10 November Tussles Worth Watching

By: Brian Knapp
Oct 30, 2016

In an effort to bring more attention to the global stage of mixed martial arts, this list does not focus on major North American-based promotions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Bellator MMA and the World Series of Fighting.

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Shinya Aoki has no intention of ceding his throne anytime soon.

Aoki will put his lightweight crown on the line against Eduard Folayang in the One Championship “Defending Honor” main event on Nov. 11 at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. The 33-year-old champion has never lost under the One Championship banner.

A former Dream and Shooto titleholder, Aoki will carry a nine-fight winning streak into the cage. He last competed inside the Rizin Fighting Federation organization on Dec. 29, when he registered a first-round technical knockout against the iconic Kazushi Sakuraba. Wins over Satoru Kitaoka, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Mizuto Hirota, Joachim Hansen (twice) and Eddie Alvarez anchor the stellar Aoki resume. A black belt in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he has secured 25 of his 39 professional victories by submission.

Folayang, 31, has posted back-to-back wins over Tetsuya Yamada and Adrian Pang since he was on the receiving end of a vicious Timofey Nastyukhin knockout in December 2014. The former Universal Reality Combat Championship titleholder trains out of the Lakay MMA camp in the Philippines. Folayang has compiled a 6-3 mark in One Championship.

The Aoki-Folayang clash is but one under-the-radar matchup worth monitoring during the month of November. Here are nine more:

Josh Hill vs. Xavier Alaoui
TKO Major League MMA 36 “Resurrection”
Nov. 4 | Montreal

In the aftermath of his second loss to Marlon Moraes, Hill has put his World Series of Fighting pursuits on hold to return to the regional scene in his native Canada. There, the 29-year-old will lock horns with Alaoui, an undefeated Tristar Gym prospect who has begun to climb the ladder at 135 pounds. Hill, who competed on Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” has not fought since he was cut down by a second-round head kick from Moraes at WSOF 32 on July 30. Alaoui, 25, owns a perfect 7-0 record and has submitted each of his last four opponents, three of them inside one round.

Marat Gafurov vs. Narantungalag Jadambaa
One Championship “Defending Honor”
Nov. 11 | Kallang, Singapore

No one has been able to solve the Gafurov riddle, as 14 men have tried and 14 men have failed. Jadambaa will get a second chance when he challenges the “Cobra” for the One Championship featherweight crown. The unbeaten Gafurov boasts 11 finishes among his 14 victories, 10 of them via submission. The 31-year-old last appeared on May 27, when he put away Kazunori Yokota inside two rounds. Gafurov defeated Jadambaa for the One Championship featherweight title a little more than a year ago, when he submitted him with a fourth-round rear-naked choke. Jadambaa, 40, has since responded with consecutive victories over Eric Kelly and Kotetsu Boku.

Demarte Pena vs. Irshaad Sayed
Extreme Fighting Championship Worldwide 55
Nov. 11 | Cape Town, South Africa

Pena will risk his undefeated record and seek to unify the Extreme Fighting Championship bantamweight title when he meets interim champion Sayed in the EFC 55 main event. The 27-year-old Pena operates out of the Fightfit Militia outfit, where he has trained alongside UFC veteran Garreth McLellan. The Angola-born South African has raced out to an 11-0 mark, though seven of his victories have come by decision. Pena has not fought since he captured a five-round unanimous verdict over Cedric Doyle at EFC 41 in July 2015. Sayed has rattled off eight straight wins since he dropped a split decision to Jumabieke Tuerxun in their March 2012 rematch.

Paddy Pimblett vs. Julian Erosa
Cage Warriors Fighting Championship “Unplugged”
Nov. 12 | London

Pimblett has emerged as a future star on the European circuit. The 21-year-old will defend his Cage Warriors Fighting Championship featherweight title for the first time at “Unplugged,” where he faces Erosa in the main event. Pimblett has won eight fights in a row, six of them finishes, and figures to enter the cage with plenty of momentum. He last competed at Cage Warriors 78 on Sept. 10, when he needed just 95 seconds to dispose of Johnny Frachey with punches. Erosa was a semifinalist on Season 22 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series and went 1-1 inside the Octagon before parting ways with the UFC.

Victor Henry vs. Rafael Silva
Pancrase 282
Nov. 13 | Tokyo

Henry continues to carve out a successful path in Japan. The 29-year-old Erik Paulson protégé has recorded six wins across his last seven outings, a five-round decision loss to bantamweight King of Pancrase Shintaro Ishiwatari the only blemish. Henry drew global attention in February 2015, when he employed a kneebar in becoming just the second man to ever submit former Shooto champion Masakatsu Ueda. Silva, a onetime Bellator tournament winner, has pushed his career mark to a gaudy 27-5 with his current five-fight winning streak.

Rasul Mirzaev vs. Levan Makashvili
Fight Nights Global 54
Nov. 16 | Rostov-On-Don, Russia

Mirzaev, he of the pristine 17-0 record, draws a co-main event assignment under the Eurasia Fight Nights flag. The 30-year-old combat sambo world champion already holds victories over UFC veteran Diego Nunes and former Sengoku champion Masenori Kanehara. Mirzaev operates out of the Fight Nights Team camp, where he trains alongside onetime Bellator MMA heavyweight titleholder Vitaly Minakov and UFC flyweight contender Ali Bagautinov. He has secured 12 of his 17 career wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission. A former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titlist, Makashvili heads into the match on the strength of back-to-back victories against Sean Soriano and Ryan Sanders.

Alexey Kunchenko vs. Murad Abdulaev
M-1 Challenge 72
Nov. 18 | Moscow

A familiar face awaits Kunchenko as he prepares to defend the M-1 Global welterweight championship for the first time. The 32-year-old Russian will take on former champion Abdulaev in a rematch of an April 9 encounter that ended with the unbeaten Kunchenko’s hand raised. In the seven months since, he has recorded a unanimous decision over Eduardo Ramon in a non-title catchweight clash at M-1 Challenge 70, upping his career mark to 14-0. Abdulaev has not fought since he succumbed to fourth-round punches and surrendered his welterweight title to Kunchenko, the defeat snapping a modest two-fight winning streak.

Tonya Evinger vs. Yana Kunitskaya
Invicta Fighting Championships 20
Nov. 18 | Kansas City, Missouri

The fate of the Invicta Fighting Championships bantamweight belt will hang in the balance when Evinger puts her title reign in harm’s way. A late bloomer in every sense of the word, the 35-year-old champion has put together a career-best nine-fight winning streak since her failed encounter with Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann in July 2011. Evinger last competed at Invicta 17 on May 7, when she cruised to a five-round unanimous decision over Colleen Schneider. Kunitskaya, 26, has won seven of her past eight bouts but will enter her organizational debut as a clear underdog.

Jeff Curran vs. Raufeon Stots
Victory Fighting Championship 53
Nov. 23 | Waterloo, Iowa

Curran will return from a 20-month absence when he battles the undefeated Stots for the vacant Victory Fighting Championship bantamweight title. The well-traveled 36-year-old UFC, World Extreme Cagefighting, Pride Fighting Championships and International Fight League alum has not aged particularly well, as evidenced by the fact that he has compiled a 5-9 record since 2007 and at one point announced his retirement. A longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Curran has delivered 21 of his 36 professional victories by submission. Stots, who trains out of the star-studded Roufusport camp in Milwaukee, has finished his last three opponents.

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