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22 Jun, 2019 15:52

Saturday night fights: Five tussles to watch on a jam-packed day of combat sports

Saturday night fights: Five tussles to watch on a jam-packed day of combat sports

Between the UFC, Bellator and Bare Knuckle FC there are 37 fights taking place across three events between the United States and England on Saturday night and we have selected five of them for you to keep an eye on.

Artem Lobov v. Paulie Malignaggi

Where: Bare Knuckle FC 6; Tampa, Florida.

It says something as to the unique narrative of a journeyman MMA fighter and a two years' retired boxer that their bareknuckle boxing match headlining an upstart promotion's sixth-ever event is - by far - the most talked about fight on a day which also features cards from both the UFC and Bellator.

Lobov and Malignaggi are as unlikely a pairing as a combat sports matchmaker has even dreamt up, but here we are - a sort of proxy war stemming from the ill-tempered fallout of Malignaggi's now infamous spars against Lobov's teammate Conor McGregor a couple of years ago. 

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While many still see bareknuckle boxing as a crude offshoot of traditional pugilism, the BKB ruleset inserts enough blindspots into the concept of boxing as Malignaggi understands it to make this a compelling match-up.

Gegard Mousasi (c) v. Rafael Lovato Jr.

Where: Bellator 223; London, England

Bellator middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi's brutal shellacking of welterweight champ Rory MacDonald in September served to remind as to the Dutchman's excellence. Mousasi, 33, has put together a frankly ludicrous 45-6-2 professional record which includes eight straight wins against top names like Rafael Carvalho, Chris Weidman, Thiago Santos, Vitor Belfort and MacDonald. 

Much like MacDonald in his last fight against Neiman Gracie, Bellator have opted to test Mousasi's ground game by giving him the 9-0 Rafael Lovato Jr. in the the London event's headliner.

Lovato Jr. is a multiple time Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world champion and the second ever American to win the Jiu Jitsu World Championship as a black belt after B.J. Penn, which sets up the prospect of some intriguing grappling exchanges on Saturday night.

'The Korean Zombie' v. Renato Moicano

Where: UFC Fight Night; Greenville, South Carolina

Chan Sung Jung, better known by the undead moniker he earned by seemingly ignoring his opponents' assaults in the cage, is one of the UFC's more beloved, fan-favorite fighters owing to his carefree style of brawling. 

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The South Korean's UFC Greenville opponent, fellow top-ranked featherweight Renato Moicano, will need little encouragement to take part in this style of fight. The Brazilian has seen his momentum stifled by a February defeat to former champ Jose Aldo but he knows an impressive victory will help erase memories of that.

'The Korean Zombie' also suffered defeat in his last outing when he was put to sleep by a Yair Rodriguez elbow in a Knockout of the Year contender. To both, a win is crucial.

James Gallagher v. Jeremiah Labiano

Where: Bellator 223; London, England

They sure make 'em confident in Ireland. James Gallagher, 22, is the latest off the never-ending assembly line of talent out of John Kavanagh's Straight Blast Gym in Dublin and much like his teammate Conor McGregor, Gallagher has a penchant for the dramatic.

While McGregor is known for his fists, Gallagher's method to victory involves taking his opponent's back and strangling him until the tap arrives - and it is just as devastating a manoeuver as his sparring partner's famous left hand.

Opposite Gallagher will be the 12-6 American fighter Labiano, a striker who will have advantages when it comes to size and reach. The Irishman's sole career loss came when he was caught on the feet and finished by strikes shortly after and the longer Labiano fails to assert himself in this fashion raises the chances of a Gallagher submission victory.  

Paul Daley v. Erick Silva

Where: Bellator 223; London, England

Neither Paul Daley nor Erick Silva are likely to be in world title contention anytime soon but the two experienced veterans are known to make for exciting fights - especially, one expects, against each other.

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The two fighters have almost 90 professional mixed martial arts bouts between them, with Daley recording a staggering 30 KOs compared to Silva's 4. More than 60 percent of the Brazilian's wins have come by submission, an area that Daley has proved to be uncomfortable in the past. 

Both have been in patchy form lately but both are also known for their collective abilities to end a fight in an instant. Expect a finish in this one.