having never been submitted in his 20 professional mixed martial arts appearances, can Nakamura shut down the “Ashikan Judan” heel hook attack?
Jussier “Formiga” da Silva vs. Ian McCall
Tachi Palace Fights 8 “All or Nothing,” Feb. 18 -- Lemoore, California
It is encouraging to see the world’s premier flyweight, da Silva, kept busy on a regular basis. While Shooto managed to find him only two opponents in 2009-10, Tachi Palace Fights has now had him co-headlining its last two shows within a two and a half-month timespan. After outpointing Danny Martinez in December, the Nova UniÃ£o Kimura product will now face former WEC bantamweight McCall. The Californian striker went the distance with current UFC 135-pound champion Dominick Cruz in January 2009 and bounced back with a win on the regional circuit in November.
Paul Daley vs. Yuya Shirai
BAMMA 5, Feb. 26 -- Manchester, England
It has been almost two years since British bad boy Daley last fought on U.K. soil. Since the 95-second destruction of Lithuanian journeyman Aurelijus Kerpe in March 2009, the 27-year-old muay Thai specialist has gone on to earn a UFC welterweight title eliminator bout in spectacular fashion, only to lose it in embarrassing fashion. However, a knockout over Dream veteran Shirai could land Daley a shot at reigning Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz.
Contact Tim Leidecker at www.facebook.com/Rossonero1 or follow him on twitter @Rossonero1.
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