Worldwide MMA Preview – KSW 32: Road to London and Pancrase 271

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This week is quality over quantity with two excellent cards set to take place.

KSW 32: Road to Wembley from London, England is the Polish promotions first trip outside of the country and they have brought their stars with them. The main attraction is Mariusz Pudzianowski, multiple times World’s Strongest Man winner and 9-1 mixed martial artist. Pudzianowski is a big star in Poland and he draws massive television ratings whenever he fights but he is more than just a freak show attraction at this point in his career. He has cut significant weight since his time as a strongman and seems to be developing a decent, if not great MMA game. He has beaten former UFC fighters such as Sean McCorkle and Oli Thompson and in his last outing he knocked out Rolles Gracie within a minute. His opponent this weekend is Australian kickboxer Peter Graham. Graham is well past his prime at this stage in his career and comes into the fight on the back of two defeats but he has the striking credentials to give Pudzianowski an interesting fight here.

The card also features two title fights. The first of which is a light heavyweight rematch between Goran Reljic and Tomasz Narkun. Reljic is the current champion and the more experienced competitor having competed four times in the UFC. Reljic won a split decision over former Bellator champion Atilla Vegh in his last fight. Narkun improved his record to 10-2 in his last fight with a choke Karol Celinski. The first fight between these two was incredibly tight with Reljic getting the nod in a majority decision so I expect another close fight.

The other title fight on the card is at welterweight and it features Jesse Taylor and Borys Mankowski. Taylor competed on TUF 7 and has since fought all around the world, including a victory over Chris Fields in Dublin. Taylor has a 29-12 record and is currently on a two fight winning streak. Mankowski, the current champion is 17-5-1 at 26 years of age and is unbeaten since 2012. He is a talented grappler in his own right which he hopes can neutralise Taylor’s wrestling.

Also on the card are two fights featuring English heavyweights. James McSweeney takes on Marcin Rozalski in a battle between accomplished kickboxers. Both fighters are coming into the fight off losses but this one fight you can expect to see a finish in as they have a combined 90% finish rate. In the other heavyweight fight Oli Thompson takes on Michal Wlodarek. Thompson previously competed in the UFC but right now he is going through one of the best patches of form in his career with three wins a row, the latest of which was against Chris Barnett in Japan which has got him to the final of the IGF heavyweight grand prix where he will face Fernando Rodrigues Jr. Before that though he must fight the undefeated Wlodarek, Wlodarek is only 26 years old and has already amassed a 7-0 MMA record with four finishes.

Another interesting tussle on this card is the lightweight between Poland’s Mateusz Gamrot and Russia’s Marif Piraev. Both of these young men are undefeated in MMA with Piraev holding a 13-0-1 record while Gamrot sports a 9-0 mark. Gamrot began as a wrestler but has added a good stand-up game in recent fights; he holds a win over Andre Winner with five of his victories coming inside KSW. Piraev is also a talented grappler with seven of his wins coming by way of submission. He fought most of his career in the Fight Nights organisation in Russia. This is a very interesting fight between two of the finest young lightweight fighters in Europe.

Sunday morning brings us to Tokyo, Japan for Pancrase 271 which will stream live on UFC Fight Pass. It is headlined by a lightweight title fight between Satoru Kitaoka and Kazuki Tokudome. Toukudome is not long removed from a stint in the UFC, where he went 1-4 including a loss to Norman Parke. Since returning to Pancrase he has won two in a row to bring his record to 14-6-1. Kitaoka is a veteran of the Japanese scene who made his debut for Pancrase back in 2000, he has also competed for stellar Japanese promotions such as Sengoku and Dream in his time. Now his record stands at 37-13-9 on the back of five consecutive victories. Nobody would confuse Kitaoka for a knockout artist as he has never finished a fight by KO/TKO in his lengthy career but he is a fantastic grappler, with 17 of those victories coming by way of submission.

The other title fight on the card is for the vacant strawweight belt and it pits Hiroyuki Abe against Mitsuhisa Sunabe. The strawweight division is more developed in Japan than anywhere else in the world. Both of these men have previously fought Muay Thai stalwart Rambaa Somdet, with Sunabe coming out victorious but Abe being defeated. Sunabe is on a 12 fight winning streak and is undefeated since 2011. Abe is one of the most talented grapplers in the division and he came through Takuya Eizumi and Masakazu Utsugi in recent fights to get this opportunity.

Former Bellator fighter Luis Nogueira is set to make his second consecutive trip to Japan. He was unsuccessful last time out as he was defeated by Masakatsu Ueda which broke a run of six fights without defeat.

Speaking of Masakatsu Ueda, he will also be competing on this card as he battles Kosuke Terashima. Ueda holds a (razor close) decision victory over Kyoji Horiguchi as well as victories against Marcos Galvao,Jens Pulver,  Rumina Sato and Royler Gracie. He entered the Nogueira coming off two defeats in a row for the first time in his career as he was bested by Bibiano Fernandes and Victor Henry but now he is back on track.

Finally, two true veterans of the sport will battle it out as Kenji Kawaguchi takes on Yuki Kondo. With a combined age of over 80 and 121 fights between them, you can’t get much more experienced than these two. Kondo made his debut for Pancrase in 1996 and at one point he challenged Tito Ortiz for the UFC middleweight (before the modern weight classes were introduced, it was competed at 200 pounds) crown. He also competed multiple times in Pride throughout his career which saw him face off against some of the biggest names in the sport. Kawaguchi’s debut came in Shooto in 1989 although he never competed outside Japan. He left the sport after a 1999 defeat to Carlos Newton but returned to beat Deividas Petrauskas in 2006. This will be his first fight in nine years. This fight is definitely a treat for fans of old school Japanese MMA as two pioneers of the sport meet in a fight that is 15 years too late.