After a two-week cooling off period, the action inside the Octagon is about to get hot-and-heavy with 10 events over the next 10 weeks to close out the year, beginning with Saturday’s debut fight card in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.
The biggest fights over that span are scheduled for later in the run, but this weekend’s event in the Maritimes is one that still carries the potential to have an impact on a couple different divisions — especially light heavyweight — and establish a handful of fighters as intriguing names to watch heading into 2019.
But as outstanding as the main event between Volkan Oezdemir and Anthony Smith is — and it is outstanding on many levels — the real lure of this card at the Avenir Centre is the opportunity to get a closer look at a trio of talents who have shown potential to this point, yet whose ceilings remain undefined.
Two are making their promotional debuts, while the third is coming off an outstanding performance that flew under the radar in the summer, and depending on how things go out east this weekend, there is a real possibility we’re talking about all three as breakthrough performers from this show.
Here’s a closer look at this intriguing triumvirate.
This is On the Rise: Moncton Edition.
Tabbed as one of the 10 Fighters to Watch in the Final Quarter of 2018, Haqparast enters his preliminary card pairing with Thibault Gouti looking to build off an outstanding effort against Marc Diakiese in July where he swept the scorecards and handed “Bonecrusher” his third straight loss.
Just 23 years old and sporting strong fundamentals, Haqparast is the archetype of fighters meant to be highlighted in this series — young, talented athletes who have shown the potential to develop into long-term fixtures on the roster and possible contenders who are still at least a couple wins away from facing Top 10 competition.
While Diakiese had a better highlight reel and record inside the Octagon, Gouti is a tougher assignment this time around for Haqparast, as the French veteran has a more balanced offensive arsenal and the kind of savvy that can stifle the advances of a talented, but as yet largely untested prospect. But that is also why this is such an interesting opportunity for Hasparast, who enters with a 9-2 record overall.
If he’s able to get through Gouti and offer a performance comparable to the one he turned in against Diakiese in Hamburg, Germany, he will establish himself as one of the top up-and-coming talents to watch next year.
Transitioning to the UFC after an outstanding run under the Cage Warriors banner where he won and defended the lightweight title three times, Fishgold is dropping down to featherweight for his promotional debut and has a chance to make an instant impression in a matchup against the severely underrated Calvin Kattar.
Riding a seven-fight winning streak and sporting an impressive 17-1-1 record overall, the Liverpool native holds wins over TUF alums Marcin Wrzosek and Nic Herron-Webb and has earned six first-round finishes during his current run of success, with the latter of those two being the only one to hang with Fishgold during his current run of success.
Kattar had his 10-fight winning streak snapped at UFC 223 in an entertaining scrap with Renato Moicano and is one of those guys who doesn’t get the attention he deserves in the loaded featherweight ranks. Should the British newcomer cross the Atlantic and collect a victory in his first foray into the Octagon, it will be impossible not to add him to the growing list of terrific, young fighters working their way up the ladder in the 145-pound weight class.
The charismatic Edwards delivered one of the most emphatic performances of the second season of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series this past summer, calmly knocking out Austin Tweedy with a single, sudden right hand in less than 30 seconds.
And then he pantomimed signing a contract as White, Sean Shelby, and Mick Maynard marveled at his handiwork.
The 28-year-old MMA Lab product has won five straight heading into his first official trip into the Octagon against fellow newcomer Don Madge this weekend in Moncton, and he profiles as someone who could make a quick impact in the always competitive, always congested lightweight division.
While his power is obvious and his finishing instincts are excellent, Edwards also has very good wrestling in his back pocket he can turn to in a pinch, and training with John Crouch and the collection of talented professionals in the desert will ensure that the newcomer is ready for whatever comes his way this weekend in the Maritimes.