Contributor: Dan Galvan
Every week Daniel Galvan will preview seven notable non-UFC fights and highlight other intriguing contests taking place around the globe. This is a preview for the first MMA weekend in December.
Invicta Flyweight Championship: Barb Honchak (c) (8-2) vs. Leslie Smith (6-3-1)
A Breakdown of Barb Honchak: While Honchak’s wrestling base was the catalyst for her drastic rise up the flyweight ranks, it was her improved striking that helped her claim the Invicta Flyweight Championship against Vanessa Porto. The 34 year-old trainee out of the Pat Miletich and Steve Berger camps is currently on a seven fight win streak. She’s a strong wrestler with dangerous ground and pound, and her stand-up game is highlighted by her ability to counter effectively.
A Breakdown of Leslie Smith: With just ten fights under her belt, Leslie Smith has already established herself as one of, if not the most exciting female fighter. Her aggressive, heavy output striking style has aided in producing memorable fights such as her razor-thin split decision loss to Sarah Kaufman or split draw to Kaitlin Young at Invicta 1. Fighters with more technical stand-up games have fallen prey to Smith because of her brawl-inducing, aggressive fight style.
My Pick: Neither of these fighters have been finished in their careers, so I expect this one to go the distance. If it stays on the feet, then this should be a classic contest. Both Honchak and Smith are known for the sheer volume of strikes that they throw. A fight like that would slightly favor Leslie Smith. With that being said, I expect Honchak to turn this one into a wrestling match with takedowns en route to winning a close decision. Honchak via Decision.
Invicta Strawweight Championship: Carla Esparza (c) (9-2) vs. Claudia Gadelha (11-0)
A Breakdown of Carla Esparza: When the UFC begins to look for potential strawweights to bring into their newest division; Carla Esparza should be their prime target. She’s established herself as the top Invicta strawweight with her outstanding wrestling and grappling skills, skills that she attained in her primitive years as a mixed martial artist. Aside from a few powerful strikes from Bec Hyatt in a championship fight, Esparza has looked flawless in her three fights as an Invicta employee.
A Breakdown of Claudia Gadelha: Gadelha was able to validate her impressive but questionable – due to the competition level – ten fight run in the international MMA circuit with her most recent win over the highly respected Ayaka Hamasaki. Gadelha was dominant, posing problems for Hamasaki with her takedowns, positional control, and ground and pound. When you compare Gadelha to Esparza, it’s hard to find many differences between their philosophies as fighters. Both women have made a living out of breaking down opponents with superior grappling.
My Pick: This fight is going to tell us a lot about the grappling games of both fighters. It’s been a while since Esparza’s has been tested, and Gadelha has still yet to be seriously challenged in that aspect of the fight game. I’m leaning towards Esparza because of the larger track record we have of seen of her outwrestling name opponents, and I expect her to be cautious enough not to be submitted. Esparza via Decision.
Invicta Strawweight Bout: Felice Herrig (9-4) vs. Tecia Torres (3-0)
A Breakdown of Felice Herrig: Few strawweights have a more well rounded game than Felice Herrig. Herrig started her MMA career off with a strong foundation in kickboxing and has evolved into a complete fighter with the addition of effective takedowns and a sound guard game as her career progressed. Herrig is coming off of her third Bellator victory against Heather Clark.
A Breakdown of Tecia Torres: Much like Herrig, Tecia Torres started her MMA career after a stint in kickboxing and muay thai. She’s one of the premier female prospects, and a win against Herrig would eliminate that tag of being a prospect. Torres is a speedy striker that does a marvelous job of popping in and out of the pocket with combinations.
My Pick: If Felice Herrig decides to trade strikes with Torres then this could end up being the fight of the night, but I suspect that Herrig will decide to use her strength advantage to take Torres down throughout the bout. I’m a believer in Torres as a prospect, but this may be a bit too much of a jump in competition at this stage of her career. Herrig via Decision.
WSOF Featherweight Championship: Georgi Karakhanyan (22-3-1) vs. Lance Palmer (7-0)
A Breakdown of Georgi Karakhanyan: Outside of the UFC and Bellator, Georgi Karakhanyan is one of the two best fighters in the featherweight division [Shinya Aoki is the other]. Since leaving Bellator in 2011, Karakhanyan has amassed a winning streak of eight, which has most recently included victories over Waylon Lowe, Din Thomas, and Hiroyuki Takaya. What’s brought Karakhanyan success is a suffocating top game on the ground, an absurd amount of balance in the clinch, and a kick-centric stand-up style. Karakhanyan constantly throws kicks that keeps his opponent’s balance off and movements predictable.
A Breakdown of Lance Palmer: Whenever a four time All-American wrestler from a division one school transitions to MMA, he immediately gets labeled as a prospect. And like prospects in other sports, some fail while others prosper. Thus far, Lance Palmer has lived up to the hype with a record that is unblemished. In his last fight, Palmer beat Jared Downing thanks to a highly disputed split decision that could’ve gone either way. Surprisingly, Palmer struggled to bring Downing to the mat in the first few frames, but he was able to find more success as time wore on. One major area that Palmer needs to improve on is his stand-up, especially his knockout power.
My Pick: There is no question that Lance Palmer is one of the most promising up-and-comers in the featherweight division, but this fight is just too much too soon for the Team Alpha Male product. Sure, Karakhanyan may forgo the wrestling advantage, but he’s simply superior in every other facet of the match-up. My expectation is that Karakhanyan will eventually catch Palmer in a guillotine choke. Karakhanyan via 2nd Sub.
Legacy Featherweight Championship: Kevin Aguilar (8-0) vs. Leonard Garcia (17-11-1)
A Breakdown of Leonard Garcia: Ridiculously entertaining brawls and controversial decisions is the reputation that Leonard Garcia created in his seventeen-fight stint in the UFC and WEC. The Jackson’s MMA student snapped a streak of five losses by finishing Rey Trujillo and Nick Gonzalez inside the Legacy Fighting cage in his last outings. Garcia’s sloppy stand-up style of wild combinations has helped him get his hand raised because of the sheer volume of strikes he throws. He has impressive hand speed, and his knockout power was most recently displayed in his win over Trujillo. For a fighter known for his stand-up, Garcia has surprisingly submitted more than twice the amount of opponents than he has put away with strikes.
A Breakdown of Kevin Aguilar: Aguilar’s stock as a featherweight prospect rose dramatically when he submitted fellow prospect Hunter Tucker with an armbar in his last fight. Aguilar has consistently hurt his opponents with combinations in previous fights, but he has run into some trouble by overextending himself, opening up the potential for counters. He has a solid takedown game that is reliant on the body clinch. On the ground is where he shines. He possesses a slick guard game and the ability to do some serious damage from the top position.
My Pick: The result of this fight is entirely dependent on what kind of game-plan Kevin Aguilar brings into this one. If he gets sucked into a stand-up war with Garcia, he runs the risk of losing a decision or even getting finished. If he works for takedowns in the midst of exchanges then he should win comfortably. Leonard Garcia can defend the initial takedown attempt well, but he struggles on second-and-third efforts. I expect Aguilar to utilize the latter game-plan and win a hard-fought decision. Aguilar via Decision.
KSW Middleweight Bout: Mamed Khalidov (27-4-2) vs. Ryuta Sakurai (24-17-6)
Mandatory Pre-Fight Viewing: This is a video of Mamed Khalidov dancing while playing an air guitar. I think this is the pinnacle of life. Video link: http://bit.ly/1bDPma1
A Breakdown of Mamed Khalidov: Any legitimate list that ranks the top non-UFC middleweights would include Mamed Khalidov. Khalidov has become a superstar in his home country of Poland by consistently beating and finishing opponents. In his last 26 fights, Khalidov has only lost once, and in his 27 victories, he’s finished all but one of his opponents. His current seven-fight finish streak is highlighted by wins over former UFC fighters Matt Lindland, Jesse Taylor, and Kendall Grove. Khalidov is a powerful puncher with fantastic head movement that alleviates the holes opened up by his footwork, which can be choppy at times. He likes to utilize body and leg kicks to set up a fight-ending head kick. The Pole’s propensity for sniffing out submissions and constant activity off of his back makes up for subpar takedown defense.
A Breakdown of Ryuta Sakurai: At 42 years old, it’s only a matter of time before Ryuta Sakurai follows in the footsteps of Kazuo Misaki and Ryo Chonan by hanging up the gloves, and when he does hang them up, Sakurai will be remembered for the absurd amount of exhilarating clashes that he’s produced thanks to his aggressive fight style. Whether it’s on the feet with his precise jab and barrage of hooks or on the ground with his takedowns and slick position passing, Sakurai has made a career out of frustrating his opponents by pushing the pace.
My Pick: These fighters first met in a 2010 bout that ended with draw after an overtime period. It was a controversial result because the majority of those who watched the fight had it scored, quite clearly, for Sakurai. Three years later, I expect an entirely different result. While Sakurai hasn’t exactly dropped a beat since 2010, Khalidov’s refinement of his stand-up game and submissions puts him over the top in this one. While I expect Sakurai to control the pace and potentially rock Khalidov with a flurry of strikes, Khalidov should be able to capitalize with a powerful counter that puts away Sakurai. Khalidov via 2nd round TKO.
Pancrase Bantamweight Bout: Chase Beebe (24-11-1) vs. Shintaro Ishiwatari (15-5-4)
A Breakdown of Chase Beebe: Believe it or not, Chase Beebe is only 28 years old. It’s crazy how young he is because it feels like a decade since he beat Eddie Wineland to become the WEC Bantamweight Champion. Despite being known for his wresting and grappling game, Beebe’s inability to win those aspects of his last three fights against Joni Salovaara, Tom Niinimaki, and Travis Marx has led to a three fight skid, interrupting a six fight win streak that he had built.
A Breakdown of Shintaro Ishiwatari: Had Shintaro Ishiwatari survived the fifth round of his last bout against Kyoji Horiguchi, he would have won his seventh straight fight and potentially, a UFC contract. His wrestling game helped take three of the rounds in their championship fight, but it was Horiguchi’s power that spelled the end for Ishiwatari. At bantamweight, Ishiwatari’s potent striking offense is even more dangerous because of the speed advantage he usually has against opponents.
My Pick: It’s more than conceivable that Chase Beebe could use his strength and takedowns to control Ishiwatari, but the trajectory of both fighters’ careers leads me to believe otherwise. Even if Beebe is able to score a few takedowns, Ishiwatari is a talented enough grappler to take advantage of some of the holes Beebe has shown in his previous fights. I also would give Ishiwatari the edge on the feet in this one. Ishiwatari via Decision.
Five Fights with Prospects to Keep an Eye On:
- Lightweight Bout: Nick Newell (10-0) vs Sabah Fadai (7-2) – WSOF 7
- Bantamweight Bout: Kevin Belingon (11-3) vs David Aranda (9-0) – ONE FC 13
- Heavyweight Bout: Ruan Potts (7-1) vs Andrew Van Zyl (8-1) – EFC Africa 26
- Featherweight Bout: Thomas de Almeida (14-0) vs George Pacurariu (5-2) – LFC 26
- Women’s Bantamweight Bout: Holly Holm (5-0) vs Angela Hayes (6-6) – FP: Havoc
Five Fights with former UFC Fighters to Keep an Eye On:
- Middleweight Bout: Jesse Taylor (26-9) vs Elvis Mutapcic (13-2) – WSOF 7
- Light Heavyweight Bout: Kalib Starnes (15-8-1) vs Dwayne Lewis (13-8) – WSOF 7
- Heavyweight Bout: Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (14-11) Konstantin Erokhin (4-1) – Fight Nights 14
- Middleweight Bout: Matt Horwich (28-21-1) vs Piotr Straus (8-2) – KSW 25
- Lightweight Bout: Caros Fodor (8-3) vs Vuyisle Colossa (6-4) – ONE FC 13
-Dan can be reached at email@example.com or @danielgal.