Welcome to the first ever installment of a brand new MMA Plus feature, Under The Radar, which sees us look to the week ahead in the world of MMA and highlight the fights that may have escaped your attention. Every week we will be pulling our selection of “fights to watch” from each corner of the globe and outlining exactly why they deserve your interest.
This week sees the UFC arrive in Canada for UFC 215 as Flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson attempts to break Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defences when he faces up-and-coming contender Ray Borg. Russian promotions Absolute Championship Berkut and Fight Nights Global also feature on this week’s schedule as well as EFC Worldwide from South Africa.
Fight Nights Global 73 – Monday, September 4
Diego Brandao (22-11) vs. Akhmet Aliev (15-4) – Lightweight (155lbs)
With Brazilian veteran Fabio Maldonado being set up for a fall in the evening’s sole title bout and MMA bad boy Rousimar Palhares being given an inexperienced newcomer to rip the leg off of, the pick of the night’s action is also the evening’s main event as UFC veteran Diego Brandao looks to continue his run of good form against rising lightweight contender Akhmet Aliev.
Since being released by UFC at the start of last year, Brandao has went through something of a career resurgence, with the Brazilian lightweight winning two fights on the bounce since arriving in Russia. Whats more impressive has been the nature of his wins, as “DB” handed Murad Machaev his only loss since 2012 via a second round “helicopter armbar” submission at Fight Nights Global 58 and then dispatched of Vener Galiev in just 39 seconds via TKO earlier this year at Fight Nights Global 67.
Now Brandao faces a much harder test in dangerous grappler Aliev who has lost only once since 2012. After avenging his previous defeat to Vener Galiev and besting perennial journeyman Efrain Escudero with a pair of unanimous decision wins, “The Butcher” will look to add a big name scalp in Brandao to his record. With both fighters building impressive win streaks, it won’t be surprising if the winner of this bout goes on to become the next challenger for Magomedsaygid Alibekov’s lightweight crown.
TKO 40 – Friday, September 8
Atsushi Fujino (3-0) vs. Louis Jourdain (4-1) – Bantamweight (135lbs)
Despite there being far more experienced fighters on display for Canadian regional promotion TKO MMA this week, none have shown as much promise as hot bantamweight prospect Louis Jourdain who takes on Tristar’s newest product Atsushi Fujino at TKO 40 this week.
Since TKO’s relaunch in November 2016, brothers Charles and Louis Jourdain have been making waves with their startling performances, pairing youthful enthusiasm and highly developed skill sets, marking them out as Canadian MMA’s next big thing. With his older brother remaining undefeated, “The Mad Prince” Louis has already bounced back from his first setback, a loss to the debuting Tyler Wilson, by getting the win in a “fight of the night” effort over fellow wonderkid Tony Laramie at TKO 39.
Meanwhile, Japanese bantamweight Fujino comes into this fight fresh off of a 61kg tournament win under the Pancrase banner back in his homeland. Training under Firas Zahabi at Tristar Gym in Canada, the undefeated 27-year-old will look to add to his two first round stoppages in three wins and upset the local favourite whilst putting his own name on the map this weekend in Montreal.
EFC Worldwide 63 – Saturday, September 9
Deon Brunning (3-0-1) vs. Sizwe Mnikathi (9-7-2) – Lightweight (155lbs)
Although cult favourite and part-time professional wrestler Dave Mazany features in the EFC Worldwide 63 main event, attention from this part of the world will be on British BJJ champion Deon Brunning, who faces South Africa’s Sizwe Mnikathi on the premier African promotion’s undercard this weekend.
The Bradford-born fighter, who started with Aire Valley Martial Arts and has spent time at SBG Manchester, is a BJJ black belt and is currently undefeated since transitioning to MMA. After a handful of amateur bouts, Brunning fought for ICE FC and Made 4 The Cage domestically in his first pro bouts, before adding another win to his record on his promotional debut in Africa, when he scored a second round stoppage victory over Regis Muyambo at EFC Worldwide 58.
Despite being the overwhelming favourite with Mnikathi having lost his last four bouts, Brunning will still have to be wary of complacency if he is to keep his perfect record in tact. A memorable performance this weekend along with his existing grappling credentials could see “Bonzai” earn his way to a bigger bout domestically or internationally sooner rather than later.
ACB 69: Young Eagles 22 – Saturday, September 9
Evgeny Egemberdiev (7-0) vs. Cory Hendricks (3-1) – Light-Heavyweight (205lbs)
Co-promoted by Kazakh promotion Alash Pride, this weekend’s ACB 69: Young Eagles 22, which takes place in Almaty, Kazakhstan, see’s many of their top fighters from the region showcased on a bigger stage. One of the biggest prospects on show is undefeated light-heavyweight Evgeny Egemberdiev who will face former TUF 23 competitor Cory Hendricks on the evening’s undercard.
The Kazakh fighter, 32, has finished five of his seven wins so far inside the distance, including his last four, and will be aiming to show his killer instinct against a much tougher opponent than he is used to fighting on the regional scene. Meanwhile, Hendricks will look to bounce back from his first professional career loss to Josh Stansbury at The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale in July of last year.
The American has a win over established UFC light-heavyweight Khalil Rountree while they were both in the TUF 23 house, and will hope he can use his superior submission game to cause a major upset over Egemberdiev.