Welcome to another 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 Russian promotion, ACB, return to the UK with their massive “Battle of Britain” middleweight showdown between two of the UK’s biggest stars, Luke Barnatt and Scott Askham at the Sheffield Arena in Sheffield, England. Also, Bellator 183 sees the promotional debut of heavyweight veteran Roy Nelson with more action coming from the U.S. and Eastern Europe throughout the weekend.
LFA 23 – Friday, September 22
Andrea Lee (7-2) vs. Jamie Thorton (4-3) – Woman’s Flyweight Title (125lbs)
Since Legacy FC and Resurrection Fighting Alliance merged at the start of the year, LFA has become a consistent breeding ground for the newest and brightest talents in the sport before they make the leap to the UFC. This week, LFA 23 arrives at the Horseshoe Casino & Hotel in Bossier City, Louisiana and features two of their most promising champions making their first title defences.
With TUF 26 recently kicking off with the aim of crowning the UFC’s inaugural women’s flyweight champion, one notable name missing from the cast list was LFA’s 125lb champ Andrea Lee. Arguably one of the best flyweights in the world and with accolades in Muay Thai, BJJ and boxing, “KGB” was considered a shoo-in for the tournament however missed out after a back injury kept her from attending the open tryouts. Now, the 28-year-old will look to strengthen her claim for a place in the UFC’s newest division post-TUF with an impressive performance in her title defence against U.S. Army veteran Jamie Thorton.
Although Thorton is a tough competitor, she is the older fighter and much less experienced than the champion. Coming off two losses, Thorton would have to cause a massive upset in order to grab the gold however it’s a bout worth watching with an emphatic performance expected from future UFC star Lee.
M-1 Challenge 83 – Saturday, September 23
Vadim Malygin (11-2-1) vs. Aleksander Doskalchuk (7-2) – Flyweight (125lbs)
Russian promotion M-1 Global bring the first international MMA event to the Republic of Tatarstan this weekend as M-1 Challenge 83 takes place in Kazan, Russia. Although two-time Bellator champion Brandon Halsey takes on Mikhail Ragozin in the evening’s light-heavyweight main event, our focus falls on the crowning of the promotion’s first-ever flyweight champion as Grand Prix finalists Vadim Malygin and Aleksander Doskalchuk go head-to-head for the gold.
With both fighters stepping down from the bantamweight division, the overwhelming favourite is the 23-year-old Malygin, otherwise known as “Bad Santa.” The popular Russian has finished nine of his eleven wins inside the distance, however, had to work hard for his last win at M-1 Challenge 78 in a close majority decision over Fabricio Sarraff.
His opponent, Ukrainian national champion Doskalchuk, also boasts an impressive finish rate and is on a four-fight win streak heading into the bout. The 27-year-old will hope to cause an upset after besting Son Le Binh by decision in his promotional debut to earn this opportunity.
ACB 70 – Saturday, September 23
Kane Mousah (9-1) vs. Alex Enlund (14-2) – Lightweight (155lbs)
As well as the all-British main event, ACB 70 arrives in Sheffield this weekend boasting a card packed full of Britain and Europe’s top young prospects including Alex Enlund who returns after a year out, to take on Kane Mousah in a lightweight bout on Saturday night.
Having won the Cage Warriors featherweight title in 2014 and riding a seven-fight win streak, South Shields’ fighter Enlund seemed to be rocketing to stardom after signing with the UFC in 2016. However, the 30-year-old was pulled from his promotional debut due to a suspect lesion on his brain that was detected by pre-bout scans. With his career hanging in the balance, Enlund had to endure a tough and testing year before he was medically cleared to return to the cage.
Meanwhile, Mousah has a comeback story of his own after the North West fighter’s career seemed all but over when he was jailed for nine years after a firearms conviction in 2004. “The Danger” turned his back on the gang culture, getting his life back on track upon his release in 2008. Since then, Mousah has become one of the most dangerous lightweights on the British regional circuit and won his promotional debut via unanimous decision over Lewis Monarch at ACB 54: Supersonic earlier this year.
With both fighters holding excellent finishing ratios, this bout promises fireworks and will see the pair continue to move further forward from their personal problems of the past.
Bellator 183 – Saturday, September 23
Paul Daley (39-15-2) vs. Lorenz Larkin (18-6) – Welterweight (170lbs)
Rounding off the weekend’s action on Saturday night, Bellator 183 comes to San Jose, California as former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson hopes his fortunes improve against Patricky Freire after a mixed start to his Bellator career.
Also on the card is a bout worthy of headlining any event as welterweight contenders Paul Daley and Lorenz Larkin meet in a bad-tempered clash. The prolific strikers get a chance to put themselves back in the title picture at the expense of each other after setbacks against Rory MacDonald and Douglas Lima respectively. Text messages exchanged between the two have stoked the flames ahead of the bout and some bad blood has crept in as we get closer to fight night with Brit Daley being dismissive of Larkin’s abilities and “Da Monsoon” saying he’s never disliked anyone as much as Daley.
With Daley’s reputation as a knockout artist, Larkin’s precision striking and a wealth of experience between them, this has ‘fight of the year’ candidate written all over it if it lives up to expectations.