Five under the radar fights at UFC Fight Night 50 and Bellator 123

With both UFC and Bellator running shows in Connecticut tonight, there’s a lot of anticipation from the MMA community about what will take place tonight, especially in the featured fights.

Jason Floyd - The MMA Report
Jason Floyd – The MMA Report

While a lot of focus has been placed on those bouts, there is still plenty of hidden gems on both UFC Fight Night 50 and Bellator 123.

Here’s a look at five fights that are flying under the radar.

Steve Garcia vs Kin Moy, Bellator 123
On the Bellator 123’s preliminary card, the Garcia/Moy bout presents an intriguing match-up between two up-and-coming bantamweights.

Following a successful run on the amateur scene, 22 year-old Garcia has kicked off his professional career with four consecutive finishes, two in of those taking place in Bellator against Shawn Bunch and Cody Walker. Garcia has used his lanky frame, striking and relentless pace in his career thus far.

Although Moy will be debuting with the promotion, he’s a familiar face for combat sports fans in the Northeast. Spending time in CES MMA, CFX, Cage Titans and Victory Combat Sports on his way road to Bellator 123, Moy should feel comfortable fighting at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

John Moraga vs Justin Scoggins, UFC Fight Night 50
Having lost two of his last three (albeit against two of the best flyweights in the world in John Dodson and Demetrious Johnson), John Moraga desperately needs a win to remain among the top flyweight contenders. Moraga, who has a 3-2 record in the UFC, will have a tough test in Scoggins.

At just twenty-one years old, Justin Scoggins absolutely ran through Richie Vaculik in his UFC debut last December. Now 22, Scoggins’ resume features an impressive win against a scrappy Will Campuzano and most recently, a split decision loss to Dustin Ortiz.

Moraga heads into this fight as the favorite, but Scoggins has displayed a well-rounded, dangerous game thus far in his career, and it’s only a matter of time before he makes the jump into the top tier of the weight class.

Sean Soriano vs Chas Skelly, UFC Fight Night 50
At the end of 2013, Sean Soriano was one of the top featherweights, and in early moments of 2014, Soriano stepped up on short notice to make his UFC debut against Tatsuya Kawajiri on the promotion’s inaugural event in Singapore. Although Soriano would go on to lose the fight, his stock hadn’t dropped to much because of the context surrounding the fight itself.

Now, with a regular training camp underneath his belt, Soriano will take the cage tonight in unfamiliar shoes. This time, he’ll be the fighter benefiting from an ill-prepared opponent as Chas Skelly took on the fight with just two weeks’ notice, replacing Andre Fili. Skelly, a prospect in his own rate thanks to his talented wrestling game that he’s honed at Team Takedown, is making a quick turnaround also – he submitted Tom Niinimaki on August 23rd.

While Skelly will be the facing the disadvantage of not having a proper training camp, this fight should help add another piece to the identities of the two featherweight prospects as they make their transition into featherweight contenders.

Tamdan McCrory vs Brennan Ward, Bellator 123
When Tamdan McCrory last fought, Brock Lesnar was UFC Heavyweight Champion, observers wondered who could possible dethrone Anderson Silva, George St. Pierre and BJ Penn, and Strikeforce was alive and well. After losing a contested split decision to Josh Howard at UFC 101, McCroy stepped away from the sport. He returns tonight against Brennan Ward.

Expect McCrory to look to take the fight down to the ground because of his expertise there and also the aggressive fighting nature of Ward. Ward, a tournament winner, is charismatic, both inside and outside the cage. His aggression makes up for his still-developing game, and his skills on the microphone have boosted his stock as a name in Bellator.

While I’d expect the loser of this fight to make a return to the Bellator cage, the winner has a lot to gain. A win for 27-year-old McCroy would be the perfect form of confirmation on his choice to return to MMA, and a victory for Ward would set him up for a return to the heights of the Bellator middleweight division.

Al Iaquinta vs Rodrigo Damm, UFC Fight Night 50
For Al Iaquinta and Rodridgo Damm, a win is an absolute must. What the two lightweights have in common is that they have had their most recent runs in the UFC stifled by a decision loss.

Representing the Serra-Longo camp, Iaquinta looked like a multi-dimensional fighter in a three-fight win streak that spanned from late 2013 to early 2014, but he his momentum was stunted in an upset loss to Mitch Clarke. In that same time frame, Damm pieced together two consecutive wins for the first time since 2008, only to lose a decision to Rashid Magomedov in May.

Iaquinta has a lot of tools that are constantly improving, and Damm is one of the better grapplers in the division. It’s realistic to imagine that either lightweight could make another run in the middle class of the division. The starting point for that potential run? Tonight.