10 July Tussles Worth Watching

By Brian Knapp Jun 28, 2017

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 like the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Bellator MMA.


Boston Salmon vs. Ricky Turcios
Dana White’s Contender Series 1
July 11 | Las Vegas

Salmon and Turcios are two of the more intriguing talents to sign up for Dana White’s Contender Series, as the UFC president widens his prospect-mining operations. Salmon has spent his entire career competing under the Resurrection Fighting Alliance flag, having amassed a 5-1 record with the now-merged organization. The Xtreme Couture rep has not fought since he wound up on the wrong side of a disputed split decision against Zac Riley in September. Turcios, 24, has won all eight of his fights since turning pro in 2013, capturing a Fury Fighting Championship title along the way.

Yuki Kondo vs. Ikuhisa Minowa
Pancrase 288
July 2 | Tokyo

Two of Japan’s most prolific martial artists have been booked opposite one another at Differ Ariake. Kondo and Minowa have 210 mixed martial arts bouts between them, with a cumulative record of 119-74-17. That their paths have never crossed seems like something of a miracle. A former three-division Pancrase champion, the 41-year-old Kondo will enter the match on a three-fight losing streak, as he seeks his first win since November 2015. Minowa, also 41, won the 2009 Dream Super Hulk grand prix and was a semifinalist in the 2005 Pride Fighting Championships welterweight grand prix. He finds himself on the rebound following consecutive defeats to Yuya Shirai, Zilong Zhao and Justin Morton.

Rhys McKee vs. Richie Smullen
British Association of Mixed Martial Arts 30
July 7 | Dublin

The former British Association Mixed Martial Arts lightweight champion, McKee will attempt to bounce back after suffering his first professional defeat in a technical knockout loss to Tim Barnett in February. “Skeletor” touched off his career with five straight finishes, four of them of the first-round variety, before stubbing his toe against Barnett at BAMMA 28. Yet another promising prospect operating out of the SBG Ireland camp, Smullen has raced out to a 3-0 start since debuting in July. The 25-year-old last fought under the Shinobi War banner on Feb. 25, when he disposed of Jonny Saville with first-round punches in Liverpool, England.

Rousimar Palhares vs. Alexei Ivanov
Fight Nights Global 70
July 7 | Ulan-Ude, Russia

The mercurial Palhares makes the next stop on his European tour as the star attraction for the Fight Nights Global organization. A powerhouse Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with a long history of questionable behavior inside the cage, “Toquinho” has followed a four-fight winning streak with back-to-back losses to Emil Weber Meek and Michal Materla. Palhares owns submission victories over Jake Shields, Jon Fitch and David Branch, the erstwhile World Series of Fighting champion holding a special affinity for heel hooks, kneebars and other leg locks. Ivanov, 30, saw a run of seven straight wins grind to a halt in December, when he submitted to a Gennadiy Kovalev guillotine choke at Fight Nights Global 57.

Jinh Yu Frey vs. Ashley Cummins
Invicta Fighting Championships 24
July 15 | Kansas City, Missouri

Though her bid to unseat Invicta atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki proved unsuccessful due to a second-round cut, Frey did nothing but raise her profile in the Sept. 23 defeat. The 32-year-old Mohler MMA rep will take her first step towards a rematch with Hamasaki when she confronts Cummins in a three-round battle at 105 pounds. Cummins, who appeared on Season 23 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, enters the cage on the strength of a two-fight winning streak, having subdued Nicole Smith and Amber Brown in back-to-back outings.

Weili Zhang vs. Ye Dam Seo
Top Fighting Championship 15
July 22 | Seoul

The vacant Top Fighting Championship women’s strawweight crown will hang in the balance when Zhang toes the line against Seo at the KBS Sports World Arena. Zhang has surfaced as one of China’s top exports and one of the top prospects in the sport at 115 pounds. The once-beaten 27-year-old has won 13 fights in a row, 12 of them finishes. Zhang last competed at a Kunlun Fight event on June 1, when she was awarded a three-round unanimous decision over Aline Sattelmayer. Seo has won her first two fights as a pro, taking a unanimous verdict from Yoo Jin Jung before cutting through Ji Yeon Seo with a volley of third-round elbows.

Thiago Silva vs. Batraz Agnaev
Absolute Championship Berkut 65
July 23 | Ontario, California

A blue-chip talent at 205 pounds, Agnaev will take the next step in his development in an Absolute Championship Berkut main event. The 29-year-old Russian improved to 3-0 and raised some eyebrows in the process on March 11, when he needed a little more than two minutes to take care of business against the highly regarded Max Nunes at ACB 54. Agnaev has finished all three of his opponents inside one round. The well-traveled Silva has quietly pieced together a three-fight winning streak, with victories over Jared Torgeson, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and Stav Economou.

Dylan Andrews vs. Priscus Fogagnolo
Australian Fighting Championship 20
July 28 | Melbourne, Australia

Andrews returned to the MMA scene from a two-year sabbatical on April 1 and did so in spectacular fashion, as “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 semifinalist captured the Superior Challenge middleweight championship with a highlight-reel head kick knockout of Papa Abedi in Sweden. The victory snapped a three-fight losing streak for the 37-year-old New Zealander and breathed new life into his career. In his latest assignment, Andrews locks horns with Fogagnolo for the vacant Australian Fighting Championship middleweight crown. Fogagnolo has won five fights in a row, all of them finishes.

Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Hideo Tokoro
Rizin Fighting Federation 2017 World Grand Prix
July 30 | Saitama, Japan

In a battle that promises to be nothing if not entertaining, Horiguchi tackles Tokoro in the first round of the 2017 Rizin Fighting Federation bantamweight grand prix. Signed away from the UFC as a high-profile free agent, Horiguchi made his promotional debut at Rizin 5 on April 16 and picked up a unanimous decision over Yuki Motoya. The 26-year-old former Shooto champion has rattled off four straight wins since his failed bid to unseat UFC flyweight titleholder Demetrious Johnson in 2015. Tokoro has 65 professional bouts under his belt, including victories over Rumina Sato, Yoshiro Maeda (twice), Masakazu Imanari and Brad Pickett.
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