The 10 best MMA Fights of the Weekend – Volume 11
Every week, I will be providing the 10 best MMA fights of the weekend.
Vitaly Minakov has been hyped be some as the second coming of Fedor Emelianenko. While the hype is warranted, Minakov has a lot of proving to do before meriting comparisons to Fedor. That journey towards legitimacy begins this weekend as Minakov faces his stiffest test to date in Cheick Kongo. Kongo is no longer the force he once was, but he has still held his own against most mid-level competition (Matt Mitrione, Shawn Jordan). Kongo has not fared well against stiffer opposition though, and by most accounts Minakov is just that. Kongo’s chin is extremely questionable, though he has pulled out some miracles (Pat Barry).
Cris “Cyborg” may get the most headlines of any women’s fighter outside the UFC, but Holly Holm is quickly gaining traction as a future threat to Ronda Rousey’s UFC title. Holm’s representatives recently sat down with the UFC and attempted to strike a deal, but Holm’s requests are still too rich for the UFC’s preferences. Holm is a top-tier talent, but outside of diehard boxing and MMA fans, the mainstream media has no clue who she is. Holm’s representatives will hopefully realize that fact and lower their asking price. If Holm signs and does what she is supposed to do, the money will take care of itself. In the meantime, Holm steps back into the Legacy FC cage where the she faces another outmatched opponent.
Satoshi Ishii was once thought to be Japan’s future star in MMA following his Olympic Judo career. Fast forward nearly 5 years, and Ishii’s career has gone nowhere. Yes, he’s making money by fighting in Japan, but that has done little to prove he can hang with the world’s best. Ishii has primarily won fights over aging former UFC fighters (Monson, Sylvia, Rizzo), but this weekend’s opponent should prove to be a legitimate test. Philip De Fries also fought in the UFC, but after a 2-3 stint, he was released in 2013. De Fries is no slouch though. He’s only 27 years old, trains out of Alliance MMA and has possesses a legit ground game. De Fries recently submitted Brett Rogers in the 1st round, and he will likely look to test Ishii’s submission defense early. Ishii may prefer to keep this fight standing, though it remains to be seen if has the technical skills to out-strike De Fries.
Guram Gugenishvili finally makes his return to action after nearly 16 months. Guram will curiously be fighting outside of the M-1 promotion, which may mean he’s free and clear from the promotion that once hyped him as the next big thing in the Heavyweight division. Last time we saw Guram, he was struggling with injuries and conditioning as he dropped back-to-back fights against Kenny Garner. Hopefully, Guram has healed up, and at 27 years old, he likely still has an opportunity to reach his potential. His opponent, Tony Bonello, has only competed once in the last 4 years, losing to Rolles Gracie. This has all the makings of a showcase fight for Guram.
Andrey Koreshkov was the odds-on favorite to win this season’s Bellator Welterweight tournament. He’s one fight away from the Finals as he faces off against Sam Oropeza. Oropeza was originally scheduled to face Joe Riggs, but Riggs went down with an injury and was replaced with Brazilian striker Cristiano Souza. Oropeza pulled off an upset in some viewers’ eyes. He will have his work cut out for him in this matchup as Koreshkov is a deadly striker that is looking to redeem himself from last season’s title bid against Ben Askren.
Marcin Tybura is ranked by many sites as the top Heavyweight prospect in the world. Tybura is by no means an elite talent, but in a somewhat bare Heavyweight division, Tybura’s 9-0 record and capable ground game have made him a fighter to watch out for. Tybura has gone 3-0 since joining M-1 in 2013, while also winning their M-1 Heavyweight Grand Prix. He was originally scheduled to face Damian Grabowski for the M-1 Heavyweight title, but he will instead face Croatian Maro Perak. Perak is talented in his own right, but he will have his work cut out for him keeping up with the much larger, younger Tybura.
Marat Gafurov will defend his M-1 Featherweight title against fellow Top 25 prospect Lee Morrison. Gafurov is currently my #2 ranked Featherweight prospect. Gafurov will look to extend his undefeated streak to 9 against Morrison, who is also riding a steady stream of momentum as he’s won his last 8 fights. Morrison earned the title shot be defeating veteran Mikhail Malyutin via split decision in his M-1 debut last October.
Ryan Scope is on the fast track towards a UFC contract. He is not shying away from fellow top talent in the region as he was recently scheduled to face fellow Top 25 prospect Walter Gahadza. Prior to that he took out TUF Smashes contestant Luke Newman via 1st round submission. Scope’s opponent, Ali Arish, has an impressive 20-2 record, though some have called him a boring fighter due to his wrestling-centric style. Scope has the physical tools and speed to defeat Arish, but it should be a good test for him before he eventually signs on with one of the leading promotions stateside.
Max Nunes will be competing for the second straight time as a Middleweight after going 11-1 as a Light Heavyweight. Nunes has all the physical tools of a future UFC contender, but he still has a ways to go with refining his talents towards reaching that status. His opponent seems to be a striker on paper, but he’s lost most of his fights against stiffer competition. Nunes should be able to use his well-rounded skills to win this, but Nunes has been known to get himself in trouble when getting in firefights.
Light Heavyweight prospects are hard to come by these days, and this Bellator bout should serve as a good test for which prospect deserves a step up in competition. Oezdemir has some hype behind him after going 9-0 on the European regional circuit. He made his Bellator debut in 2013, easily finishing his opponent via 1st round TKO. Kelly Anundson has been on the prospect radar for a number of years due to his wrestling and affiliation with American Top Team. Anundson’s name recently popped up on the announced roster list for The Ultimate Fighter 19, but it’s obvious now that he must have lost his preliminary fight to get into the TUF house. Nonetheless, this is a big opportunity for Anundson to finally breakthrough on a big stage. The problem is Oezdemir has looked downright dominant in his last few fights.
Photo Credit: Bellator