10 September Tussles Worth Watching

By Brian Knapp Sep 4, 2016

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.

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Never has violence seemed like more of a forgone conclusion.

Two-time K-1 World Max champion Andy Souwer returns to the mixed martial arts arena opposite UFC veteran Daron Cruickshank at Rizin Fighting Federation 2 on Sept. 25 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. It will mark the second event Rizin Fighting Federation in 2016, as the organization continues in its attempt to fill the major Japanese MMA void left by the fall of Pride Fighting Championships, Dream and Sengoku.

Souwer, 33, made his professional MMA debut under the Rizin banner on New Year’s Eve, when he knocked out Yuichiro Nagashima with punches 5:29 into the first round. The Dutchman has compiled a 159-19-1 record as a kickboxer, including wins over Masato Kobayashi, Buakaw Por Pramuk and Nieky Holzken.

A qualifier on Season 15 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, Cruickshank parted ways with the UFC following consecutive losses to Beneil Dariush, James Krause and Paul Felder. Victories over Yves Edwards, Erik Koch and Anthony Njokuani anchor the 33-year-old Michigan Top Team’s resume. Cruickshank holds the rank of black belt in taekwondo and wrestled collegiately at Olivet College, a Division III institution in Olivet, Michigan.

The Souwer-Cruickshank battle is but one under-the-radar matchup worth monitoring during the month of September. Here are nine more:

Andre Harrison vs. Alexandre Bezerra
Titan Fighting Championship 41
Sept. 9 | Coral Gables, Florida

Harrison has little left to prove at the regional level, as his perfect 13-0 record can attest. The 28-year-old retained his Titan Fighting Championship featherweight crown under unfortunate circumstances at Titan 39 on June 10, when a gruesome leg injury stopped challenger Deivison Francisco Ribeiro in his tracks. Wins over Steven Siler, Desmond Green, Kurt Holobaugh, Cody Bollinger and Jeff Lentz anchor the Harrison resume. He trains out of the Bellmore Kickboxing Academy in New York and has already made known his desire to compete at UFC 205 on Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden. First, Harrison must defend his championship against Bezerra, a Bellator veteran and former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder.

Boston Salmon vs. Zac Riley
Resurrection Fighting Alliance 43
Sept. 9 | Broomfield, Colorado

One of the sport’s most promising bantamweight prospects will be on display when Salmon collides with Riley inside the Resurrection Fighting Alliance. An Xtreme Couture representative, Salmon has raced out to a 5-0 start as a professional and authored four finishes in the process. The 25-year-old Hawaiian last competed at RFA 33 in December, when he knocked out Keith Carson 21 seconds into the third round. Riley, 23, will enter the cage on a two-fight winning streak. He raised eyebrows in January, when he took a unanimous decision from “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” Season 1 semifinalist Hugo Viana.

Alexey Kunchenko vs. Maxim Grabovich
M-1 Challenge 70
Sept. 10 | Syktyvar, Russia

Kunchenko will put his unbeaten record and M-1 Global welterweight championship on the line against Grabovich in the M-1 Challenge 70 main event. The 32-year-old Russian muay Thai stylist boasts 12 finishes -- 11 of them by knockout or technical knockout -- among his 13 career victories. Kunchenko laid claim to M-1 Global gold on April 9, when he stopped Murad Abdulaev on fourth-round punches. Grabovich has won back-to-back bouts since suffering his lone professional defeat a little more than a year ago in a majority decision to Aliaskhab Khizriev.

Rany Saadeh vs. Andy Young
British Association of Mixed Martial Arts 26
Sept. 10 | Dublin

With each performance, Saadeh puts more and more distance between himself and a September 2012 submission loss to Pietro Menga. The 23-year-old German will defend his British Association of Mixed Martial Arts flyweight championship against Young in the BAMMA 26 co-main event. Saadeh finds himself on a run of six straight wins, having extended his streak with a three-round unanimous decision over Shaj Haque in November. Young was under .500 before his current three-fight winning tear took him to 9-7.

Paddy Pimblett vs. Johnny Frachey
Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 78
Sept. 10 | Liverpool, England

The vacant Cage Warriors Fighting Championship featherweight title will hang in the balance when Pimblett meets Frachey at the Echo Arena. Pimblett will enter the bout on the heels of seven straight wins. The 21-year-old Next Generation UK rep last fought at Cage Warriors 77 on July 8, when he submitted Teddy Violet with a second-round rear-naked choke. The once-beaten Pimblett has secured eight of his 11 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Frachey, 32, last appeared on March 12, when he submitted to a Luis Alberto Nogueira arm-triangle choke in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Akhmat Fight Show bantamweight grand prix. The loss snapped a five-fight winning streak for the Frenchman.

Ayaka Hamasaki vs. Jinh Yu Frey
Invicta Fight Championships 19
Sept. 23 | Kansas City, Missouri

Hamasaki will risk her Invicta Fighting Championships atomweight title in a showdown with Mohler MMA’s Yu. A protégé of the great Megumi Fujii, Hamasaki captured the Invicta championship with a split decision over Herica Tiburcio on July 9, 2015 and successfully defended it by submitting Amber Brown with a third-round armbar in March. The 34-year-old judo black belt holds other notable victories against Seo Hee Ham (twice) and Mizuki Inoue. The once-beaten Frey, 31, landed her shot at the title with a unanimous verdict over Tiburcio six months ago at Invicta 16.

Levan Makashvili vs. Sean Soriano
CES MMA 38
Sept. 23 | Mashantucket, Connecticut

A two-time CFFC champion who went 1-1-1 in a three-fight stint with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Makashvili has set up shop in the Rhode Island-based CES MMA organization. The 27-year-old next takes aim at fellow UFC castaway Soriano in a featured attraction at 155 pounds. Makashvili made his promotional debut at CES MMA 36 on June 10 and pocketed a unanimous decision over Ryan Sanders. Soriano, 26, trains out of the star-studded Blackzilians camp. He started his career 8-0 but has lost four of five since.

Hong Man Choi vs. Siala-Mou Siliga
Road Fighting Championship 33
Sept. 24 | Seoul

The freakshow force is strong with this one, as the monstrous 7-foot-2, 350-pound Choi will lock horns with the 45-year-old “Mighty Mo” in the 2016 Road Fighting Championship open weight grand prix final. Choi, 35, punched his ticket to the tournament championship by disposing of Aori Gele and Quanchao Luo in a combined 4:50. Those were the first wins the South Korean giant had recorded since he struck Jose Canseco into submission under the Dream banner in 2009. Siliga advanced to the final with a first-round technical knockout against Mu Bae Choi and a neck crank submission Hyun Man Myung.

Kron Gracie vs. Hideo Tokoro
Rizin Fighting Federation 2
Sept. 25 | Saitama, Japan

The latest man to shoulder the legacy of MMA’s First Family, Gracie is a two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion who struck gold at the 2013 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships. The 28-year-old son of Rickson Gracie, he breezed through his first two MMA bouts inside one round. A 63-fight veteran with wins over Rumina Sato, Masakazu Imanari, Yoshiro Maeda, Brad Pickett and Alexandre Franca Nogueira, Tokoro represents Gracie’s first serious test in mixed martial arts. The 39-year-old has not been submitted since Joachim Hansen did the honors with a triangle choke nearly six years ago.

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