Eddie Alvarez file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
Mixed martial arts has become a worldwide phenomenon, with notable events not only in American and Asia but in Europe and Australia, as well.
Further proof of the expansion comes in this monthly feature, as, for the first time, “10 Tussles” showcases 10 bouts from 10 different countries. The sport needs only to break through on the African continent before it completes its globalization. How about the UFC in South Africa? Judging by the current growth, it many only be a matter of time.
As always, this list does not focus on the well-promoted main event bouts you already know to watch but rather on fights from all over the planet that are worth seeing. The UFC, Strikeforce, WEC, Dream and Sengoku Raiden Championship are excluded by design.
10. Piotr Hallmann vs. Christian Eckerlin
German MMA Championship 2 “Continued,” Oct. 9 -- Herne, Germany
Poland’s top welterweight prospect will face off with an undefeated German newcomer for the vacant GMC European title. Hallmann, a Jakubowski student, used vicious ground-and-pound to knock out Kerim Abzailov in his last outing. Eckerlin, a Daniel Weichel sparring partner, did the same to seasoned veteran Sebastian Baron last month. One of them will get strapped and continue to face strong opposition, as German MMA Championship, Deutschland’s premier domestic promotion, has invested heavily in promoting up-and-coming talent.
9. Jason Young vs. Sergej Grecicho
CWFC 38 “Young Guns,” Oct. 1 -- London
Cage Warriors Fighting Championships will return to the capital for the first time in almost eight years with its stacked “Young Guns” lineup. In the marquee matchup, Young, the hard-hitting Londoner, will face off with Grecicho, a Lithuanian submission machine. Young was originally supposed to meet German high flyer Alan Omer, but the former British Association of Mixed Martial Arts champion had to pull out with a knee injury. Grecicho, a sambo specialist, jumped at the chance to fight for Cage Warriors and took the 149-pound catchweight bout on short notice.
8. Blagoi Ivanov vs. Svetoslav Zahariev
Real Pain Challenge “Collision,” Oct. 9 -- Sofia, Bulgaria
Two broken hands -- suffered in his win against the notoriously hard-headed Kazuyuki Fujita in August 2009 -- have kept Ivanov, the 2008 combat sambo world champion, out of action for more than a year. In his comeback at Real Pain Challenge “Collision,” he will face Zahariev, a European grappling champion. The CBS Respect rep trains with his brother, Emil, in Ruse, near the Romanian border, and has won his last five fights. The fact that he has never gone past the first round promises an exciting fight.
7. Brett Rogers vs. Ruben Villareal
W-1 MMA 6 “New Ground,” Oct. 23 -- Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Villareal, the makeup-wearing Native American, has made a name for himself fighting anybody at any place in true samurai spirit. The 40-year-old professional wrestler is enjoying his best run in six years, winning three out of his last four starts. He will now face Rogers, a formerly world-ranked heavyweight on the comeback trail after two knockout losses to Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem. His showing in the Emelianenko loss raised his stock, but the beating he suffered at Overeem’s hands set back Rogers. He needs a convincing win if he hopes to return to a major promotion.
6. Yoel Romero Palacio vs. Michal Fijalka
IFF “Poland vs. Germany,” Oct. 8 -- Dabrowa Gornicza, Poland
One can count athletes coming into MMA with better wrestling credentials than Palacio on one hand. Medaling more than 20 times on the world stage -- including gold at the 1999 World Championships and silver at the 2000 Olympics -- Palacio’s freestyle wrestling chops are legit. His first MMA fight ended by knockout in a mere 48 seconds. Fijalka, an iron-headed Polish grappler nicknamed “Barbell,” is rated as a borderline top 10 light heavyweight in Europe. He will confront the Cuban wrestler and figures to test his submission defense. Fijalka defeated three men, submitting two of them, in a single night two years ago.
5. Alexander Sarnavskiy vs. Victor Kuku
M-1 Challenge 21, Oct. 28 -- St. Petersburg, Russia
“Tiger” Sarnavskiy, recently championed by Sherdog.com as the top undefeated European prospect, will try to back up his hype when he takes on Kuku, a human highlight reel. “Tigri,” a Dutchman of Surinamese descent, has emerged as one of the most creative strikers in the lightweight division.
Sporting an unblemished 20-0 kickboxing record, the flamboyant Kuku made the transition to MMA in 2007 and has not looked back. Is his game well-rounded enough to withstand Sarnavskiy’s submission skills?
4. Roan Carneiro vs. Luis Ramos
Glory “World Series,” Oct. 16 -- Amsterdam, Netherlands
Glory, the promotion that emerged from the Dutch Shooto branch headed by Martijn de Jong, has come up big with its World Series events. Fighters will compete in eight-man tournaments in heavyweight kickboxing and welterweight MMA. The highlight of the MMA portion of the card will be the Brazilian clash between UFC veteran Roan Carneiro and Shooto middleweight champion Luis Ramos. “Beicao,” the latest product of Nova Uniao’s seemingly unlimited talent forge, has been on a roll lately, winning seven of his last eight fights.
3. Usama Aziz vs. Joachim Hansen
Superior Challenge 6 “Lion’s Den,” Oct. 29 -- Stockholm, Sweden
The only major European promotion to up the ante in each of its previous five offerings, Sweden’s Superior Challenge has done it again. It has secured the services of Hansen, the Dream lightweight grand prix winner and former Shooto champion, to face its superstar, Aziz, in the “Lion’s Den” main event. Aziz, a two-time Olympian for Sweden in Greco-Roman wrestling, remains one of the premier featherweight fighters in Europe. Coming off back-to-back losses, “Sami” will need to bring his “A” game against Hansen, who once again was on his most brutal behavior against Hideo Tokoro at Dream 16.
2. Satoru Kitaoka vs. Kuniyoshi Hironaka
Pancrase “Passion Tour 9,” Oct. 3 -- Tokyo
Traditional promotion Pancrase, which endured perhaps the roughest patch of its 17-year history in 2008-09 due to funding shortages, has slowly started to put together quality matches again. Its revival coincided with the return of longtime ace Kitaoka from Sengoku. “The Koala” also returned to his winning ways against Nova Uniao’s Jorge Rodrigues in June. Now, he takes on reigning Cage Force champion and UFC veteran Kuniyoshi Hironaka, who went 2-2 in Dream following his release from the UFC.
1. Eddie Alvarez vs. Roger Huerta
Bellator 33, October 21 -- Philadelphia
With Season 2 Bellator lightweight tournament winner Pat Curran on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, the promotion instead made the fight it was looking to promote all year long. Huerta will challenge Alvarez in a non-title matchup in his own backyard. Despite a stellar record, Huerta will come into the fight with Alvarez as the heavy underdog. The reigning Bellator lightweight champion, Alvarez holds notable wins over Hansen and Tatsuya Kawajiri. He has submitted his last five opponents with chokes.