10 Non-UFC Fights to See Before the End of the Year

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2013

10 Non-UFC Fights to See Before the End of the Year

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    The UFC has a very busy schedule to close out 2013, but so does the rest of the MMA world. Between World Series of Fighting, Invicta, Cage Warriors and Legacy FC, just to name a few, there is no shortage of action in the next month and a half.

    Potential UFC employees, ex-UFC participants and top prospects are set to do battle and make their mark in this sport. If you are like me, and some other people, these non-UFC cards always deliver and often times have just as much entertainment value, if not more, than UFC events.

    With that, let's look at 10 fights outside the world's biggest MMA promotion that you need to see before 2013 ends.

Alexander Shlemenko vs. Doug Marshall

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    Event: Bellator 109

    When: November 22

    Where to Watch: Spike TV

    Bellator's season nine finale closes out with a middleweight title bout between Russian buzzsaw Alexander Shlemenko and knockout artist Doug Marshall. It is definitely going to be an interesting one. 

    Shlemenko has been a dominant fighter in Bellator, outside of his shortcomings against now-UFC employee Hector Lombard. His striking has been the crown jewel of his game, but he comes up against a man that has been vicious in the fight.

    Marshall's run through the season-eight middleweight tournament was filled with violence and fear. His one-punch knockouts of former middleweight finalists Brett Cooper and Andreas Spang were enough to make any man lose sleep at night.

    Shlemenko is technical and powerful on the feet, while Marshall throws straight heat. It is definitely a must-see scrap.

Damian Grabowski vs. Kenny Garner

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    Event: M-1 Challenge 44

    When: November 30

    Where to Watch: TBD

    M-1 doesn't have the attention that it deserves these days, but they have a pretty good talent pool that I would love to see get more mainstream respect.

    This is evident with their M-1 Challenge card on November 30, when top Polish heavyweight Damian Grabowski squares off with underrated American talent Kenny Garner. Both men deserve a long look from the UFC as heavyweight is their shallowest division, and both possess potential staying power with the company, if their contracts would ever allow them to walk.

    Grabowski has lost just once to former Bellator champ Cole Konrad. The man is a finisher, putting away 15 of his 18 victims. He is on a five-fight surge right now, which includes wins over UFC vet Eddie Sanchez, WSOF standout Dave Huckaba and Brazilian grappling ace Joaquim Ferreira, who Grabowski surprisingly submitted.

    Garner is a strong opponent for him and one of the best heavyweights in the company. He is going to be outsized but probably has the speed advantage.

    If you can find a way to watch it, make sure you do.

Thomas De Almeida vs. George Pacurariu

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    Event: Legacy FC 26

    When: December 6

    Where to Watch: AXS TV

    It may only be the co-main event, but Thomas de Almeida vs. George Pacurariu provides a glimpse into two future UFC fighters futures.

    De Almeida is a Chute Boxe rep, who has never been defeated, while also finishing all 14 foes. He has much hype behind him due to his power, technical prowess and ability to finish men in the first round.

    That said, he takes on a less-experienced powerhouse in Pacurariu, who is strong as an ox and throws heat in the cage. If de Almeida never had his chin tested before, he will definitely get it tested in this bout.

    Both men are great prospects with serious upside. They will use each other as a measuring stick come December 6.

Anthony Johnson vs. Mike Kyle

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    Event: World Series of Fighting 7

    When: December 7

    Where to Watch: NBC Sports

    Anthony Johnson has really found himself a home at light heavyweight and with World Series of Fighting. He is their consistent headliner as the wrestler and knockout artist finds himself as a company poster boy.

    He seemingly will finally meet Mike Kyle, a man he has been scheduled to fight in the past. Although the booking of this fight is questionable, seeing how Kyle is coming off a loss to Andrei Arlovski and Johnson is undefeated in WSOF, it will definitely create fireworks.

    Both men like to stick with their hypothetical fastball, rather than throw a curveball. Baseball analogies aside, basically these two are going to look to punch or kick each other's head off.

    World Series of Fighting doesn't get the respect it deserves yet, but their consistently entertaining shows will continue when Johnson and Kyle scrap.

Georgi Karakhanyan vs. Lance Palmer

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    Event: World Series of Fighting 7

    When: December 7

    Where to Watch: NBC Sports

    When I found out Rick Glenn had to pull out of the featherweight championship bout opposite Georgi Karakhanyan, I was depressed. When I heard Lance Palmer would step in his place, I instantly snapped out of it.

    Karakhanyan and Palmer (and Glenn for that matter) represent the best of the best in terms of featherweights outside the UFC. Both men are well-rounded, well-schooled and could be breakout stars when more fans begin to take notice of them.

    Palmer is looking to keep Team Alpha Male rolling with their incredible 2013 luck, while Karakhanyan looks to hand the collegiate wrestler his first loss. That's the type of intrigue that will draw me to turn my TV on come December 7.

Barb Honchak vs. Leslie Smith

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    Event: Invicta 7

    When: December 7

    Where to Watch: PPV

    I could have easily made a top 10 female fights to watch for the rest of 2013, but I am a busy man and all about equal rights, so I included them with the men.

    Barb Honchak is a woman who is rarely in a boring fight. Leslie Smith wouldn't be caught dead in a snoozer. Now, I'm not a hypothetical math whiz, but usually exciting fighter plus exciting fighter equals badass fight.

    Both ladies love to bang on the feet, but they can definitely get it done on the ground. Smith, a former bantamweight, has looked like a monster in her short time down at 125, which presents great danger to Honchak's flyweight title.

    However, Honchak is no push over and will push Smith to the limit. These women will prove they are worthy headliners and hopefully their pay-per-view is a successful one, as Invicta is vital to WMMA.

Carla Esparza vs. Claudia Gadelha

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    Event: Invicta 7

    When: December 7

    Where to Watch: PPV

    Speaking of the Invicta ladies, how about this co-main event between Carla Esparza and Claudia Gadelha? If Esparza was looking for an exotic challenge for her strawweight title, she got it in the Brazilian destroyer that is Gadelha. 

    Esparza is a wrestler who will be taking on a jiu-jitsu fighter with serious power. What I really think this fight will be is a technical ground fight that's X-factor will be who has the best cardio.

    Can Gadelha stave off the takedown or get up if put on her back, or will Esparza's suffocating top game be too much for the Brazilian? Tune in to find out.

Mamed Khalidov vs. Ryuta Sakurai

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    Event: KSW 25

    When: December 7

    Where to Watch: TBD

    My hopes of Mamed Khalidov ever coming to the UFC are dying. However, I can still enjoy his fights overseas, as KSW consistently gives him entertaining opponents. 

    Ryuta Sakurai is the last man to not lose to this tornado of a man in Khalidov. The two fought to a draw at KSW 13, which Khalidov will try to avenge.

    The Pole is a top-10 fighter at middleweight and can continue to be so with a win here. His record against UFC veterans is amazing due to his power on the feet and submission prowess on the ground.

Stevie Ray vs. Ivan Buchinger

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    Event: Cage Warriors 63

    When: December 31

    Where to Watch: mmajunkie.com

    Cage Warriors, which is based in Europe, has become one of the most consistent and best promotions overseas. They will have a New Year's Eve show that hosts a lightweight title bout between champion Stevie Ray and top contender Ivan Buchinger.

    This fight should be an interesting one. The Scottish Ray won a four-man tournament at Cage Warriors 60 to win the belt, decisioning Jason Ball before choking out Sean Carter in the finals.

    Buchinger was in that tournament and was the heavy favorite. He tapped out Mick Sinclair to reach the finals, but an injury forced him out of the one-night tournament, erasing his immediate title plans.

    Now, the real finals of that tournament will take place, with the champion being the underdog. Can the Scot rebuke his Slovakian contender, or will he relinquish his belt to "Buki."

Satoshi Ishii vs. Kazuyuki Fujita

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    Event: Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye

    When: December 31

    Where to Watch: TBD

    When it comes to MMA talent in Japan, most of the best fighters are in the lighter weight classes. You see lots of Japanese flyweights, bantamweights, featherweights and lightweights, but rarely do you see many heavyweights in terms of quality and quantity.

    Satoshi Ishii does not fit that category. In fact, the judo ace is the top Japanese heavyweight in the world, holding a 10-2-1 record. 

    Ishii is not the biggest heavyweight, though. In fact, he would be better suited a weight class down. 

    That being said, he is successful. A list of his victims include UFC vets Tim Sylvia, Kerry Schall, Jeff Monson and Pedro Rizzo, as well as K-1 striker Jerome Le Banner.

    His adversary is a dangerous fighter in Kazuyuki Fujita. Fujita has not fought since 2009, but he is much larger than Ishii and immensely powerful.

    The Pride vet is 43, which may be a disadvantage for him. Either way, this would be another huge win for Ishii, whose only losses came in his pro debut and against the legendary Fedor Emelianenko.