Worldwide MMA Preview – ACB, M-1 Challenge and Bellator London

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Russian promotion ACB opens up the weekend on Friday (4pm BST) with a card from Sochi. Russian heavyweight Denis Goltsov will met Paul Buentello in the main event. Goltsov is currently on a 12 fight winning streak and could be heading for the UFC soon. He has beaten Brett Rogers, Zoumana Cisse, Peter Graham, James McSweeney and Mike Kyle on that run which is an impressive list of names to run up on the Russian regional circuit. Buentello has fought for UFC and Strikeforce gold in the past and despite being in his forties he has looked good recently beating Sokoudjou and Eric Prindle in his most recent fights.

Peter Yan is returning to action after his Fight of the Year contender with Magomed Magomedov in March. He was unlucky not to get the nod in that fight and many thought that a rematch would be next but he will be taking on England’s Ed Arthur. Arthur lost his undefeated record and BAMMA title to Shay Walsh but bounced back by knocking out Cameron Else.

We stay in Russia on Saturday for M-1 Challenge 69 (4pm BST) which is also headlined by a heavyweight fight. Denis Smoldarev and Kenny Garner will meet with both looking to bounce back from defeat. Estonia’s Smoldarev has had good success on the regional circuit but has stumbled both times he has stepped up in competition, getting choked out by Marcin Tybura and Alexander Volkov. He is only 26 years old though so there is still time for him to improve. Kenny Garner is an American who has strangely fought most of his career in M-1, although he has never been able to string together a series of impressive wins.

Finally, we come to Bellator 158 in London on Saturday night (8pm BST) Paul Daley will meet Douglas Lima in the main event with a shot at Andrey Koreshkov on the line. Paul Daley was famously kicked out of the UFC for punching Josh Koscheck after the bell, and he was meant to rematch him at this card but an injury to Koscheck gave Lima the chance to step in. Daley has been in imperious form in Bellator so far but Lima will be the toughest test he has had in Bellator by far. Lima is the former Bellator welterweight champion, he dropped his belt to Andrey Koreshkov a year ago and this is his first fight back. He was dominated by Koreshkov in a very disappointing performance, that Koreshkov fight is Lima’s only contest since April 2014 so win or lose he must be more active going forward.

In the co-main event Oli Thompson takes on Matt Mitrione at heavyweight. Mitrione had a scare in his first Bellator fight, he was nearly stopped by Carl Seumanutafa last month but managed to recover and put him away. That was Mitrione’s first time fighting outside the UFC in his whole career. It may be worth keeping an eye on how he fares fighting so soon after the fight with Seumanutafa because he took a very hard shot and probably should not be fighting so soon after. Thompson had a brilliant year in 2015, he beat Minowa, Chris Barnett and Fernando Rodrigues Jr. in Japan to claim the IGF Openweight GP title and he also found time to beat Kamil Bazelak in Macto Championship and Michal Wlodarek in KSW. Incredible turnaround for Thompson after he lost all three of his contests in 2014.

Michael Page will fight in England for the first time since 2012 when he takes on Evangelista Santos. There has been harsh criticism of the level of competition that Bellator have been giving Page but he has been doing a professional job in dispatching them all, he even surprised people by pulling out a leglock finish in his last outing. While Santos is not at the very top of the food chain in MMA he is an experienced and capable opponent who has already beaten one of Bellator’s welterweight prospects, a quick leglock submission against Brennan Ward in his Bellator debut. He was finished by Saad Awad in his last outing. Very clear striker v grappler fight here and while I would rather Page be facing one of Bellator’s more upper echelon welterweights, I do feel like this is a step in the right direction.

Straight Blast Gym prospect James Gallagher will make his Bellator debut against Mike Cutting. Gallagher is well known in Irish MMA due to his extensive amateur career which built him quite a bit of hype. He has delivered on that so far in his professional career with three first round submissions in his three fights. He has already made it known that he plans to waste no time in capturing Bellator gold so he needs to make a good first impression. Cutting has more professional experience, including a number of fights in BAMMA but he is currently coming off of a defeat to Declan Dalton.

Photo via Dave Fogarty/BAMMA