10 June Tussles Worth Watching

By Brian Knapp Jun 6, 2014
Andrew “El Dirte” Sanchez has finished all five of his opponents. | Photo: Marshall Boyce/Sherdog.com

Editor’s note: 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.

Since its inception in December 2011, the Resurrection Fighting Alliance has served as a bridge between the regional circuit and the Ultimate Fighting Championship for both well-traveled veterans and blue-chip prospects. Pedro Munhoz, Tim Elliott, James Krause, Brandon Thatch, Sergio Pettis and Zach Makovsky are among those who have passed through its doors on their way to the Octagon.

Andrew Sanchez might someday add his name to the list.

The unbeaten Sanchez will face “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 alum Kevin Casey for the vacant Resurrection Fighting Alliance middleweight championship in the RFA 15 main event on June 6 at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Culver City, Calif.

Operating out of the Finney’s Hit Squad camp, Sanchez was a four-time All-American and two-time NAIA national champion at McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill. He has finished each of his first five opponents since transitioning to MMA, four of them inside one round. Sanchez, 26, last appeared at RFA 13 in March, when he put away Miles Marshall with second-round punches at the Pershing Center in Lincoln, Neb.

Casey, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who has competed in Strikeforce and the UFC, figures to serve as something of a litmus test for the prospect. The Inglewood, Calif., native will enter the cage on the strength of a two-fight winning streak. Casey last fought at RFA 12 in January, when he stopped Eddie Mendez with a volley of first-round elbows at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

The Sanchez-Casey title clash is but one under-the-radar matchup worth monitoring during the month of June. Here are nine more:

Scott Askham vs. Max Nunes
BAMMA Fight Night “Askham vs. Nunes”
June 7 | Southampton, England

The undefeated Askham draws Swedish prospect Nunes in the first defense of his British Association of Mixed Martial Arts middleweight championship. A Ludus Magnus representative, Askham captured the 185-pound crown with a unanimous decision over Jorge Michelan Bezerra at BAMMA 13 in September. He sports eight finishes -- including a four-, 24- and two 35-second stoppages -- among his 11 victories. Nunes has trained extensively with top UFC contender Alexander Gustafsson. The 25-year-old rebounded from his first professional setback, a submission loss to Jason Jones in September, with back-to-back wins over Ion Pascu and Boris Miroshnichenko.

Rosi Sexton vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 69
June 7 | London

After an unsuccessful two-fight stint in the UFC, Sexton returns to the promotion with which she made her name. The 36-year-old has never lost inside the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship organization, where she has compiled a perfect 6-0 record and once owned the 132-pound championship. Sexton moved up in weight to compete in the UFC, falling short in back-to-back decision losses to Alexis Davis and Jessica Andrade. An undefeated Polish flyweight prospect, Jedrzejczyk, 26, last fought under the Arena MMA banner in May, when she captured a unanimous decision over Karla Benitez in Poland.

Fransino Tirta vs. Sami Amin
One Fighting Championship 17
June 14 | Jakarta, Indonesia

Tirta signed with One Fighting Championship in February, as the Singapore-based organization continues to spread its wings in the Far East. The undefeated 33-year-old Indonesian bantamweight has secured 12 of his 15 career wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission. A September 2007 draw with Dai Shuang Hai remains the only blemish on his otherwise pristine resume. Tirta has rattled off three straight wins since, though he has not competed since he took a unanimous verdict from Chengjie Wu at a Legend Fighting Championship show nearly two years ago. Amin, a 32-year-old Egyptian Top Team representative, will enter his One FC debut on the strength of a two-fight winning streak.

Photo: Andy Hemingway/Sherdog.com

Almeida is 16-0.
Thomas Almeida vs. Caio Machado
Legacy Fighting Championship 32
June 20 | Bossier City, La.

Almeida -- who will meet Machado for the vacant Legacy Fighting Championship bantamweight crown -- looks like a short-timer on the regional MMA circuit, as the 22-year-old Chute Boxe prospect has finished all 16 of his opponents, 14 of them inside one round. He last fought at an MMA Super Heroes event in March, when he put away Vinicius Zani with fourth-round punches in his native Brazil. The unbeaten but far-less heralded Machado made his first Legacy FC appearance in January, earning a unanimous decision over Domingo Pilarte.

Leonardo Mafra Texeira vs. Wendell Oliveira Marques
Meca Fighting Championship 13
June 21 | Curitiba, Brazil

Teixeira, who competed on Season 1 of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil,” has gone on a five-fight tear since succumbing to third-round punches from Thiago de Oliveira Perpetuo at UFC 147 in June 2012. The promising 25-year-old muay Thai stylist last appeared at a Power Fight Extreme show in May, when he wiped out Antonio Marcos with a burst of knees in just 96 seconds. Marques, 31, has won 18 of his past 19 bouts, including seven in a row.

Lyman Good vs. Matt Secor
Cage Fury Fighting Championships 36
June 21 | Morristown, N.J.

A former Bellator MMA champion, Good has not fought since he beat Dante Rivera by unanimous decision at Bellator 95 more than a year ago. The 29-year-old Team Tiger Schulmann representative was eliminated during qualifying for Season 19 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” The three men to whom Good has lost -- Ben Askren, Rick Hawn and Andrey Koreshkov -- own a combined record of 47-4. Secor, 27, set foot inside the Cage Fury Fighting Championships organization for the first time in September, earning a unanimous decision against Joshua Key at CFFC 27.

Masakazu Imanari vs. Haruo Ochi
Deep 67 Impact
June 22 | Tokyo

At 38 years of age and 41 fights into his professional career, Imanari is in the twilight of an outstanding career. The former two-division Deep champion carries a long-established reputation as one of MMA’s fiercest ground fighters and sports 17 submissions among his 27 victories, including wins over Abel Cullum, Yoshiro Maeda, Mike Thomas Brown and Jorge Gurgel. Imanari last appeared at Deep 65 Impact in March, when he wound up on the wrong side of a unanimous verdict against Yuki Montoya. In 15 professional outings, Shooto veteran Ochi has never been finished.

Czar Sklavos vs. Ryuichi Miki
Vale Tudo Japan 5th
June 28 | Osaka, Japan

Sklavos and Miki will lock horns in the Vale Tudo Japan flyweight grand prix semifinals. The 32-year-old Sklavos scored the most significant victory of his career in February, when he submitted Mamoru Yamaguchi with a first-round rear-naked choke in Tokyo. He made his professional debut against fellow MMA rookie T.J. Dillashaw in March 2010, losing by unanimous decision under the King of the Cage banner. Sklavos’ only other losses have come to 1996 Olympic bronze medalist Alexis Vila and former Championship Fighting Alliance titleholder Josh Sampo. Miki, 31, has not lost since November 2011, going 5-0-1 and capturing the Shooto 123-pound championship in six outings.

Ryo Kawamura vs. Shinsho Anzai
Pancrase 259
June 29 | Tokyo

A two-division Pancrase champion, Kawamura will defend his middleweight King of Pancrase crown for the second time when he faces the once-beaten Anzai. The 32-year-old Sengoku alum last fought at Pancrase 252 in September, when he stopped Kazuo Takahashi on first-round punches in a non-title bout. Kawamura has delivered more than half (nine) of his 16 career wins by knockout or technical knockout. Anzaim, 28, will enter the match on a streak of five straight victories. The “Animal” has never lost in seven appearances within the Pancrase promotion.
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