10 October Tussles Worth Watching

By: Brian Knapp
Oct 6, 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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Don’t blink.

Undefeated champion Yoshitaka Naito will put his strawweight title on the line against unbeaten challenger Joshua Pacio in the One Championship “State of Warriors” main event on Oct. 7 at Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar. Together, the two men have combined for a perfect 19-0 record, with 14 finishes.

Naito captured the 115-pound championship on May 27, when he submitted Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke with a fourth-round rear-naked choke. Training out of the Paraestra Matsudo outfit, the 32-year-old was a Shooto champion in his native Japan before linking arms with the Singapore-based One Championship organization. Naito, 11-0, has ended three of his last four fights with chokes.

Pacio, meanwhile, has finished all eight of his opponents, five of them inside one round. The 20-year-old Filipino prospect last competed in August, when he tapped Kritsada Kongsrichai with a rear-naked choke 4:27 into their battle at One Championship 45. Pacio operates out of a Lakay MMA affiliate in Baguio City, Philippines.

The Naito-Pacio showdown is but one under-the-radar matchup worth monitoring during the month of October. Here are nine more:

David Bielkheden vs. Luis Ramos
Superior Challenge 14
Oct. 8 | Stockholm

The vacant Superior Challenge welterweight championship will hang in the balance when the well-traveled Bielkheden takes on Ramos. A Brazilian Top Team rep who holds the rank of black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Bielkheden, 37, finds himself on a five-fight winning streak that includes victories over UFC veterans Besam Yousef and Cody McKenzie. The Swede has not tasted defeat in four years. Ramos, a 35-year-old Nova Uniao export, has compiled a 20-9-2 record in a career that dates back to 2001.

Michael Tobin vs. Richie Ivory
Brace MMA 44
Oct. 8 | Southport, Australia

Tobin will step into a headlining role opposite Ivory on UFC Fight Pass. The 24-year-old has emerged as one of Australia’s top prospects, bouncing between the bantamweight and featherweight divisions. Tobin boasts an 11-0 record with 10 submissions: four by armbar, three by rear-naked choke, two by triangle choke and one by toe hold. Having already claimed titles in the Roshambo MMA and Eternal MMA promotions, “The Great White” has disposed of nine opponents inside one round. Ivory will enter the matchup with the wind of a three-fight winning streak at his back.

Vladimir Mineev vs. Yasubey Enomoto
Eurasia Fight Nights 53
Oct. 10 | Luzhniki, Russia

Mineev has the look of a potential star. A Fight Nights Team stablemate of former Bellator champion Vitaly Minakov and UFC flyweight contender Ali Bagautinov, the 26-year-old has raced out to a perfect 7-0 mark as a professional. Known primarily as a kickboxer, Mineev has submitted his last two opponents -- Vyacheslav Belyaev with a guillotine choke and Boris Miroshnichenko with a rear-naked choke. Of the seven men he has faced, only Miroshnichenko has survived to see a second round against him. A former M-1 Global champion, Enomoto has rattled off three wins across his past four appearances.

Mackenzie Dern vs. Montana Stewart
Legacy Fighting Championship 61
Oct. 14 | Dallas

Dern has the MMA world’s attention -- and with good reason. The 2015 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist and multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion made her mixed martial arts debut at Legacy 58 in July, claiming a three-round unanimous decision from Kenia Rosas. Dern, 23, has thrown out an anchor at the star-studded MMA Lab camp in Glendale, Arizona, where she trains alongside former UFC champion Benson Henderson and “The Ultimate Fighter 8” winner Efrain Escudero, among others. Team Takedown’s Stewart will carry a five-fight winning streak into their bout.

Lewis Long vs. Che Mills
Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 79
Oct. 15 | Newport, Wales

A promising talent perhaps on the verge of a move to greener pastures, Long will try to rebound from his first defeat in nearly two years when he confronts Mills under the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship banner. Long last appeared at Cage Warriors 76 in June, when the 27-year-old Welshman saw his five-fight winning streak come to rest at the feet of Andreas Stahl in a technical knockout loss. He has already won titles in multiple regional promotions. Mills, who made a four-fight stop in the UFC following his appearance on Season 9 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” owns victories over Marius Zaromskis (twice), Chris Cope and Duane Ludwig.

Jason Soares vs. Guilherme Faria
Fight Time 33
Oct. 21 | Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The stakes have never been higher for Soares, who figures to be knocking on the door to a major promotion sooner rather than later. The 26-year-old will put his Fight Time featherweight championship and spotless 9-0 record on the line against Faria, a surging Brazilian with momentum to spare. A former contestant on “American Ninja Warrior,” Soares competed on Season 22 of “The Ultimate Fighter” but failed to advance beyond the elimination phase. Faria, 25, has strung together five consecutive victories since submitting to a fourth-round kimura from Junior Assuncao in September 2013. All five of his losses have come via submission.

Askar Askarov vs. Jose Maria Tome
Absolute Championship Berkut 48
Oct. 22 | Moscow

Flyweight prospects tend to advance quickly in MMA due to the lack of depth within the division, and Askarov certainly appears to be on an upward trajectory. The 23-year-old Russian has finished all seven of his opponents and has found conditions in the Absolute Championship Berkut organization favorable for further development. Askarov last fought at ACB 38 on May 20, when he put away Ruslan Abiltarov with a second-round rear-naked choke. In Tome, he confronts his most seasoned and accomplished opponent to date. The Team Nogueira export boasts a gaudy 37-5 career record, with 29 finishes to his credit.

Raoni Barcelos vs. Dan Moret
Resurrection Fighting Alliance 45
Oct. 28 | Prior Lake, Minnesota

Resurrection Fighting Alliance gold will be there for the taking when Barcelos defends his featherweight championship opposite Moret in the RFA 45 co-main event. Barcelos, 31, captured the 145-pound title with a unanimous decision over Ricky Musgrave in August 2015 and retained it with another five-round verdict against Bobby Moffett on June 17. Moret was awarded his shot at the featherweight crown on the strength of his four-fight winning streak.

Jared Gordon vs. Adam Ward
Cage Fury Fighting Championships 61
Oct. 29 | Atlantic City, New Jersey

The Cage Fury Fighting Championships organization has a long history of funneling talent to the UFC, and Gordon undoubtedly wants to add his name to the list. The once-beaten 28-year-old New York native will attempt to defend the CFFC featherweight crown for the first time since he captured it with a head kick knockout against Anthony Morrison on July 9. A 25-fight veteran who has paid visits to the World Series of Fighting, King of the Cage and Ring of Combat promotions, Ward bolstered his resume with a November 2013 decision win over Makwan Amirkhani.

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