Welcome to this week’s 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 week sees us completely spoiled for choice as smaller promotions such as Alaska FC and LFA attempt to compete with European heavyweights, KSW and ACB, for the attention of the hardcore MMA fan. Also on offer are events from the sport’s ‘big two’ as UFC arrives in Poland for UFC Fight Night 118 and Bellator 185 sees the promotional debut of former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi.
Bellator 185 – Friday, October 20
Steve Skrzat (7-9) vs. Costello van Steenis (8-1) – Middleweight (185lbs)
Although the fight card has suffered on account of late injuries to Liam McGeary and Brennan Ward, Bellator 185 goes ahead in its depleted state. Former UFC middleweight star Gegard Mousasi makes his promotional debut against Russian veteran Alexander Shlemenko in the main event, however on the evening’s preliminary portion of the card, a solid European prospect will make his Stateside debut.
Hailing from The Netherlands, 25-year-old middleweight Costello van Steenis has already made waves with his performances around the UK regional scene and has finished eight of his nine career wins inside the distance.
Van Steenis, who is of Dutch and Filippino descent and a protégé of Mousasi, grew up in Spain and would turn professional in 2014 before leaving for his native Holland to pursue the sport further.
Having collected wins over former BAMMA middleweight champion Harry McLeman and Estonian veteran Andrei Manzolo, “The Spaniard” has earned his spot on the bigger stage and will face American journeyman Steve Skrzat on his first Bellator outing.
With a record of 7-9, Skrzat isn’t likely to cause van Steenis too many problems. However, the wily veteran has enough experience that it makes him a good yardstick with which to measure the Dutchman’s potential.
UFC Fight Night 118 – Saturday, October 21
Artem Lobov (14-13-1) vs. Andre Fili (16-5) – Featherweight (145lbs)
Right, stop laughing…
On Saturday night, UFC Fight Night 118 will take place in Gdansk with Liverpool’s Darren Till making his main event debut against fan favourite Donald Cerrone. Although my choice of perennial punchline Artem Lobov‘s clash with Andre Fili for ‘fight to watch’ may shock, let me explain.
“The Russian Hammer” is perhaps best known as the proverbial Robin to Conor McGregor‘s Batman these days however it’s easy to forget some of the names he has beaten during his career and strength of his resumé.
During his time on the European regional scene, some of the scalps taken by Lobov includes former BAMMA titleholder Shay Walsh and Cage Warriors alumni Andrew Fisher and Martin Svensson.
Also, although he has lost 13 out of his 28 professional fights, the granite chinned Russian has only ever been finished three times and tends to lose out to close decisions.
Arguably, Lobov would have a much better record than 14-13-1 if not for his swashbuckling style of keeping his hands low and swinging heaters at will however that’s what makes him so damn entertaining.
Pair this with the flashy and exciting attacks of Team Alpha Male‘s Fili, who has been blowing hot and cold for the past four years, and we could have an absolute war on our hands come fight night.
ACB 73 – Saturday, October 21
Josiel Silva (7-2) vs. Kurban Gadzhiev (13-1) – Flyweight (125lbs)
Russian promotion ACB continues their rapid growth this weekend as they arrive in South America for the first time with ACB 73. Featuring their usual mix of local talent and Russian prospects, ACB has put together a strong card for the Rio de Janeiro event including an intriguing flyweight clash which contains a potential future champion in Dagestan’s Kurban Gadzhiev.
Currently riding a six-fight win streak, Gadzhiev has an unusually high finish rate for the 125lb division with 10 of his 13 wins coming inside the distance.
First making his name with Russian regional promotion Fight Stars, “The Python” made his ACB debut last year and quickly scored wins over Arsen Mikiganov and José Maria Tomé to surge up the flyweight rankings.
Gadzhiev faces a difficult challenge this weekend as takes on Brazilian up-and-comer Josiel Silva in front of the latter’s home crowd.
Silva, 26, has already won regional titles in his native Brazil, however, fell to his second defeat on his ACB debut back in May as he suffered a submission loss to former UFC and Bellator star Zach Makovsky.
He will now look to bounce back from the disappointment by upsetting the favoured Gadzhiev in Rio.
KSW 40 – Sunday, October 22
Mateusz Gamrot (13-0) vs. Norman Parke (23-6-1) – Lightweight (155lbs)
One of the year’s most hotly-anticipated rematches takes place at KSW 40 in Dublin this weekend as Northern Ireland’s Norman Parke gets a second chance to dethrone KSW lightweight champion Mateusz Gamrot following a controversial first bout at KSW 39.
Their first fight at the promotion’s summer stadium show in Poland resulted in a razor-thin decision victory for Gamrot despite many feeling the decision should have been awarded the opposite way.
An alleged finger bite by the Pole was also questioned resulting in Parke being granted a quick do-over at home in Ireland.
Prior to the title fight, Parke had enjoyed a degree of success since leaving the UFC in 2015 with wins over Andrew Fisher and Paul Redmond following in the last 12 months.
It’s that form which saw Parke earn his shot at the undefeated Gamrot and his performance in their first encounter more than deserved his second chance this time around.