With three of the world’s top promotions each hosting fight night events this week, it can be easy to be swamped by the sheer number of fights on offer.
But, while the main event bouts for each event are set to dominate the promotional news cycle in the lead-up to Friday and Saturday, there’s a handful of top-drawer bouts beneath those headliners that should deliver some of the very best action of a packed weekend of MMA.
To mark your card and ensure you’re fully prepped for the best bouts on each card, Fighters Only’s Simon Head is on hand to highlight four under-the-radar matchups that should deliver plenty of fireworks this weekend.
Timofey Nastyukhin vs. Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev
ONE: Winter Warriors – Friday, December 3
Two of ONE Championship’s most destructive lightweight contenders go toe to toe for the second time looking to earn another shot at championship gold following failed bids in their recent outings.
Both Timofey Nastyukhin and “Dagi” Arslanaliev lost their most recent bouts to current lightweight champion Christian Lee, but both remain among the most feared contenders in the division. And now they’re set to face off in a rematch of their 2018 meeting, which was won by Arslanaliev via first-round knockout.
With both men looking to return to winning ways, ONE Championship has matched the former title challengers head to head once again, and Nastyukhin and Arslanaliev will face off in a huge bout for the ONE lightweight division.
It seems almost inconceivable that the judges will be needed for this one, too. Nastyukhin has finished 11 of his 14 career victories inside the distance, while Arslanaliev has a 100% finish rate, with all eight of his wins coming via stoppage.
Put simply, it’s one of the most explosive matchups of the weekend. Will “Dagi” claim yet another finish, or will the heavy-handed Nastyukhin claim revenge?
Jay Jay Wilson vs. Alfie Davis
Bellator 272 – Friday, December 3
While ONE Championship are looking to see which established contender has the right stuff to challenge again, later on Friday night Bellator will look to see which of its up-and-coming stars is best equipped to move up the ranks and be a contender at 155 pounds.
In one corner is “The Maori Kid” Jay Jay Wilson. The Kiwi has looked every bit a contender of the future, and remains undefeated at 8-0, including seven victories under the Bellator banner.
However, while Wilson has had no problem with his opponents, he has struggled with the scale. Two of his last three bouts saw him fail to make the 146-pound non-title featherweight limit, and as a result he has moved up to lightweight for this weekend’s bout.
He’ll take on Alfie Davis, an English striking specialist whose control of range and penchant for spectacular kicks has made him an entertaining operator on a host of Bellator’s European Series cards.
Now Davis is set to showcase his skills Stateside, and plans on delivering a big performance against an undefeated opponent.
Both fighters possess the talent and skill to climb Bellator’s lightweight ladder, but only one can emerge from Bellator 272 with their resume enhanced.
Brad Riddell vs. Rafael Fiziev
UFC on ESPN 31 – Saturday, December 4
The lightweight co-main event clash between New Zealand’s Brad Riddell and Kyrgyzstan’s Rafael Fiziev at UFC on ESPN 31 is a striking fan’s dream.
Both men have decorated striking backgrounds, and both have strong ties to Tiger Muay Thai, where Fiziev is a kickboxing coach, while Riddell has trained and been a training partner for a host of fighters from the famed Phuket gym.
But it’s their penchant for the spectacular that makes this matchup a real can’t-miss bout. Both men are outstanding strikers, and both have no problem whatsoever planting their feet and letting their shots go, backing their striking skills – and their defensive abilities – in the pocket when the fists are flying.
Both men are on a tear, and both have their sights set on the upper tier of the super-competitive UFC lightweight division. But only one man can emerge from the UFC Apex this weekend with the win.
Regardless of who gets it, a spectacular striking encounter seems a virtual certainty.
Jimmy Crute vs. Jamahal Hill
UFC on ESPN 31 – Saturday, December 4
The UFC light heavyweight division may have the UFC’s oldest first-time champion at the top of the tree, but beneath the champion and some of the leading contenders, there’s a crop of talented young prospects looking to move their way toward the top.
Two such athletes will go head to head at the UFC Apex on Saturday night, as Australian Contender Series graduate Jimmy Crute faces American Jamahal Hill in a fascinating clash of up-and-coming stars.
Both Crute and Hill are happy to stand and throw strikes, but Crute has also shown his submission prowess on the mat. And, with both men looking to bounce back from defeats last time out, expect Crute and Hill to attack this fight with real gusto in a bid to get back to winning ways and surge into contention in the process.