10 February Tussles Worth Watching

By Brian Knapp Feb 7, 2017

In an effort to bring more attention to the global stage of mixed martial arts, this list does not focus on major North American-based promotions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Bellator MMA and the World Series of Fighting.

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The newly forged Legacy Fighting Alliance organization has started the process of filling its vacancies. Next up: the featherweight championship.

Kevin Aguilar and UFC veteran Damon Jackson will battle over the inaugural LFA featherweight crown in the Legacy Fighting Alliance 4 main event on Feb. 17 at the Horseshoe Casino and Hotel in Bossier City, Louisiana. Aguilar was the reigning Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder at 145 pounds when the promotion merged with the Resurrection Fighting Alliance.

Momentum from a three-fight winning streak has propelled Aguilar to the top of the regional circuit. The 28-year-old has delivered 10 of his 11 professional victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Aguilar last fought at Legacy 57 on July 1, when he walked away with a five-round split decision over Tony Kelley at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Jackson has posted back-to-back wins since being jettisoned from the UFC following a draw with Levan Makashvili a little more than a year ago. The 28-year-old Durant, Oklahoma, native last competed at LFA 1 on Jan. 13, when he submitted Charles Cheek with a second-round rear-naked choke. Jackson operates out of the Octagon MMA camp in Dallas.

The Aguilar-Jackson title clash stands as one under-the-radar matchup worth monitoring during the month of February. Here are nine more:

Herbert Burns vs. Movlid Khaibulaev
One Championship “Throne of Tigers”
Feb. 10 | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Two of One Championship’s more promising talents at 145 pounds will collide, as the undefeated Burns meets the unbeaten Khaibulaev. Just six fights into his pro career, Burns already owns victories over Edward Kelly, Honorio Banario and Timofey Nastyukhin. The 29-year-old younger brother of four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Gilbert Burns, he has secured four of his six wins by submission. Khaibulaev, 26, trains out of the same Fight Nights Team outfit that spawned former Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov and UFC veteran Ali Bagautinov.

Ryan Spann vs. Trevin Giles
Legacy Fighting Alliance 3
Feb. 10 | Lake Charles, Louisiana

Giles will have to work to keep his perfect professional record intact, as the light heavyweight prospect squares off with the highly regarded Spann in the LFA 3 main event. The 24-year-old Texan has started his career 8-0 with eight finishes, including a third-round arm-triangle choke submission on Isaac Villanueva at Legacy Fighting Championship 59 in September. Spann, 25, has lost twice in his past three appearances. He has not fought since he submitted to a second-round rear-naked choke from 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Robert Drysdale on July 22.

Jared Scoggins vs. Jesse Bazzi
Warrior Xtreme Cagefighting 67
Feb. 17 | Southgate, Michigan

Bloodlines have always mattered in sports, so Scoggins’ rise should come as little surprise. The younger brother of UFC veteran Justin Scoggins, the 21-year-old Spartanburg, South Carolina, native has rattled off five consecutive victories since debuting in late 2015. Scoggins has gone the distance in each of his last two appearances. His next assignment comes under the Warrior Xtreme Cagefighting banner, as he squares off with the once-beaten Bazzi in the WXC 67 main event.

Karl Amoussou vs. Matt Inman
Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 80
Feb. 18 | London

The vacant Cage Warriors Fighting Championship welterweight title will hang in the balance when Amoussou returns to the promotion for the first time in nearly a decade and takes on the surging Inman. The 31-year-old Amoussou has gone on a six-fight tear since his decision loss to Fernando Gonzalez at Bellator 122 in 2014. The Dream, Strikeforce and M-1 Global alum has stopped his last five opponents inside the first round. Inman boasts 17 finishes among his 19 professional victories. He has won six of his last seven bouts, including a second-round triangle choke submission on Che Mills in November.

Jared Gordon vs. Bill Algeo
Cage Fury Fighting Championships 63
Feb. 18 | Atlantic City, New Jersey

Gordon will put the Cage Fury Fighting Championships featherweight crown on the line for the first time, as he takes on Algeo at the Borgata Casino Hotel and Spa. The once-beaten 28-year-old champion has rattled off back-to-back wins since an injury forced him to bow out of his CFFC 48 showdown with Jeff Lentz in 2015. Gordon last fought at CFFC 60 on Aug. 6, when he moved up to 155 pounds to submit Dawond Pickney with a second-round rear-naked choke. Algeo, 27, has won seven of his past eight bouts, losing only to Shane Burgos -- an undefeated prospect who has since found his way to the UFC.

Norman Parke vs. Paul Redmond
British Association of Mixed Martial Arts 28
Feb. 24 | Belfast, Northern Ireland

While Parke won “The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes,” he never managed to secure a foothold in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and parted ways with the promotion following his decision defeat to Rustam Khabilov a little more than a year ago. He will make his British Association of Mixed Martial Arts debut at the age of 29 and in a headlining slot. Parke owns a stellar 17-2 record outside the UFC, with losses to Joseph Duffy and Greg Loughran serving as the only blemishes on his resume. Redmond last appeared at BAMMA 26 in September, when he notched a three-round unanimous decision over journeyman Chris Stringer. His degree of difficulty figures to increase here.

Julio Arce vs. Frank Buenafuente
Ring of Combat 58
Feb. 24 | Atlantic City, New Jersey

Team Tiger Schulmann’s Arce started his career 8-0, suffered consecutive losses to Brian Kelleher and has since righted his ship, capturing the Ring of Combat featherweight championship with a unanimous decision over Buenafuente in November. Now, the 27-year-old must defend the title in a rematch, as he looks to reclaim his place as one of the top prospects on the east coast. Buenafuente, 29, has pieced together four wins across his past five outings, the loss to Arce stalling his momentum.

Grant Dawson vs. Chuka Willis
Kansas City Fighting Alliance 22
Feb. 25 | Independence, Missouri

Dawson will try to take the next step in his development as one of the Midwest’s top prospects when he battles Willis for the vacant Kansas City Fighting Alliance featherweight championship. The 22-year-old threw out his anchor at the Glory MMA and Fitness camp fronted by UFC veteran James Krause and has enjoyed an 11-1 start to his career. All 11 of Dawson’s wins have resulted in finishes. Willis, 23, has competed in Bellator, the World Series of Fighting and the Resurrection Fighting Alliance promotions while training out of the American Top Team HD outfit in Kansas City. His career-best four-fight winning streak was snapped in a decision loss to Brandon Phillips at Bellator 159 on July 22.

Ryan Scope vs. Lewis Long
Made 4 The Cage 23
Feb. 25 | Tyne and Wear, England

Two of Europe’s best young fighters lock horns under the Made 4 The Cage banner, as Scope risks his perfect 9-0 record against Long in a welterweight showcase. Scope, 25, sports eight finishes among his nine pro victories, six of them of the first-round variety. He last competed at an Absolute Championship Berkut event on Oct. 1, when he disposed of Yusup Umarov with first-round punches. The 27-year-old Long has posted six wins over his last seven appearances, a third-round technical knockout loss to Andreas Stahl at Cage Warriors 76 in June the only setback.

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