Worldwide MMA Preview – ONE FC, M-1 Challenge, KSW 35

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Three of the biggest promotions outside of North America all host fight cards this weekend.

The first of those cards comes from One FC on Friday at midday (BST) it is their first trip to Thailand and strawweight champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke will be looking to defend his crown in his homeland against Japanese challenger Yoshita Naito. Dejdamrong was a decorated Muay Thai fighter, winning the prestigious Lumpinee Stadium title three times at two different weights. Since transitioning to MMA at Evolve MMA in Singapore he has a perfect 6-0 record with all of those wins coming in One FC. He won the inaugural One FC strawweight title last year against Roy Doliguez via decision and followed it up with another decision win against Brazilian Yago Bryan (this was not a title defence due to Bryan missing weight). Despite being 37 years old Dejdamrong has excellent cardio and training with elite BJJ black belts at Evolve will have helped his ground game immensely. His takedown and submission defence will need to be on point against Naito who comes into the bout with a 10-0 record and the Shooto strawweight title. He has four submission victories on his record and will surely looking to take this to the ground immediately considering Dejdamrong’s striking pedigree.

Featherweight champion Marat Gafurov takes on Kazunori Yokota in the co-main event. Gafurov has looked excellent in his MMA career so far. He recorded wins over Mairbek Taisumov and Lee Morrison early in his career in his native Russia before moving to One FC and continuing where he left off. After three wins in One FC he challenged featherweight champion Jadambaa Narantungalag and eventually choked him out in the fourth round to win the title. That was the ninth submission of Gafurov’s career and brought him to 13-0 overall. Yokota is a veteran of the Japanese scene who has been fighting for a decade, he has faced a who’s who of Japanese MMA including Mizuto Hirota, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Masakazu Imanari. He also holds the distinction of being the last man to beat UFC fighter Leonardo Santos. He is currently on a 13 fight winning streak so seems to be in the form of his career despite his advanced age of 38. He will need to use all of his experience to outwit Gafurov.

Elsewhere on the card, Russian knockout artist Timofey Nastyukhin will try to put himself back into title contention at featherweight after a disappointing submission defeat to Herbert Burns in his last outing. Nastyukhin’s two previous One FC fights had ended in brutal KO’s but he had no match for the grappling of Burns. He will face off against Robert Lisita who is also coming off a loss, he was choked out by Marat Gafurov in 2014 and this is his first outing since then.

Some other fighters to keep an eye on include Christian Lee, at only 17 years of age he is the youngest fighter in One FC and he has been very impressive in his short career of 4-0. All four of those fights have come in One FC and he has divided his finishes evenly between knockouts and submissions with two each. He will take on Rocky Batolbatol at featherweight. Another strawweight from Thailand is on the bill, Pongsiri Mitsatit also has a wealth of experience in Muay Thai but what separates him from Dejdamrong is his age, he is only 19 years old so he has far less wear and tear than his compatriot and also has far longer to pick up the grappling side of MMA. He has begun very well by amassing a 6-0 record in Thailand with only one of those fights going to a decision.

Friday afternoon (3pm BST) brings us to Russia for M-1 Challenge 66 which is headlined by two light heavyweight fights. In the main event champion Viktor Nemkov takes on challenger Rashid Yusupov. Nemkov has been a mainstay of M-1’s light heavyweight division for years now, he lost to Vinny Magalhaes in a title fight before eventually winning the title, whereupon he dropped it to Stephan Puetz in his first defence. Three wins later and he got a rematch and the judges scored what was a very close and competitive fight, in his favour. He will be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself in his first defence this time around. Yusupov has a 6-2 record and has won four fights in a row but he has not faced the same calibre of opponent as Nemkov and this lack of experience will be very tough to overcome.

The co-main event features former champion Stephan Puetz against Andrey Seledtsov. After winning the title from Nemkov and defending it twice, Puetz took on M-1 heavyweight champion Marcin Tybura and he was able to tire out the big man and finish him in the third round to inflict the first defeat of his career. Both of his fights with Nemkov have been close so it only makes sense that they meet again if they both emerge victorious this weekend. Seledtsov has a 5-1 record and this will be his first appearance for M-1.

Also on Friday (7pm BST) is KSW 35 from Poland. The main event features a middleweight title fight between Mamed Khalidov and Aziz Karaoglu. Khalidov has been one of the best middleweights outside of the UFC for quite a long time now, he has beaten an incredible 10 UFC fighters over the course of his career and has rattled off 11 wins since his last defeat which came to Jorge Santiago in 2010. His latest win was a quick knockout of Michal Materla. Karaoglu may only have a 9-6 record but he has scored first round knockouts in his last three bouts for KSW with the most recent coming against Maiquel Falcao to earn him this title shot.

Michal Materla takes on Antoni Chmielewski in the evening’s co-main event, both of these middleweights have been fighting for over a decade and really it is incredible that their paths have not crossed before now. Materla was the long time KSW middleweight champion before Mamed Khalidov knocked him out. Prior to fighting Khalidov, Materla beat UFC veteran Tomasz Drwal by knockout to defend his title, he currently has a 22-5 record. Chmielewski first competed for KSW all the way back at their second event, where he won three fights in one night to win the tournament. He did the same at KSW 3 but consistency has not been a big part in his career since then with a record of 32-14. After losing at an ACB card in Russia at the end of last year Chmielewski has won two straight via finish in 2016.

Former World’s Strongest Man, Mariusz Pudzianowski tales on Marcin Rozalski. Pudz saw his four fight winning streak snapped by Peter Graham in London last year after he gassed out. Rozalski should be a tuneup fight for him, at 5-4 he has not distinguished himself in his MMA career so far. The vacant KSW lightweight title will also be on the line on this card when gormer M-1 lightweight champion Mansour Barnaoui will take on Mateusz Gamrot. Barnaoui dropped down to featherweight to challenge M-1 champion Ivan Buchinger in his last fight but came up short while Gamrot extended his record to 10-0 with a win over fellow prospect Marif Piraev.