10 September Tussles Worth Watching

By Tim Leidecker Sep 3, 2010
The month of September is every MMA fan’s paradise. It doesn’t matter where you are, chances of a quality event happening relatively close by are good.

The only place where things are not looking all too bright is Japan. For the first time since changing the makeup of this column earlier this year, no tussle from the Land of the Rising Sun managed to make the list. Is this a realistic picture of the MMA marketplace in Japan for the summer of 2010? And if it is, is it just a snapshot in time or a forerunner of things to come?

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. Falaniko Vitale vs. Kala Hose
X-1 “Heroes,” Sept. 11 -- Honolulu, Hawaii

A classic grappler against striker confrontation will headline X-1’s 13th show. UFC veteran Vitale returned from an 18-month layoff this March to submit fellow former UFC fighter Kalib Starnes at X-1 “Champions 2.” Hose’s star rose during a five-round war with Phil Baroni in March 2008. Baroni was just coming off a successful stint in Japan and a high-profile title fight against Frank Shamrock, and “Kolohe” managed to stop “The New York Bad Ass” midway through the final round. Has Hose finally improved his submission defense enough to survive Vitale’s ground attack?

9. Igor Araujo vs. Lincon Rodrigues
Strength & Honor Championship 3, Sept. 18 -- Geneva, Switzerland

Two of the best Brazilians on the European circuit will battle each other for the SHC welterweight title. Defending champ Araujo, a longtime teammate of UFC lightweight contender Rafael dos Anjos at Gracie Barra Caveirinha in Belo Horizonte, has competed at pretty much every major show across Europe and is one of the “aces” for SHC. Rodrigues caught fight fans’ attention when he made the semifinals of a $20,000 open-weight tournament in Vienna, Austria, last year as a welterweight. The muay Thai specialist was eventually stopped by Bellator heavyweight Damian Grabowski.

8. Andreas Kraniotakes vs. Björn Schmiedeberg
Respect FC 4, Sept. 11 -- Herne, Germany

EA Sports MMA heavyweight Andreas Kraniotakes will try to bounce back from the freak knockout he suffered at WFC 10 in March. To maximize his chances against former 300-pounder Schmiedeberg, “Big Daddy” has headed off to San Diego for his first professional training camp. The five-round fight will not only headline Germany’s best MMA event at the moment, it will also be for the vacant Respect heavyweight championship. Can the “Gazelle“ extend his win streak to five and derail the Kraniotakes hype train or will the Greek-German emerge as the best heavyweight in Germany?

7. Eduardo Pamplona vs. Edilberto de Oliveira
Jungle Fight 22, Sept. 18 -- Sao Paulo, Brazil

Is there a curse on muay Thai ace Pamplona? Last month his third consecutive fight was cancelled at the last moment. Now Jungle Fight head honcho Wallid Ismail has taken matters into his own hands and made Pamplona against Edilberto “Crocota” the main event of Jungle Fight 22. Hometown hero Pamplona will have a significant home field advantage against Crocota. The question in this fight will be whether the former Minotauro student will be brave enough to stand and bang with Pamplona or rather fall back on his formidable submission skills.

6. Edson Barboza vs. Mikhail Malyutin
Ring of Combat XXXI, Sept. 24 -- Atlantic City, New Jersey

Tipped to be a future great by many experts, The Armory’s Edson Barboza will return to Atlantic City for the 31st edition of Ring of Combat. Facing the explosive striker will be former Red Devil team member and M-1 veteran Malyutin. The 28-year-old Malyutin will be the first real test for the young Brazilian, who has knocked out most of his opponents inside the first round so far. Malyutin originally comes from a boxing background, but he also has a solid submission game he has used to choke out Finland’s Niko Puhakka among others.

5. Tom Watson vs. Jesse Taylor
MFC 26 “Retribution,” Sept. 10 -- Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Tom “Kong” Watson will try to double-dip this month. While the sporting challenge will be his Sept. 10 fight against Jesse Taylor in Canada, he will receive the big payday as he takes on kickboxer-turned-tabloid star Alex Reid in his home country of England two weeks later. There just may be one thing he hasn’t reckoned with: Taylor. Even though “JT Money” has been hot and cold in recent months, he is definitely strong enough to lay a beating on Watson that could prevent a meeting with Reid. How ironic would that be after the “Reidernater” pulled out of their May fight with an injury?

4. James Zikic vs. John Phillips
BAMMA 4, Sept. 25 -- Birmingham, England

Although Reid vs. Watson is the fight that gets all the headlines for this show, the most competitive matchup on the card will be the middleweight duel between the durable James Zikic and power puncher John Phillips. Zikic, who can also boast five pro boxing matches, has gone the distance with Fabricio Werdum and Vitor Belfort in his MMA career. Welshman Phillips comes from an amateur boxing background as well. His pugilistic skills have transitioned even better to MMA than Zikic’s, as he has managed to take 11 of his total 12 career wins by way of knockout.

3. Daniel Tabera vs. Jan Blachowicz
KSW 14 “Judgment Day,” Sept. 18 -- Lodz, Poland

The final of the latest KSW light heavyweight tournament will be contested between Spanish M-1 and Bellator veteran Daniel Tabera and KSW Team member Blachowicz. Blachowicz, who has already had to turn down multiple offers from big promotions stateside because of his commitments to KSW, is seen as the next big thing to come out of Poland and the heir of Mamed Khalidov at 205 pounds. The only thing that has managed to slow down Blachowicz in his career has been his injury vulnerability. Knee and shoulder problems kept him on the shelf for all of 2009.

2. Paul Daley vs. Jorge Masvidal
Shark Fights 13, Sept. 11 -- Amarillo, Texas

A highly explosive welterweight matchup is one of the featured bouts at Shark Fights 13. The fight card is a “who’s who” of MMA free agents at the moment. Daley, the sport’s current bad boy, rebounded from his outburst against Josh Koscheck with a hard-earned third-round submission stoppage of Brazilian Daniel Acacio in July. Masvidal, equipped with plenty of experience in Strikeforce, Sengoku and Bellator and long tipped for greatness at 155 pounds, will be returning to welterweight against Daley.

1. Joe Soto vs. Joe Warren
Bellator Fighting Championships 27, Sept. 2 -- San Antonio, Texas

Anything but two regular Joe’s have an appointment for the promotion’s featherweight championship at Bellator 27. Champion Joe Soto will not only put his belt but also his undefeated record of 9-0 on the line as he takes on 2006 Greco-Roman wrestling world champion Joe Warren. In previous bouts, Soto has used his own formidable Greco-Roman background to shut down and beat up his opponents. However, none of his previous opponents had anywhere near the credentials that the Dream featherweight grand prix semifinalist brings to the table.
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