Prospects Dominate Weekend’s Other MMA Events

Numerous emerging talents fighting prior to UFC on Versus 4

Make no mistake about it: Sunday night’s UFC event is your best bet this weekend.

With an intriguing main event and three fights where there will be plenty of knuckles chucked, the smaller show from the biggest organization in the business is the one most people will watch, and with good reason. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t a hold slew of fights taking place before Pittsburgh becomes the pugilistic epicenter of the weekend.

Between Friday’s Strikeforce Challengers event in Kent, Washington and the return of Bellator on Saturday, there are a number of fighters stepping into the cage worth keeping an eye on.

We’ve gathered them all up in a nice, neat, easy to digest overview for you to enjoy.

STRIKEFORCE CHALLENGERS 16

Germaine de Randamie (2-1, facing Julia Budd)

I know what you’re thinking: why is this guy telling us about some female fighter with three fights under her belt?

The answer is that “The Iron Lady” boasts an overall combat sports record of 50-1. You read that correctly — 50-1. A Dutch Muay Thai legend, de Randamie is only starting to make her move into MMA. I don’t care if you’re male or female; when you’re 50-1 overall in combats sports and bring a nasty Muay Thai game into the cage, I’m paying attention.

You should too.

Jason High (14-3) vs. Quinn Mulhern (15-1)

This is a legitimate welterweight tilt, on par with some of the preliminary card action that’s been rolled out on UFC events as of late.

High had a single cup of coffee inside the Octagon, losing to Charlie Brenneman last March. He’s won four straight since, defeating veteran Hayato “Mach” Sakurai on New Year’s Eve and rising Canadian prospect Jordan Mein two fights before that.

For Mulhern, this is a chance to earn a win over a recognizable name for the first time since beating Rich “No Love” Clementi last February. It’s the toughest test to date for the King of the Cage champion, and a chance for the 26-year-old to assert himself as one of the top young talents within the welterweight ranks.

Lorenz Larkin (10-0, facing Gian Villante)

“The Monsoon” is a 24-year-old ball of destruction. Eight of his ten career wins have come by way of knockout or technical knockout, including his latest when he destroyed veteran Scott Lighty in April on a week’s notice.

This is a great test, as Villante is a reasonably good prospect as well. His stock was much higher before Chad Griggs put the firsts to him back in February, but light heavyweight should be a much better fit for the New York native moving forward.

With the Strikeforce light heavyweight ranks devoid of emerging talent, this is a chance for Larkin to cement himself as the division’s best up-and-comer. If his pattern holds true, he could do it in impressive fashion too.

Ryan Couture (2-0, facing Matt Ricehouse)

Yes, Couture is always going to garner attention because of his famous last name. It happens all the time in every sport; ask Brent Gretzky.

For Randy’s son to escape his father’s shadow — or at least make his own career the lead narrative moving forward — he’s going to have to continue showing the development he did between his first and second pro fights. Last time out, Couture displayed improved hands and good patience, working hard to eventually submit Lee Higgins back in February.

People are going to expect a lot from Couture and he’s always going to be under the microscope. It’s probably not fair, but such is life when you’re the son of one of the sport’s biggest stars.

Caros Fodor (10-3, facing James Terry)

Much like the Larkin-Villante fight, it’s probably unfair of me to just spotlight Fodor, as Terry is a tough Cung Le disciple with solid wrestling and a 5-1 record with Strikeforce.

That being said, he’s 30-years-old, dropped his only fight of significance in the last year and change (to Tarec Saffiedine) and has limited options going forward.

Fodor, on the other hand, is 26-years-old and has shown flashes of potential in his three Strikeforce appearance. Last time out, the AMC Pankration product battered Cesar Gracie fighter David Douglas through the first two rounds before stopping him with a series of knees in the third.

BELLATOR 46

Pat Curran (13-4, facing Luis Palomino)

The surprise winner of Bellator’s lightweight tournament in Season 2, Curran went the distance with champ Eddie Alvarez, and now makes the drop down to featherweight.

Many believe he’s most suited for this weight class (myself included) and he’ll get a chance to show how he measures up with a solid test in his debut. Palomino boasts an upset win over Jorge Masvidal, and went the distance with Yves Edwards last summer.

Curran has solid wrestling, good hands and works with a strong group under the guidance of his cousin, Jeff “Big Frog” Curran. He’s only 23 and already has a bunch of experience under his belt, so now that he’s fighting where he belongs, he has the potential to really shine.

Ronnie Mann (19-2-1, facing Adam Schindler)

For starters, his nickname is “Kid Ninja.”

Secondly, the 24-year-old Briton has lost just once since 2007 and that came against elite featherweight Hatsu Hioki.

Mann won the Shark Fights featherweight title in his North American debut last September, and scored a solid win in his Bellator debut in April. He’s one of the better prospects in the division, and will get a chance to prove that in this tournament, starting with Schindler on Saturday night.

Marlon Sandro (17-2, facing Genair de Silva Jr.)

I can’t lie: I’m really curious to see how Sandro performs.

People might get mad at me for saying this, but I’m not sold on the Nova Uniao product. He’s ranked as high as #5 in some rankings — and was higher prior to his loss to Hatsu Hioki in December – but I’m not convinced.

There have been too many “superstars” to emerge from Japan and fizzle in North America for me to be on the Sandro bandwagon just yet. He has tremendous potential and has delivered some nasty knockouts, but until he puts together a string of wins over quality contenders, I’ll reserve my judgment.

By the way, this isn’t a cakewalk fight for him either; de Silva (a.k.a. Junior PQD) is unbeaten since moving to featherweight.


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