Welcome to this weeks installment of Under The Radar, which sees us once again look to the week ahead in the world of MMA and highlight the fights that may have escaped your attention. Every week, we pull our selection of “fights to watch” from each corner of the globe and outline exactly why they deserve your interest.
This weekend sees action from across four different continents including Bellator 184 and UFC 216 which will go ahead despite the Las Vegas atrocities and should prove to be an emotionally charged occasion in the sport’s unofficial home.
Bellator 184 – Friday, October 6
Steve Kozola (8-0) vs. Carrington Banks (6-0) – Lightweight (155lbs)
Kicking off the weekend’s action on Friday, Bellator 184 arrives in Thackerville, Oklahoma for a card filled with intriguing match-ups but lacking in star power. Bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas defends his title against Darrion Caldwell in the main event however two up-and-coming lightweights could steal the show in the night’s featured preliminary bout.
After finishing all eight of his career wins inside the distance, including five in the first round, Steve Kozola is building a reputation as one of the deadliest finishers in Bellator’s lightweight division. Training out of Dan Henderson’s Fitness Centre, the 27-year-old remains undefeated and took only 28 seconds to dispatch of Jake Roberts in his previous appearance at Bellator 175 earlier this year.
Also making waves, his opponent Carrington Banks brings his own undefeated record into this bout. The 28-year-old Iowa native first impressed when he took part in Season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter which saw his team, Blackzilians, taking on rival gym American Top Team. During the tournament, Banks would earn a unanimous decision win over UFC fighter Sabah Homasi before joining Bellator and picking up wins over CJ Keith and Jake Roberts. Having been inactive for nearly a year, Banks will now aim to steal some of Kozola’s momentum in what will be the toughest test of their careers for both men.
EFC Worldwide 64 – Saturday, October 7
Wesley Hawkey (14-8) vs. Jay Cucciniello (7-0) – Featherweight (145lbs)
On Saturday, our attention turns towards South Africa where EFC Worldwide 64 takes place at the Sibaya Casino in Durban. In the evening’s main event, undefeated Brit Jay Cucciniello makes his promotional debut as he takes on African MMA pioneer Wesley Hawkey in an intriguing featherweight clash.
Cucciniello, who is based in the Andalusian city of Malaga, Spain alongside friend and fellow Brit Luke Barnatt, turned professional in 2010 however did not start fighting regularly until five years later. After starting his career on the UK regional scene, “Mellow Fellow” Cucciniello joined top Spanish promotion Ansgar Fighting League where he quickly became the featherweight champion. The former soldier from Peterborough has finished all of his fights inside the distance with the only negative on his record being the no contest decision he fought to with UKMMA veteran Declan Williams in June 2016.
Meanwhile, Hawkey has become one of the leading figures in African MMA after his name became synonymous with EFC after making his debut in the promotion’s infancy back in 2011. Despite having challenged for the 145lb title twice, the popular Durban native has yet to win the gold and will look to bounce back in front of his hometown fans after a loss to Welshman Azi Thomas in his previous outing.
UFC 216 – Saturday, October 7
Tom Duquesnoy (15-1) vs. Cody Stamann (15-1) – Bantamweight (135lbs)
Also on Saturday, UFC 216 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and despite flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson being on the cusp of making history and Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee going head to head in the ‘red panty night’ playoff, our focus lies elsewhere. Headlining the preliminary portion of the card is former BAMMA two-weight world champion Tom Duquesnoy who faces equally promising prospect Cody Stamann in the bantamweight division.
Duquesnoy, who has lost just once in 16 fights, has already proven himself to be one of the best bantamweights in Europe after the Frenchman asserted his dominance over the UK regional scene. After winning titles in both the 135lb and 145lb divisions and beating top European talent such as Teddy Violet, Brendan Loughnane and Alan Philpott, “Fire Kid” Duquesnoy made his long-awaited UFC debut earlier this year. The 24-year-old scored a second round KO over Patrick Williams at UFC on Fox 24, stretching his winning streak to eleven and marking himself out as ‘one to watch’ in the bantamweight division.
His opponent, Stamann, has had a similar journey, all be it on the other side of the Atlantic. Enjoying tremendous success at amateur level, “The Spartan” turned pro in 2011 and quickly won titles around the U.S. regional scene in Triple X Cagefighting among others. A five-fight win streak under the Knockout Promotions banner saw the 27-year-old earn his UFC call-up at UFC 213 where he fought to a comfortable unanimous decision win over Terrion Ware. Now dropping down to the 135lb division, Stamann and Duquesnoy will meet with identical records to see just who will emerge as the UFC’s hottest prospect at bantamweight.
Fight Nights Global 76 – Sunday, October 8
Ali Bagautinov (16-7) vs. Danny Martinez (21-8) – Flyweight (125lbs)
Rounding off the weekend in Europe, Fight Nights Global 76 takes place at the Sports Palace Olympus in Krasnodar, Russia as former UFC title challenger Ali Bagautinov takes on fellow flyweight veteran Danny Martinez in the evenings main event.
After losing four of his last five fights in a three-year run with the UFC, Bagautinov returned to his homeland of Russia and to Fight Nights Global where he previously held an 8-1 record. After a surprising KO defeat at the hands of Tyson Nam on his heralded return at FNG 64, “Puncher” quickly returned to action in June and earned a submission win over Brazilian Pedro Nobre at FNG 69 and will look to put together consecutive wins for the first time since 2014.
Meanwhile, Arizona native Martinez first came to prominence when taking part in TUF: Season 18 and despite losing his first bout to England’s Davy Grant, impressed enough to earn a UFC contract. Although his UFC run ended with a record of 1-3, “The Gremlin” won over many fans with his scrappy and high energy style and enjoyed a ‘fight of the night’ battle with Scott Jorgenson at UFC Fight Night 42. Since his release from the UFC, Martinez has enjoyed success in both ACB and Combate and will hope for a similar promotional debut in Russia.