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Missed Fists: EFC heavyweights slug it out, Roman Kopylov reigns, more

Roman Kopylov celebrates his middleweight championship win over Abusupyan Alikhanov at Fight Nights Global 85 in Moscow, Russia, last Friday.

Welcome to the latest edition of Missed Fists where Jed Meshew and Alexander K. Lee shine a light on fights from across the globe that may have been overlooked in these hectic times where it seems like there’s an MMA show every other day.

Before we welcome back the big boys and girls of the UFC and Bellator this coming weekend, let’s take a moment to appreciate the smaller promotions that have been delivering killer action in their absence. This week, we’re visiting some familiar friends up in Alaska, zipping over to Russia for a wild one-round brawl, and then visiting South Africa for the first time in this ongoing feature’s brief history.

Nathan Feitosa vs. Uros Medic

AL: Alright, a few things need to be addressed before we sink into this selection from Alaska Fighting Championship 138, which took place in Anchorage, Ala., last Wednesday.

Firstly, we’ve got Nathan Feitosa here rocking two nicknames. He’s introduced as “God’s Warrior” and then “Nasty Nate”. I’m unsure how to feel about this, can I get a ruling?

JM: It’s rare that you find someone with two equally boring nicknames but Feitosa has managed to pull it off. Congratulations, he is the Auburn University of regional MMA.

Off the top of my head, the only people who has successfully managed to sport multiple nom de guerres is Randy Couture (“The Natural/Captain America”), unless you also want to count Robert Whittaker (“The Reaper/Bobby Knuckles”).

AL: At least those two had the decency to only be announced by one of their extra monikers, at least as far as I can remember. I can’t say I’m impressed by this wasteful name having, though if his name was “The Pitbull” Nathan “Pitbull” Feitosa, then I might be singing a different tune.

One aspect of AFC I’m sure we both approve of is the commentary team of Kevin Avellar and Giovanni DeVera. They were having a great time Wednesday and I would best describe their broadcasting style as “business casual”.

JM: I’m an enormous fan of their work in the booth because what they lack in analysis, they more than make up for with enthusiasm. They always seems like they really love calling fights. And don’t forget the ring announcer! When Feitosa was getting polished off he hopped on the arena’s intercom system and shouted, “Medic’s going to work!” I’m not entirely sure that’s professional but it definitely is amazing.

AL: The ring announcer also calls for the audience to get loud during a fight and asks them before the bell rings, “Who wants to see a knockout?” What about a submission? Some people might want to see one of those.

To the action itself, I was impressed with Feitosa and opponent Uros Medic, two welterweights who looked sharp in the standup for guys with just six pro MMA bouts between them. They came out throwing hard and fast, and rarely looked like they were lost out there. This was solid regional MMA.

JM: Yeah it was a fun little battle while it lasted, though they seemed to gas after the first round and the finish was weird since Medic rocked Feitosa with a head kick that he slipped and fell down on. But factoring in all the small things that AFC brings to the table, this one is well worth six minutes of your time and significantly less depressing than some of the other fights on that card.

AL: I would describe the finishing sequence as “cute”. Nice little combo from Medic to put Feitosa down and then an odd stoppage as the referee waved it off while Medic was just getting started, in my opinion. Not to mention the ring announcer chiming in before the fight had actually been stopped, as you mentioned.

If readers want to check out the Feitosa vs. Medic fight and other weirdness from the 49th state, they can head on over to UFC Fight Pass.

Juan Bezuidenhout vs. Matunga Djikasa

JM: Wanna see another cute finishing sequence? Let’s head on over to Extreme Fighting Championship Worldwide 68 in Cape Town, South Africa, and check out a heavyweight tilt from Saturday’s preliminary card. Juan Bezuidenhout and Matunga Djikasa had themselves a classic heavyweight slobberknocker, featuring Bezuidenhout employing the tried and true Homer Simpson strategy of exhausting your opponent by eating punches.

Seriously, the end to this one is incredible. Bezuidenhout’s armbar is instantly among the very worst submissions that actually worked. The commentator’s even start to bag on it before realizing that they shouldn’t! “That was the most basic...” Incredible stuff.

AL: If there’s one thing I know about MMA, it’s that fans equally appreciate the awesome and the awful. I guess this one falls somewhere in between?

Djikasa is all over Bezuidenhout to start, putting him on the backfoot for the entirety of round one with his powerful-looking (if mostly ineffective) standup. He has Bezuidenhout in a rear-naked choke near the end, but can’t finish before the buzzer sounds and you can see he is absolutely gassed when they separate.

Prior to the start, the commentators noted that conditioning could be an issue and they nailed that prediction on the head. While the end result might say “Bezuidenhout by armbar”, this was one of those submissions where the losing fighter just gave up a limb so that he could have a way out. And seeing how blown up Djikasa was, I don’t blame him.

JM: It was definitely a good bad fight. The next fight on the card, however, was just a straight up good fight.

Caleb Ridley vs. August Kayambala

JM: For the better part of seven minutes, August Kayambala is taking Caleb Ridley to the woodshed but Ridley hangs tough and makes the most of the one opportunity he gets and closes the deal with a RNC. This fight was awesome.

AL: Holy cow, this Kayambala kid is a prospect, isn’t he?

He was getting throws and slams from all kinds of angles, literally tossing Ridley head over heels on multiple occasions. Kayambala kind of reminds me of a 145-pound Woodley, do you think that’s a valid comparison?

JM: I think it’s way too early to go there but it’s clear the man has serious gifts. He was launching Ridley through the air with all the effort of throwing a pillow over his shoulder and his hand speed was definitely solid for a guy who had never fought professionally before. Get Kayambala in a real gym and get him to work on his grappling and he could be one to watch.

AL: Mark my words: UFC champion by 2019, headlining opposite Conor McGregor by 2020. Conservative estimate.

You’re not kidding about him needing to work on his grappling though. Despite having a clear wrestling and striking advantage, Kayambala just wasn’t able to put Ridley away. He got careless after a second knockdown, actually walking off because he assumed the ref was going to call the fight.

Later, it’s Ridley who uses a slick ground reversal to take Kayambala’s back and jiu-jitsu him into oblivion. Great performance from two fighters who could both have exciting futures ahead of them.

The EFC 68 prelims are available for free replay on the promotion’s official Facebook page.

Andrei Ciubotaru vs. Murat Kazgan

AL: What would an edition of Missed Fists be without a stop Russia, in this case Fight Nights Global 85, which took place in Moscow.

Moldova’s Andrei Ciubotaru and Turkey’s Murat Kazgan threw down in a one-round lightweight thriller.

JM: For clarification, there were two FNG events this weekend but we’re only going to be talking about fights from the Friday event. If you have the time, both shows are up on their YouTube channel and most of the bouts are incredibly short including a one-round shellacking of Rousimar Palhares. But I digress.

This is maybe the most exciting fight of the weekend. It’s three minutes of these guys just getting after it. Ciubotaru looks like he’s going to walk through Kazgan early and then gets seriously hurt shortly afterwards before coming back. Did you see how close that was to being stopped? The ref did the hesitation step in when Kazgan was trying to put in the coffin nails.

AL: More than once, it looked like the referee wasn’t sure whether to let this one continue, but it’s a good thing for Ciubotaru that it did because he was somehow able to secure a takedown while controlling just Kazgan’s arm and then transition into full mount. Once Kazgan turned to give up his back, Ciubotaru cranked up the ground and pound for the win.

Roman Kopylov vs. Abusupyan Alikhanov

AL: The main event didn’t match the non-stop pace of Ciubotaru vs. Kazgan, but 26-year-old Roman Kopylov put on a show against middleweight champion Abusupyan Alikhanov.

This one started off with both men taking a methodical approach, but once Alikhanov tried to take over with his wrestling, his attempts to smother Kopylov against the cage only seemed to light a fire under the challenger.

JM: This wasn’t the most exciting fighting in the world but, all things considered, it was likely the best MMA contest of the weekend. There was tactics, strategy, multiple phases of fighting, and a steady increase in action over the course of 20 minutes. Plus, an undefeated prospect successfully stepped up in competition and won himself a belt. The ending was a little lackluster with Alikhanov’s corner refusing to let him come out for the fifth round due to injury, but this was still a good scrap showcasing a guy who could make the jump to a bigger organization pretty soon.

AL: Yes, the only thing really missing for Kopylov was a highlight-reel finish, but otherwise he showed a ton of promise and appeared to grow stronger and more confident as the fight progressed, which is always a good sign for a young fighter going into the championship rounds for the first time.

Kopylov improved to 6-0 with all of his wins coming by way of KO/TKO. Don’t sleep on him.

If you know of a recent fight or event that you think may have been overlooked or a promotion that could use some attention, please let us know on Twitter @JedKMeshew and @AlexanderKLee using the hashtag #MissedFists.