Travis Lizotte "Full Contact Writer"
This Friday night from their home at the Shriners Auditorium in Wilmington, Massachusetts, Joe Cavallaro and company present Combat FC 4: Ghareeb v. Junior to crown the promotion's first professional Lightweight Champion. Cavallaro and matchmaker Rick Caldwell have yet another stacked lineup in store for New England MMA fans and fans watching across the globe on UFC Fight Pass as Combat FC 4 promises to be one of the region's biggest fight cards of the year. Fourteen bouts make up the Combat FC 4 bill, consisting of 3 amateur contests and 11 professional fights with a main card streaming live on UFC Fight Pass. Preliminary action will be streamed on the promotion's Facebook page, then Combat FC 4 goes live on the UFC Fight Pass Facebook page at 7 pm with three professional bouts, before the 7 fight professional main card kicks off at 8 pm on Fight Pass.
We begin to take a closer look at the Combat FC 4 fight card with a check on the first three fights of the night as Amateur fighters look to leave a lasting impression on the Combat FC fans. Action begins in the Welterweight division as Nostos MMA's Josh Smith (1-1) comes into Combat FC 4 looking to earn revenge against Massachusetts' Steve Hill (1-0), who finished Smith's Nostos MMA teammate Craig Marston late last year in Hill's debut. Smith hopes to make a statement as he prepares to bounce back of the first loss of his career to Shane Dillehay (1-1 professional MMA) last year, at the expense of the thus-far unblemished Steve Hill Friday night in the Combat FC 4 opener.
Then Massachusetts' amateur Bantamweights collide as Pedro Baez (0-1) meets newcomer Sean Nichols (Debut, Sityodtong) inside the Combat FC cage. Western Mass' Baez returns to the cage following a second round submission defeat to Neil Mazumdar last June on the South Shore. Baez makes his North Shore debut Friday night in search of his first victory against Sean Nichols as both men aim to leave their mark on the Combat FC faithful.
Our final amateur contest of the evening will be settled in the Lightweight division when Combat FC fan favorite Jarrod St. Jean (2-1, Spero's Martial Arts) makes his fourth straight start under the CFC banner as he looks to bounce back off a narrow split-decision loss to Shaheeb Jackson (3-0) at Combat FC 3. Standing in his way; KTA Nashua's Tristan Wood (1-0), Wood traded in his big gloves for MMA gloves last November in Maine when he turned a 2-0 amateur kickboxing record into an undefeated MMA record with a second round Guillotine of Armon Bryant. Wood draws the toughest opponent of his career Friday night when he makes his Combat FC debut against the three fight veteran; Jarrod St. Jean.
We move to the professionals as former undefeated Lightweight Yann Oliveira (3-0, The Forge) puts an end to a nearly nine year layoff when he takes on Stephen Stengel (6-22) in Middleweight action. Yann returns to the cage nearly unrecognizable Friday night as he turned his nine year hiatus into 30 pounds of muscle on his way back to the cage and his Combat FC debut. Yann's training videos have been nothing short of impressive as striking coach Keegan Hornstra readies the 34 year old for his return to action at Combat FC 4. Oliveira's opponent Stephen Stengel is no stranger to the Combat FC stage and Friday night Stengel looks for his second promotional victory in his four starts with the promotion. To do so Stengel must fend off the striking power of Oliveira and not end up on the business end of Yann's fourth consecutive knockout to open his pro career.
Combat FC 4 coverage shifts to the UFC Fight Pass Facebook page next as Leo Ladeira (2-3, Sityodtong) and Robert Wusstig (7-13) meet in the Lightweight division. Theoretically we could be talking about Ladeira's third Combat FC appearance here, however since his Submission (Arm Triangle) of Paul Teague at Combat FC 1, Ladeira has had six fights scrapped, including three opponents backing out of his bout at Combat FC 3 earlier this year. Ladeira ends his year long layoff against another CFC veteran in New York's Robert Wusstig. Wusstig impressed Combat FC fans his first time out, albeit in defeat, when he stood toe to toe with Lightweight super-prospect Mo Al Kinani (5-2) at Combat FC 3 in a three round decision. Wusstig will look to claim victory for the very first time in the New England region at Combat FC 4 as he awaits the return of Revere's Leo Ladeira.
We continue in the Heavyweight division next when two big men look to get back into the win column at Combat FC 4 as Providence, Rhode Island's Jorge Vega (0-1) meets Michigan's Alex Davidson (1-2, Nostos MMA). After opening his professional career with two knockouts in the Muay Thai realm, Vega entered the MMA cage last October where he became victim of a Knockout at the hands of Hassan Graham (1-1). Vega makes his Combat FC debut Friday night when he squares off with former Light-Heavyweight Alex Davidson in a Heavyweight contest. Native of Battle Creek, Michigan, Davidson found a home with Nostos MMA in Somersworth, New Hampshire during his time on the East Coast. Davidson made his New England MMA debut last year with a Submission loss to black belt Daniel Mola (1-1), he makes his Combat FC debut here, looking for his first victory inside the region.
Our final Facebook fight of the evening brings us to a Catchweight of 175 pounds as Sityodtong submission specialist Gerry Meuse (4-0) meets the always entertaining Paul Teague (1-6). Meuse returned to the MMA scene earlier this year and picked up right here he left off in 2018, going 3-0 so far in 2023, with two victories by Twister. You read that right, Meuse finished both Josh Beauparlant and Anthony Vasta with the ultra rare Twister submission just four months apart. To give you an idea how rare that is; only two Twisters have been finished in the history of the UFC. We will see what Meuse has up his sleeve next at Combat FC 4 when he squares off with BKFC alum Paul Teague. Teague makes his second walk to the Combat FC cage marred in the midst of a personal six fight losing skid. Treading doesn't get any easier here for Teague as he meets the surging Gerry Meuse.
It's time to fire up UFC Fight Pass for the remaining seven professional scraps on the Combat FC 4 fight card and we begin that action in the Lightweight division as one time New England MMA top prospect (at Featherweight) Dylan Lockard (6-2) makes his highly anticipated return to action. New Hampshire's Lockard climbed to an impressive 6-1 and held NEF's professional Lightweight belt before getting the call to compete on the Contender Series in August of 2019 where he came up short against now seven time UFC alum; TJ Brown (17-10). Lockard finally puts an end to his now nearly four year layoff, following his Contender Series appearance, at Combat FC 4 when he welcomes the Pacific Northwest's Patrick "The PNW Badboy" Benson (5-6) to the New England region for the first time. Benson ended a nearly four year layoff of his own earlier this year with a first round submission of Jordan Stjern (0-1) in January. Benson sets his sights on the toughest test of his professional career Friday night when he meets the talented Dylan Lockard in an intriguing matchup between fellow grapplers.
Speaking of highly touted prospects; Billerica's Jake "The Gorilla" Pilla (3-0) comes into his Combat FC 4 contest with Daniel Gary (0-2) as one of the most highly regarded Bantamweights in the region. Winner of his last six fights overall, including a perfect 3-0 start to his professional career makes the 28 year old Pilla one of the hardest fighters to find a matchup for. With Combat FC 4 looming matchmaker Rick Caldwell turned to 29 year old South Carolinian Daniel Gary who makes his New England MMA debut Friday night with the unenviable task of solving Pilla ahead of him. Gary turns to the New England MMA scene in search of the first victory of his career which will not come easy when lock horns with a dangerous Jake Pilla at a Catchweight of 140 pounds.
Pilla joined our Steve Domenico in "The Room Podcast" to discuss the opportunity ahead of him at Combat FC 4. Check out the complete interview below.
Former The Ultimate Fighter contestant Kemran Lachinov (10-3, Team Link) was nearly on the outside looking in at Combat FC 4 as his regional return was put on hold when former opponent Jonathan Piersma (6-1, #1 Welterweight in New England) was forced to withdraw from their main event matchup with an injury. It appeared as though Lachinov's two year layoff from competition would meet an unfortunate extension, before a former foe volunteered for another shot at the talented Springfield, Massachusetts "Killer." Connecticut's Sam "Super Saiyan" Watford (3-5) battled Lachinov for three hard fought rounds at Bellator 178 in 2017 a fight that ultimately came down to a split-decision in favor of Lachinov. With Piersma forced out Sam Watford jumped at the opportunity to run it back with Lachinov, six years later, at a Catchweight of 175 pounds, in the Combat FC cage.
Action continues in the Welterweight division with two men looking to claw their way into the New England rankings as Combat FC veterans Sage Philippe (2-4, Underground MMA) and Aaron "Earthquake" Trecell (3-3, Sityodtong) take center stage. Western Massachusetts' Philippe broke in with the promotion at Combat FC 1 with a hard fought decision loss to Sanad Armouti (3-2). Philippe would go on to drop a narrow split-decision to Marty Navis (6-3) before returning to the win column this April with a decision victory outside of the region. Standing across the cage from Philippe; the 'red hot' Aaron Trecell looks to keep his personal three fight winning streak alive. Aaron premiered under the CFC banner at Combat FC 2 where he earned the first victory of his professional career, stopping Chris Almestica (0-1) with a headkick. Trecell then followed up at Combat FC 3 with a first round drubbing of Stephen Stengel (6-22). Trecell's career resurrection wouldn't end there, as he added a second round TKO of Shane Dillehay (1-1) in March, before returning to Combat FC Friday night in search of his fourth consecutive Knockout stoppage against Sage Philippe.
We stay in the Welterweight division next as 2020 Olympic Bronze medalist in Freestyle Wrestling; Bekzod Abdurakhmonov (7-0, Sityodtong) returns to the MMA cage for the first time in nearly six years against Brazilian banger; Derik de Freitas (7-5). Bekzod has spent the last decade split between the wrestling mats and the MMA cage, enjoying resounding success in both realms. On the mats; Bekzod defeated former Olympic Gold Medalist Jordan Burroughs of the United States 11-1 at the 2016 Olympic games before surrendering the Bronze medal match to Jabrayil Hasanov. Bekzod returned to the Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan four years later where he finally captured the Bronze medal. In the cage; Bekzod began his career by reeling off six consecutive finishes between 2013 and 2014 before returning four years later to add a decision victory in 2017. Bek looks to keep the accolades flowing Friday night when he welcomes Derik de Freitas to the Combat FC cage. de Freitas carries with him seven victories in his twelve career clashes with all of those wins coming by way of TKO/KO, making him dangerous competition to anyone in the Welterweight division.
The Combat FC 4 co-main event runs through the Featherweight division as we await the return of "The Zohan" Randy Costa (6-4, Lauzon MMA) from his stint with the UFC. Taunton's Costa left the New England scene back in 2019 when he got the call to fight Brandon Davis (14-11) at UFC 236 in Atlanta. Although Costa would drop a highly entertaining UFC debut due to a second round Rear Naked Choke, Costa's "all gas, no brakes" style caught the eyes of many viewers. Randy would follow up his debut defeat with back to back first round Knockout victories over Boston Salmon (8-4) and Journey Newson (10-5) before a three fight skid put an end to his UFC run late last year. Already familiar with the Combat FC family, as Randy joined Sean Wheelock in the commentary booth for both CFC 1 and CFC 2, Costa inked a deal with the promotion to commence his journey back to the UFC under the Combat FC banner.
Friday night "The Zohan" welcomes 14 fight professional Carlos Espinosa (6-8) to the Combat FC cage for the very first time in the CFC 4 co-headliner. Tampa, Florida's Carlos Espinosa is no stranger to the New England region however, as he has competed in the region three times since 2021, including a decision victory over Leonardo Cavalho (3-6) and losses to Ashiek Ajim (6-3) and John Douma (7-4). Espinosa looks to break away from a current four fight losing streak when the cage door locks on this Featherweight showdown with the ever talented and highly entertaining; Randy Costa. Expect violence in this fight, as Costa looks to get back on track by hanging his seventh career knockout on the 35 year old Floridian Carlos Espinosa.
Finally the evening comes down to the Combat FC 4 Main Event where the promotion will crown it's inaugural Lightweight Champion when Bellator MMA veterans "Nasty" Nate Ghareeb (8-2, American Top Team) and Jair "JJ" Junior (7-4, Diesel Gym) vie for Lightweight supremacy. New England veteran turned Coconut Creek, Florida resident Nate Ghareeb (#3 Featherweight in New England) carries with him one of the most impressive resumes of any "unsigned" fighter in the New England region. While Ghareeb seems to the on the cusp of a UFC call, he seems satisfied to carve out his name here in New England as he looks to stack regional titles on his way to the top. Friday night's main event will mark the third title fight in Ghareeb's last four contests when he looks to add a second regional strap to his collection at the expense of 32 year old Brazilian Jair Junior.
Junior, who's 11 fight career has seen him compete across the globe, makes his debut stateside Friday night when he looks to spoil the Combat FC 4 party in the Main Event, and bring the Combat FC Lightweight title back across the pond with him, to his home gym in London, England. Junior finds himself in quite possibly the biggest spot in his career against Ghareeb, as it is he who stands in the way of Ghareeb's second regional title and quite possibly "Nasty" Nate's call to the UFC. This fight should produce steady action for as long as it lasts, as these two highly skilled 155 pounders lay it all on the line for Combat FC Gold!
Nate Ghareeb checked in with our Dylan Napoleon on his "Talk of the Tape" Podcast during the lead up to this Combat FC Lightweight title fight Friday night. Check out the complete interview below.
Stick with New England MMA throughout the weekend as we bring you live, up to the minute coverage of Combat FC 4!