Adriano Moraes has emerged as a potential One Championship cornerstone. | Photo Courtesy: One FC
In an effort to bring more attention to the global stage of mixed martial arts, this list does not focus on major North American-based promotions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Bellator MMA and the World Series of Fighting ...
No flyweight outside the UFC has more going for him than Adriano Moraes.
Moraes will put his 125-pound title on the line for the first time against Asuka Mikami in the One Championship 25 main event on March 13 at Stadium Putra in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The 25-year-old Brazilian champion has won three fights in a row, all by submission, in rising to the top of Asia’s flyweight crop.
A Constrictor Team export, Moraes last appeared in September, when he submitted Geje Eustaquio with a second-round guillotine choke and claimed flyweight gold at One Championship 20. He sports nine finishes among his 12 career victories, a second-round rear-naked choke submission on former Shooto titleholder Yasuhiro Urushitani among them. A split decision loss to Yusup Saadulaev in November 2013 remains the lone blemish on an otherwise pristine Moraes resume.
Mikami finds himself on a 12-fight unbeaten streak and has not tasted defeat since he dropped a majority decision to Ryuji Takada in Rings nearly six years ago. The 29-year-old Wajutsu Keishukai Hearts representative last competed under the Heat banner in October, when he took a unanimous verdict over Takeshi Hara. Mikami has never fought outside of his native Japan.
The Moraes-Mikami title clash is but one under-the-radar matchup worth monitoring during the month of March. Here are nine more:
Cage Fury Fighting Championship 47
March 7 | Bethlehem, Pa.
Webb will defend the Cage Fury Fighting Championships welterweight crown against Harshbarger, with the winner likely moving on to face interim champion Lyman Good. Widely regarded as one of the top prospects on the East Coast, the still-unbeaten Webb has recovered sufficiently enough from the incidental eye pokes that led to a no-contest in his November encounter with Good and resulted in an end to his seven-fight winning streak. Harshbarger has won two of his past three bouts. The 32-year-old returned from a two-year absence in January, when he submitted Chris Cope with a second-round rear-naked choke inside the Ring of Combat promotion.
CES MMA 28
March 13 | Lincoln, R.I.
A four-time national judo champion and 2004 Olympian, Hawn halted a two-fight losing streak in December, as he pocketed a unanimous decision against journeyman Carlo Prater in his Titan Fighting Championship debut. The 38-year-old judoka has secured more than half (11) of his 19 professional victories by knockout or technical knockout. Hawn reached the final in three Bellator tournaments, winning two of them, before parting ways with the company in 2014. The 27-year-old Loffer will enter the match on a run of four straight wins.
Titan Fighting Championship 33
March 20 | Mobile, Ala.
Green appears to have adjusted in his transition from hunter to hunted. The 25-year-old Rochester, N.Y., native will next defend the Titan Fighting Championship 145-pound title against the surging Holobaugh. Green, who operates out of the Tristar Gym in Montreal, has recorded back-to-back wins over former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Miguel Torres and “The Ultimate Fighter” alum Steven Siler. He was a two-time Mid-American Conference wrestling champion at the University of Buffalo. Holobaugh -- who burst on the scene in Strikeforce two years ago, when he pushed Pat Healy to a three-round decision on short notice -- has rattled off two straight wins, including a 15-second technical knockout against Lloyd Woodard in August.
Unified MMA 22
March 20 | Edmonton, Alberta
Young heavyweights with unblemished records tend to draw attention. Such is the case with Boser. The 23-year-old Canadian has not fought since September, when he took out Jordan Tracey with third-round punches under the Unified MMA banner. A Hayabusa Training Centre rep, Boser has compiled a 6-0 record with five finishes, though his success comes with this caveat: His opponents own cumulative 14-15 mark. “The Bulldozer” will receive what many see as his first serious test when he defends the Unified MMA heavyweight championship against Hague, a former King of the Cage titleholder who fought five times in the UFC.
Absolute Championship Berkut 15
March 21 | Nalchik, Russia
Tokov has established himself as one of the more intriguing talents on the European stage. An effective clinch fighter who wields damaging ground-and-pound from top position once his bouts hit the mat, the 25-year-old Russian has strung together 11 wins in a row, seven of them finishes. Tokov suffered his only defeat in December 2011 -- he was 21 at the time -- when he was on the receiving end of a 67-second knockout against Magomed Magomedkerimov. Zajac, a Gracie Barra Lodz product, will enter their match on the strength of a two-fight winning streak.
Abu Dhabi Warriors 2
March 26 | Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Future stardom seemed a forgone conclusion when Nunes started his career at 11-0. While the hype surrounding the 26-year-old Swede has cooled following stoppage losses to Scott Askham and Jason Jones inside the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts organization, he remains a valued talent as he enters his prime. Nunes, who trains out of the same Allstars Training Centre that spawned Alexander Gustafsson, has delivered 12 of his 14 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Dolotenko, a Ukrainian export with 26 fights of pro experience under his belt, has recorded four straight wins, three of them first-round finishes.
Sugar Creek Showdown 25
March 28 | Hinton, Okla.
When Horn fights, hardcore MMA fans pause out of respect. “Gumby” will return to the cage to defend his Sugar Creek Showdown light heavyweight championship against Lopez, a well-traveled three-division King of the Cage titleholder with his own extensive resume. Approaching 40, Horn has tangled with a long list of mixed martial arts royalty, from Chuck Liddell and Anderson Silva to Randy Couture, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Frank Shamrock. Of his 91 professional wins, a jaw-dropping 63 have come via submission. Even more staggering, Horn has been stopped on strikes just twice -- by Liddell in 2005 and by Matt Lindland in 2006 -- in his 117-fight career.
Jungle Fight 76
March 28 | Sao Paulo, Brazil
Bilharinho will seek to become a two-division champion when he meets Fernandes for the vacant Jungle Fight featherweight title. The 24-year-old Team Nogueira standout already holds promotional gold at 135 pounds, having defeated Mario Israel by split decision for the bantamweight crown a year ago. Bilharinho has posted five consecutive wins since his pro debut against Carlos Peixoto resulted in a three-round draw in 2011. Fernandes, 32, trains out of the X-Gym in Brail. He suffered his only three losses to Edimilson Souza (twice) and Douglas Silva de Andrade, both of whom have since reached the UFC.
March 28 | Lancashire, England
Two of the best young lightweights in the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts promotion are set to collide. Off to a 6-0 start, the 21-year-old Diakiese last competed at BAMMA 17 in December, when he captured a unanimous decision from Vernon O’Neil at the Victoria Warehouse in Manchester, England. “Bonecrusher” trains out of the Ludus Magnus camp, where he teams with two-time BAMMA champion Scott Askham. McGann, 21, is the son of Wolfslair Academy founder Anthony McGann. He has finished all seven of his opponents in the first round and needed just 74 seconds to dismiss Kayvan Fallah in his BAMMA debut some three months ago.