Another weekend sees another batch of alumni from MMA’s biggest shows fighting their way back into the limelight, with former talent from UFC, Strikeforce, and Bellator generally faring quite well.
We start things off with Battle in Grozny 5. The card, headlined by a kickboxing bout between Badr Hari and Ismael Londt, featured Hermes Franca (23-14-1NC, 6-5 UFC) in a mixed martial arts contest with local prospect Khasan Askhabov (10-2-0).
At his peak, Franca claimed victories over Gabe Ruediger, Ryan Schultz, Toby Imada, Jamie Varner, Nate Diaz, and Spencer Fisher–all within twelve months–to land himself a title shot against newly minted UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk, against whom the former fan-favorite put up a spirited but ultimately losing performance. Franca would experience a precipitous fall (down the ranks and otherwise) shortly thereafter: both he and Sherk tested positive for PEDs, and a 1-2 run in the Octagon following his suspension would see him released back to the regionals, where he sunk into a three-fight slump. A modest win-streak followed, but any ideas of a true resurgence were fully dismantled once he was charged with multiple counts of sexual battery in 2011. Franca returned to competition last year, and on Saturday he entered his bout with Askhabov four years removed from his last victory.
From the opening bell Askhabov demonstrated little regard for his opponent, gleefully demonstrating his edge in speed and striking technique with a varied barrage of kicks, knees, and punches that frequently left Franca turtling up against the ropes. It was a performance that easily put Askhabov ahead on the cards but also left him visibly exhausted to start Round 2. Indeed, mid-way through the second, Franca would threaten with lunging uppercuts and hooks, driving Askhabov into a corner. As Askhabov attempted to counter with a takedown, Franca sprawled and promptly locked up a fight-ending guillotine. It makes for the first time Askhabov has been soundly defeated (his only other loss being by disqualification). As for Franca, he improves to 4-6 since his last appearance in the UFC.
Franca vs. Askhabov can bee seen here. Action starts at 2:00.
Also fighting this weekend was Eric Wisely (24-9, 1-1 Bellator, 0-2 UFC, 0-1 Strikeforce), who incidentally accounts for the first two losses of Franca’s post-UFC career. Wisely, who also owns victories over UFC vet Matt Veach and upcoming Bellator headliner Brandon Girtz, successfully defended his Pinnacle Combat lightweight title against Cliff Wright (8-7, 2-4 Bellator) via unanimous decision, making for two wins in a row. He’s 5-1 since the 2012 loss to Jason Young that saw him cut from the UFC.
Meanwhile, in the main event of Colorado’s Sparta Combat League, middleweight Cory Devela (16-6, 1-3 Strikeforce) bested promotional champion Adam Stroup (9-2-0) by unanimous decision. The victory, his fourth in a row, moves Devela’s record to 5-1 since a 2010 split-decision loss to Bobby Voelker in Strikeforce, the last time Devela appeared in a major promotion. Stroup sees his lengthy win-streak come to a close at eight.
Former UFC welterweight Amilcar Alves also captured a regional title this weekend, moving all the way up to light-heavyweight to beat incumbent Rafael Viana by unanimous decision, handing Viana his first-career loss in the process. Alves, who went 0-2 in the UFC, is 5-3 since then, and 16-6 overall. Viana falls to 5-1-0.
The beleaguered Bendy Casimir (20-13-1, 0-2 WEC) didn’t fare nearly so well in his own regional title challenge, dropping a unanimous decision to Chris Gutierrez (8-1-1, 1-0 Bellator). No stranger to lengthy hot streaks earlier in his career, Casimir’s unsuccessful WEC run seems to have left him severely hobbled, physically or mentally, as he’s gone a dismal 1-6 in the years following.
Last but certainly not least, in the co-main event of the always excellent Road FC’s 25th show, former One FC champion Soo Chul Kim (11-5-1) jumped up to 145 for a featherweight tilt with former Sengoku champion Marlon Sandro (25-6-2, 5-2 Sengoku, 8-3 Bellator).
In the first round, Kim and Sandro punctuated tense moments of feinting with zealous flurries, and though Kim was often the first to engage, whether hunting for the chin or a takedown, it seemed that Sandro edged ahead on the cards on the strength of his more effective counters.
Sandro made a more definitive statement in Round 2, appearing to buckle Kim with a jab 90 seconds in and following up with a cringe-inducing uppercut. Two periods of steady top control further emphasized Sandro’s claim on the round.
Kim burst out of his corner to start the third, throwing leather as he closed in for a body lock. Sandro was slammed to the mat where he found himself stuck in a semi-crucifix, from which he soon escaped. Back on the feet, Kim promptly brawled his way forward before shooting in for a double-leg and landing in Sandro’s guard, where he fended off a knee bar attempt and landed modest strikes to the head and body. It was when Kim made the unfortunate decision to stand up out of guard, presumably in search of some diving blow, that Sandro spun for Kim’s legs and secured the reversal. After a stand-up by the referee, the pair spent the round’s final seconds winging hooks.
It was a close fight that I would’ve scored 30-28, maybe 29-28, in Sandro’s favor, but the judges unanimously ruled it a draw. Sandro remains winless since his last appearance in Bellator (a 2014 win over Chris Horodecki). Kim stays undefeated in his last five.
Was Kim the beneficiary of some home-town favoritism? See for yourself here. Action starts at 0:30.
About the author