10 November Tussles Worth Watching

By Brian Knapp Nov 4, 2015
Mamed Khalidov once again has his sights set on KSW gold. | Photo: Piotr Pedziszewski



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 ...

They are perhaps the two most significant cogs in the KSW wheel, and they will finally share the same stage.

Michal Materla will defend the Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki middleweight championship against Mamed Khalidov in the KSW 33 main event on Nov. 28 at Tauron Arena in Krakow, Poland. There, Khalidov will seek to become the first two-division titleholder in the organization’s history, having already captured its 205-pound crown.

Materla has won 10 of his past 11 bouts, including three in a row. The 31-year-old has held the middleweight championship for more than three years, with successful title defenses against four UFC veterans: Rodney Wallace, Kendall Grove, Jay Silva and Tomasz Drwal. Materla last fought at KSW 31 on May 23, when he put away Drwal with third-round punches. He sports 16 finishes among his 22 professional victories, 12 of them via submission. Materla trains under the Berserkers Team banner, alongside Maciej Jewtuszko and Karol Bedorf.

Khalidov, meanwhile, will carry a 10-fight winning streak into the match. The 35-year-old Chechen last appeared at KSW 29 in December, when he took a three-round unanimous decision from Brett Cooper. Khalidov has secured 28 of his 30 career wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission -- a sustained run of excellence that includes stoppages against Maiquel Falcao, Melvin Manhoef, Jesse Taylor, Matt Lindland, Jorge Santiago, Igor Pokrajac and Tor Troeng. He owns a 15-0-2 record inside the KSW promotion and has not lost fight anywhere in almost six years.

The Materla-Khalidov championship clash is but one outside-the-major-MMA-bubble matchup worth monitoring during the month of November. Here are nine more:

Leandro Higo vs. Melvin Blumer
Resurrection Fighting Alliance 32
Nov. 6 | Prior Lake, Minn.

Higo seems to be hitting his stride. The 26-year-old Pitbull Brothers export has rattled off five straight wins, four of them by rear-naked choke submission, since his April 2012 decision loss to Iliarde Santos inside the Jungle Fight promotion. Higo made his Resurrection Fighting Alliance debut on Aug. 21, when he tapped Terrion Ware with just two seconds remaining in the third round. Blumer, 33, made his presence known in March, when he became the first man in more than a decade to stop Jeff Curran with strikes, doing the honors with a backfist 4:58 into the first round of their RFA 24 encounter.

Ben Askren vs. Luis Santos
One Championship 32
Nov. 13 | Kallang, Singapore

Askren and Santos get a do-over after their April 24 pairing resulted in a no-contest due to an eye poke. Askren’s One Championship welterweight title will once again be on the line, along with his undefeated record. A four-time NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri, where he won two national championships, Askren represented the United States at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing before transitioning to MMA. Though the 31-year-old former Bellator champion has long been criticized for his grinding, wrestling-centric style, he entered his first battle with Santos on the strength of four consecutive finishes. A veteran of more than 70 professional bouts, Santos has not tasted defeat since May 2012.

Leonardo Leite vs. Ryan Spann
Legacy Fighting Championship 48
Nov. 13 | Lake Charles, La.

The undefeated Leite will provide another litmus test for the promising Spann, a 24-year-old prospect based out of an American Top Team affiliate in Beaumont, Texas. A two-time Olympian in judo and two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, Leite got a late start in MMA but has made the most of his opportunities thus far. The 37-year-old Brazilian has won all six of his fights, finishing four of them. The 6-foot-5 Spann last competed at Legacy 42 on June 26, when he knocked out Larry Crowe in just eight seconds.

(+ Enlarge) | Photo: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com

Horn, 40, remains active.
Jeremy Horn vs. Egidijus Valavicius
Sugar Creek Showdown 28
Nov. 14 | Hinton, Okla.

A beloved figure among hardcore MMA fans, Horn will square off with Valavicius with the Sugar Creek Showdown light heavyweight championship hanging in the balance. Now 40, the man they call “Gumby” has 118 pro fights under his belt, many of them against all-time greats, from Chuck Liddell and Anderson Silva to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Frank Shamrock. Horn sports 63 submissions among his 91 career victories. Valavicius has posted an 8-2 record across his last 10 appearances, losing only to Cully Butterfield and reigning Bellator light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary.

Ed Arthur vs. Shay Walsh
BAMMA 23
Nov. 14 | Birmingham, England

Arthur will defend the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts bantamweight championship and his place as one of Europe’s top prospects when he meets Walsh at the Barclaycard Arena. A Hemel Martial Arts representative, Arthur last competed at BAMMA 20 in April, when he disposed of Alan Philpott with a second-round rear-naked choke to capture the 135-pound title. He has compiled a perfect 6-0 record, with five finishes, since he made his pro debut in July 2013. Wash, who splits his training between Lancaster MMA and Tiger Muay Thai, finds himself on a three-fight winning streak.

Bruno Azevedo vs. Jose Maria Tome
Xtreme Fighting Championships International 12
Nov. 14 | Sao Paulo, Brazil

The XFCI flyweight crown will be up for grabs when champion Azevedo squares off with Tome. Yet another promising fighter spawned by the Nova Uniao camp, Azevedo has posted a 10-1 mark across his past 11 appearances. A Shooto Americas veteran, he last fought at XFCI 9 in March, when he took a five-round unanimous decision from Allan Nascimento. Azevedo has secured nine of his 13 career victories by submission: five by armbar, two by rear-naked choke and two by arm-triangle choke. Tome carries with him a gaudy 36-5 record. The 33-year-old Team Nogueira export has won 15 of his last 17 bouts, losing only to John Lineker and Dustin Ortiz during a failed two-fight stint in the UFC.

Max Bohanan vs. Jose Mariscal
Ring of Combat 53
Nov. 20 | Atlantic City, N.J.

Bohanan might not be long for the regional scene. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Ricardo Almeida and stablemate of former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, he first made noise as an amateur in 2010, when, as an 18-year-old, he submitted Paul Felder with a triangle choke at a New Breed Fighters event. Bohanan -- a two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion and 2012 New Jersey Golden Gloves winner -- has won each of his first five professional fights, none of them lasting longer than 3:47. Mariscal has gotten off to a 2-0 start since turning pro a little more than a year ago.

Kleber Koike Erbst vs. Artur Sowinski
KSW 33
Nov. 28 | Krakow, Poland

Erbst has taken off. The 26-year-old Japanese prospect has pieced together a 14-fight winning streak that stretches all the way back to 2010, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Erbst last competed on June 27, when he took out Takhiro Ashida and former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Miguel Torres with chokes on the same day to win a Rebel Fight tournament in China. An accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, he has recorded 15 of his 18 career victories by submission. Sowinski, 28, sports 12 finishes among his 15 professional wins, including a 46-second knockout on the aforementioned Jewtuszko in November 2011.

Yoshitaka Naito vs. Junji Ito
Shooto: Professional Shooto 11/29
Nov. 29 | Tokyo

Reigning Shooto strawweight champion Naito returns to action for the first time since he retained his title with a fourth-round arm-triangle choke submission on Ryuto Sawada in July. The undefeated 31-year-old has spent his entire nine-fight career in Shooto and trains out of the same Paraestra Matsudo camp that spawned current Vale Tudo Japan titleholder Hiromasa Ogikubo. Ito will enter their clash on the strength of three straight victories. The 29-year-old last fought on May 3, when he knocked out Ken Asuka in 2:00 at a Shooto event at Korakuen Hall.

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