10 Fights To Watch For March

By Keith Shillan Mar 6, 2019
I’ll get right to it, the month of March is stacked with great fights. Each month I look through the calendar and write down a list of possible fights for this column. Usually, I have to trim down 13 or 14 projected fights to 10. However, this month my preliminary list was 33 bouts. That is how loaded this month is.

Some of the notable events for March include five UFC events and two Bellator events plus heaps of top international and regional shows. The month gets capped off by the One Championship: A New Era card, which is the most star-studded card in the promotion's history. This month has so many exciting matchups, that not a single fight from UFC 235, which will likely be the most talent-rich UFC event of 2019, made the list.

So cancel your plans for the entire month. There will always be more birthday parties to go to, but we might not see another month of fisticuffs like this again.

As always remember these are not the 10 best fights of the month but are a list of fights that might be flying under the radar. If casual MMA fans are going to tune in to watch Jon Jones compete, I think it's safe to say a person reading this article is going to also check it out.

Here are the 10 fights during the month of March you have to tune into.

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Curtis Millender

UFC on ESPN+ 4
March 9
Wichita, Kansas

Rising welterweights dos Santos and Millender battle with the winner possibly sneaking into the Sherdog welterweight rankings.

Dos Santos dropped his first UFC fight to Nicolas Dalby but has since run off six straight victories in the Octagon. The Brazilian is a great athlete, who uses his speed to overwhelm his foes with strikes. The former Jungle Fight champion has a knack for theatrics displayed by finishing his last two opponents with a spinning hook kick and a flying knee.

Millender is a perfect 3-0 in the UFC coming off a unanimous decision over Siyar Bahadurzada. He is a long, rangy striker who works best at a distance. He uses a stinging jab and teep kicks to find his range, and then follows up with a measured right hand and flashy kicks to damage his foe.

This fight will likely come down to who can establish his desired range. Millender will want to keep it outside where he can turn it into a technical kickboxing matchup, while dos Santos is gonna want to close the distance and make it a dog fight.

Ciryl Gane vs. Raphael Pessoa

TKO 46
March 14
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Editor's note: TKO 46 has reportedly been cancelled following a wave of injuries to the card.

It isn't very often a fighter just a 2-0 record has a significant win in his career, but that isn't the case with French heavyweight standout, Ciryl Gane. In just his second professional bout, he battered fellow blue-chip prospect, Adam Dyczka to win the TKO heavyweight title. Instead of facing an easier opponent in his next matchup, Gane faces the undefeated Raphael Pessoa.

Gane is a fantastic striker, standing 6-foot-5 with a massive 83-inch reach. The very athletic heavyweight moves like a lightweight, where he darts in and out of range picking apart his opponent behind a snapping jab and crisp right hand. Gane's best skill might be his bodywork. He blasts his opponent with punches, knees, and teep kicks to the midsection.

Pessoa isn't the athlete that Gane is but does sport an impressive record The massive Brazilian tends to swing wildly trying to end the fight with a single blow. If he does connect on one of the hammers he throws, it tends to end the contest. He has won six out of his nine professional bouts by knockout.

One of these fighters is going to pick up the first loss of his career, and chances are it comes by way of knockout.

Jose Torres vs. Amir Albazi

Brave CF 22
Mar. 15
Pasay, Philippines

Jose Torres joined the UFC with an almost cult-like following. After going undefeated as an amateur, Torres picked up eight straight wins as a professional and become a Titan FC double champion (flyweight and bantamweight) before signing with the UFC. He picked up a win in his UFC debut but it was because Jarred Brooks knocked himself out. In his sophomore UFC bout, Alex Perez turned him into his personal piñata and brutally knocked Torres out. With the loss and the eventual removal of the UFC flyweight division, Torres was released from the premier MMA organization. Torres quickly signed a contract to fight for Brave FC and faces off against Amir Albazi first.

Torres’ game is centered around his relentless pace. He is constantly marching forward toward his opponent behind large combinations and the occasional takedown. The whole in his game is his recklessness. Torres gets hit a lot because he believes that his chin will hold up allowing him to step into range and crack the chin of his opponents, which Torres thinks won't hold up.

Albazi is an undefeated 25-year-old fighter from Sweden and a Bellator veteran. While Torres is likely a better overall wrestler than Albazi, the London Shootfighter might hold the grappling advantage, Albazi has won six out of his 11 bouts by way of submission. He has some of the best back takes in the flyweight division.

Though he is undefeated, Albazi is still looking for a win over a "big name" and Torres would fit that bill. Perhaps he can also steal some of Torres’ devoted fans too.

Volkan Oezdemir vs. Dominick Reyes

UFC on ESPN+ 5
March 16
London, England

Volkan Oezdemir has been on a weird ride since joining the UFC. He entered as a relative unknown and pulled off a narrow upset of Ovince Saint Preux. Then he lived up to his nickname "No Time" by knocking out Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa both in the first minute of their fights. These quick wins earned him a title shot against Daniel Cormier, where he was easily outclassed. In what many thought was a rebound fight, Oezdemir failed to get back on track, losing to Anthony Smith by third-round submission.

Oezdemir has his back against the wall and is in dire need of a win. Getting a win will be awfully tough when he faces off against, Dominick Reyes, a fighter that many prognosticators believe is the future of the division.

Reyes is 10-0 in his young career and 4-0 in the UFC. His last two wins came over ranked fighters, Jared Cannonier and Ovince Saint Preux. "The Devastator" is a long lengthy kickboxer with serious knockout power. Reyes has excellent head movement which he uses in a slip and rip striking game. The bread and butter of his game is his ability to tenderize his foe's body with powerful kicks.

The UFC light heavyweight division is so shallow that the winner of this matchup could only need one more win to be the next in line for a title shot.

Miles Johns vs. Vincent Cachero

LFA 62
March 22
Dallas, Texas

The LFA continually leads the regional American MMA scene in displaying upcoming talent. The month of March isn't any different. The main event of LFA 62 is surely to be a must watch when Miles Johns defends his bantamweight strap against Vincent Cachero. Both fighters enter the contest with an undefeated record and sitting on the cusp of being brought up to a big promotion.

Johns is a classic short stocky wrestle-boxer. He is good at shuffling into the pocket, where he unloads hard hooks and uppercuts, where he flattens his opponents. His overhand right is his best strike. Though he doesn't use it enough, Johns is a former NCAA wrestler, who has good entries, where he dumps his opponent on his back and unleashes strong ground and pound.

Cachero isn't a very technical fighter but makes up for it through grit and toughness. He is a volume striker, who constantly attacks with combinations forcing his adversary to fight off their back foot leading to Cachero to grab the clinch or trip his opponent to the canvas. One the ground, Cachero is an opportunistic grappler, who catches his opponent with submissions during scrambling exchanges.

Johns should enter this fight as the favorite, but Cachero's constant attacks make him a serious threat. The winner will establish himself as a true blue-chip prospect in the division.

Jussier da Silva vs. Deiveson Figueiredo

UFC on ESPN+ 6
March 22
Nashville, Tennessee

I liked the UFC flyweight division before it was cool to like the division. Unfortunately, it appears that the masses that suddenly support the division is too late to the party to save the division. However, until the UFC finally pulls the plug on the division, we get to watch these speedsters put on technical high paced masterpieces.

Two of the very best flyweight in the entire UFC are Jussier Formiga and Deiveson Figueiredo, who go head to head when the UFC touches down in Nashville. “Formiga” has been cemented in the Sherdog flyweight rankings for a while. He holds an 8-4 record in the UFC and has won three bouts in a row. “Formiga” is known for his grappling, where he wants to force the fight to the canvas and display his high-level BJJ game, particularly with his top game and back takes.

Figueiredo isn't as established as Formiga but has continually risen up the rankings while keeping his record without blemish. He is 4-0 in the UFC and coming off the biggest win of his career by beating former title challenger, John Moraga. While Figueiredo is also an excellent grappler also, he is more of a wrestle-boxer. When he takes his opponents down, he is looking to batter them with ground and pound. On the feet, Figueiredo is an unorthodox striker, who throws wildly and hard. He is very good at closing the distance with his strikes, where he darts into range to land a heavy fight-ending blow.

With the UFC flyweight division coming to an end, both of these Brazilian fighters are running out of time to capture the title, so neither can afford a loss. Also to make matters worse, the loser will likely be cut from the organization or forced to move up to bantamweight.

Ali Bagov vs Khusein Khaliev

ACA 94
March 30
Krasnodar, Russia

The main event of ACA 94 is nothing short of amazing. Lightweight champion Ali Bagov defends his title against the talented Khusein Khaliev.

Bagov is a grizzled veteran of the sport with 37 wins under his belt. Despite fighting professionally for close to 10 years, Bagov appears to just now be hitting his stride. "The Hulk" has won 13 out of his last 14 contests. His only loss came during that run to Abdul-Aziz Abdulvakhabov, who he defeated in his last fight.

Bagov throws punches with a ferocity where he wants to crush his opponent's skull with every blow. If he takes his opponent to the canvas, he displays a tumultuous grappling game; 22 of his 27 wins have come by submission.

Khaliev is also a grappling wizard. He doesn't have the same timing on his double-leg takedown entries that Bagov does, but finds ways to take his foes to the canvas inside the clinch with trips. The 19-1 Russian fighter has submitted 11 opponents so far.

If the fight remains on the feet, look for Khaliev to unleash his arsenal of various kicks, while Bagov counters with haymakers. If the fight hits the ground, we could be in for some really slick scrambles.

Edson Barboza vs. Justin Gaethje

UFC on ESPN 2
March 30
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Okay, so this fight probably isn't flying under the radar considering it headlines the UFC's second main card on ESPN. That said, how can I possibly leave this fight off the list? If I found a genie in a bottle, one of my three wishes would be to get to witness this fight.

We have two of the most exciting and violent fighters in the UFC trying the wreck each other for possibly 25 minutes. Barboza is a technician, using his flashy kickboxing, while Gaethje is a wild man willing to eat three punches to land one looping punch of his own.

These two have the greatest leg kicks in the lightweight division and possibly all of MMA. Though leg kicks are both of these fighters’ best tools, they dispatch them in different ways. Barboza kicks are like an ax slowly chopping down a tree, while Gaethje's are similar to a wrecking ball smashing through the side of the building.

Both of these ranked lightweights are coming off a very impressive showings in their last fight. Barboza terrorized Daniel Hooker en route to a TKO, while Gaethje floored James Vick with a single blow. While the defensive weaknesses of both these combatants will likely keep them from ever winning a UFC title, their willingness to go to war will continually make them two of the most thrilling fighters to watch.

This is the top fight of the entire month.

Jingnan Xiong vs. Angela Lee

One Championship: A New Era
March 31
Tokyo, Japan

In a world of double champions, Angela Lee is hoping to add her name to the list of fighters with the prestigious label. The One Championship's atomweight champion, Lee will move up to strawweight and attempt to take out that division's champion, Jingnan Xiong.

Xiong is a fighter out of China with a 13-1 record, riding an eight-fight winning streak. She loves to trip or throw her opponents from the clinch but does her best work on the feet. The fighter nicknamed “Panda” is a heavy-handed striker who routs her opponents with pressure and high-volume combinations causing several to fold from her onslaughts.

At just 22 years old, Lee has room to grow and it appears her striking is by each fight. While her striking leaves a lot to be desired, it is fairly competent. In the clinch though, Lee does her damage. She loves to mix in dirty boxing with trips and throws, and she has one of the most aggressive submission games in all MMA. Lee constantly causes scrambles looking for a chance to end the fight with a submission. Due to this risk-taking, she often leaves herself in a compromised position to be punched by her opponent.

With Xiong being an action fighter on the feet and Lee being one of the ground, it is virtually impossible for this fight to be boring.

Kevin Belingon vs. Bibiano Fernandes

One Championship: A New Era
March 31
Tokyo, Japan

Kevin Belingon and Bibiano Fernandes will go at it for a third time to close out the month, with the winner getting the bragging rights of winning the trilogy. Another prize that goes to the winner is the One Championship featherweight title.

Belingon won the last fight by razor close split decision when they met last November. The win was Belingon seventh straight and the most notable of his career.

Belingon is an explosive athlete who wants to keep the fight on the feet. He throws whipping hooks, snapping high kicks and flying knees trying to separate his adversary from consciousness.

Fernandes has long been considered one of the very best talents outside of the UFC. The AMC Pankration product has won 21 out of his last 23 contests, defeating notable stars like Joe Warren, Joachim Hansen and Martin Nguyen.

Fernandes has always had underrated striking, but it is his grappling that makes him elite. Fernandes is a multiple time IBJJF World Champion grappler. If he can force the fight to have a bunch of grappling exchanges, he should be sitting pretty.

Two great featherweights fighting for the third time is a must-watch match.
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