Efrain Escudero (above) will face Fabricio Camoes at Tachi Palace Fights 9. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Sherdog.com’s monthly “10 Tussles” series takes readers around the globe in an effort to broaden their mixed martial arts horizons, showcasing the best fights that might not otherwise get much attention.
May brings with it the Bellator Fighting Championships Season 4 welterweight tournament final, which pits a former International Fight League titleholder against an unbeaten Olympic judoka.
As always, the list does not focus on the well-promoted main event bouts from major organizations fans 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.
Nathan Beer vs. David Lee
UCMMA 20 “Fists of Fire,” May 14 – London
Welshman Beer made a name for himself in February, when he knocked out Sengoku veteran Jeff Lawson. The boxer out of Newport has collected titles in several local shows around the United Kingdom and suffered his only two losses when he competed above his regular weight of 145 pounds. Beer will now have to prove that his high percentage knockout ratio is for real, as he faces UFC veteran Lee for the UCMMA featherweight title. Submission specialist Lee had an even start to his MMA career, but has racked up three wins in his last four fights.
Jens Pulver vs. Mike Powell
HDNet Fights presents: Titan Fighting Championship 18, May 27 -- Kansas City, Kan.
Twice in his storied career, it seemed that “Little Evil” Pulver was finished competing in MMA. His most recent series of defeats encompassed a whopping six fights. Regardless, the 36-year-old former UFC champion stood up and started 2011 on a high note with back-to-back wins. In the main event of Titan Fighting Championship’s latest effort, the 12-year veteran will take on a natural bantamweight in Powell, who moves up a weight class to face the potential future hall of famer. All three of Powell’s losses have come by way of knockout -- Pulver’s greatest strength.
Edinaldo Oliveira vs. Edson Franca
WFE 9 “Platinum,” May 21 -- Salvador, Brazil
By the looks of his record, Oliveira must already have one foot in the UFC’s Octagon. However, the well-rounded Baiano -- called “Squidward” after the “SpongeBob SquarePants” character because of his lanky frame and enormous reach -- does have one handicap. Weighing in at a mere 225 pounds, he needs to put on some serious muscle if he wants to compete with the UFC heavyweights, who on average are 25 pounds heavier. Another decisive win, this time over submission master “Conterraneo” Franca, could be enough to make the jump to the big show.
Marcus Vanttinen vs. Attila Vegh
Rock and Brawl, May 14 -- Kouvola, Finland
Finland’s Vanttinen, a little less violent version of Swedish UFC export Alexander Gustafsson, has made a name for himself by beating up jetlagged yanks on shows across “Suomi” in recent months. Hungarian all-rounder Vegh will represent a change in pattern for the 23-year-old Porvoo native. It is a dangerous fight for Vanttinen, who must keep his winning streak alive to make his own UFC dream come true. “Pumukli” successfully upset the solid duo of Aleksandar Radosavljevic and Baga Agaev within the last 15 months.
Efrain Escudero vs. Fabricio Camoes
Tachi Palace Fights 9 “The Contenders,” May 6 -- Lemoore, Calif.
Tachi Palace Fights has become one of the top five regional promotions in the United States in less than two years. Besides being a haven for the lighter weight classes -- especially the flyweights, which are prominently featured under the TPF banner -- the promotion can also tout compelling bouts between UFC veterans. Here, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 winner Escudero will face Royler Gracie third-degree black belt Camoes. “Morango” knocked out Xtreme Couture’s Steve Lopez in spectacular fashion at TPF 8 in February. You can catch this one live on Sherdog for free at 8:15 p.m. ET/5:15 PT.
Michal Materla vs. James Zikic
KSW 16, May 21 -- Gdansk, Poland
When Materla sets his foot in the ring on May 21, he will have fought more this year than in the three previous years combined. A glut of injuries had slowed down the Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt to the point where doctors questioned his ability to practice his high-performance sport anymore.
However, the Szczecin Top Team representative did not quit and made his long-awaited comeback in March, submitting Frenchman Gregory Babene in the second round.
Now “Cipao” steps it up another notch, as he faces former Cage Rage light heavyweight champion Zikic in a title eliminator for the KSW middleweight strap.
Tommy Depret vs. Siyar Bahadurzada
Glory World Series Finals, May 28 -- Moscow
Belgium’s Depret may only have come into the Glory welterweight tournament as filler, but the well-rounded 31-year-old more than earned his spot with back-to-back submissions over UFC veterans David Bielkheden and Roan Carneiro. In the $150,000 final, he is once again the underdog, as he faces reigning Shooto light heavyweight champion and Sengoku veteran Bahadurzada. All eyes are on the Afghan muay Thai specialist after he lashed out against Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker over the promotion’s decision not to use him despite his signing a four-fight contract.
Frank Trigg vs. John Phillips
BAMMA 6 “Kong vs. Ninja,” May 21 -- London
Aspiring UK promotion British Association of Mixed Martial Arts continues to use decision merchant Watson as its shingle fighter, even though it has someone much more spectacular up its sleeve in Phillips. Few people have the right to compare themselves to Mike Tyson, but Welshman Phillips hits like a freight train, just like his famous hero. On the other end of his sledgehammer punches is beloved veteran turned color commentator Trigg. “Twinkle Toes” is fighting for the first time in six months.
Karo Parisyan vs. Ryan Ford
MMA Live 1 “Parisyan vs. Ford,” May 19 -- London, Ontario, Canada
Another troubled fighter, former top welterweight contender Parisyan, gets the call here. The Armenian judoka has battled anxiety problems the last two years. Even though he managed to get back into the UFC, he gave an uninspired showing against Dennis Hallman in November and was released for a second time. The fight against Ford, one of the major stars to come out of Canada’s Maximum Fighting Championship promotion, can make or break the Parisyan’s career. A win for Ford, however, could propel the 29-year-old Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, native onto the big stage.
Jay Hieron vs. Rick Hawn
Bellator 43, May 7 -- Newkirk, Okla.
Bellator plans to spoil its fans with several great fights this month: Patricky Freire vs. Michael Chandler, Dan Hornbuckle vs. Lyman Good and Hector Lombard vs. Falaniko Vitale. Still, the most competitive fight promises to be the welterweight tournament final between Hieron and Hawn. “The Thoroughbred” was the pre-tournament favorite but has struggled to live up to expectations, while Hawn started well against “Judo” Jim Wallhead, only to survive a massive scare against Season 1 tournament winner Good. Hieron is riding a nine-fight winning streak into the final; Hawn is undefeated at 11-0. One streak has to end.
Contact Tim Leidecker at www.facebook.com/Rossonero1 or follow him on twitter @Rossonero1.