Jiu-jitsu fans rejoice as the Legacy Fighting Alliance is set to bring a grappling-heavy main event to Shawnee, Okla. on Friday. Bantamweights Ary Farias and Michinori Tanaka will do battle in a main event set to emanate from the Grand Hotel Casino & Resort.
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Friday’s main event will be tough to miss for fans who prefer the grappling side of MMA. Farias (11-3) and Tanaka (14-3) have at least 10 submission victories between them, and given the body of work between the two at this point in their careers, it seems unlikely that either man will be looking to keep the fight standing. Tanaka, who hails from Yokohama, Japan, is a UFC veteran who compiled a 2-3 record during his time in the promotion. His biggest victory came against one-time bantamweight title challenger Joe Soto, and otherwise faced stiff competition during his time in the promotion. Since leaving the UFC, Tanaka has tallied three straight wins, but inactivity has stymied his momentum. Nevertheless, Tanaka does own a victory over former ranked UFC flyweight Rogério Bontorin, choking out the Brazilian in the third round. The 31-year-old may also be looking to up his activity in the cage, as Friday will mark the first time in five years Tanaka has had fewer than 12 months between consecutive fights.
Tanaka currently trains out of Team Alpha Male Japan, a subsidiary of Northern California’s Team Alpha Male that is run by Tetsuji Hashiguchi. There, Tanaka gets work in with the likes of Yusaku Nakamura and charismatic former UFC featherweight Teruto Ishihara, a former foe of Tanaka’s who himself is the owner of two TKO victories this year alone. Tanaka will now look to replicate his teammate’s success and either move one step closer to a shot at LFA gold or a second run in the UFC at a time when the promotion is as starved for Japanese talent as ever.
In order to do that, Tanaka will need to get through Farias, a tenured grappler in his own right. In fact, Farias’ most recent spell in a competitive environment came at the inaugural UFC Fight Pass Invitational, working to a draw with Ricardo Evangelista. The 32-year-old Brazilian’s most recent MMA bout came when he fought Rodrigo de Moura at Cassino Fight 7, taking the win with a second-round guillotine choke. Prior to beating de Moura, all of Farias’ recorded submission wins had come by way of rear naked choke, but taking the back of Tanaka, the superior wrestler of the two could prove challenging. That said, Farias can also cause problems with his hands, owning one knockout victory as well as a victory by way of doctor stoppage. Whether he is able to put Tanaka away on the feet will depend on how long Tanaka is willing to leave openings. As long Tanaka is willing to be the first to act in the grappling department, he stands a good chance at winning a decision as he holds a recorded 6-3 record when the fight reaches the judges’ scorecards. Farias’ lack of successful submissions off his back bodes additionally well for the native of Japan.
Oddsmakers currently have Tanaka favored at around -220 while Farias can be had for as high as +180.
While the main event is set to feature a former UFC combatant in Tanaka, the LFA 138 co-main event will feature a UFC fighter that never was when Askar Askar (13-2) takes on Diego Silva (14-7). Askar, who fights out of Chicago, Ill., had become an LFA mainstay over the years but seemed poised to make his UFC debut on short notice against Cody Stamann. Askar even participated in the customary media day the Wednesday before UFC events take place, but was abruptly pulled from the fight after physicians caught an abnormality in his heart scans that rendered him unable to compete. Askar never made the walk to the Octagon, and would soon be released from the promotion. However, after visiting with a heart specialist in Chicago, Askar was promptly given the green light to resume his career, and since the Stamann cancellation has gone 2-1 in the LFA cage, coming off back-to-back decision victories. While he loves to strike, Askar is somewhat susceptible to the knockout, with both of his losses coming by way of punches.
If Askar’s night does end with him looking up at the lights, it will mark the first knockout of Silva’s 21-fight career. Silva trains at Fusion X-Cel in Ocoee, Fla., the home of recently retired MMA legend Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Even with “Jacare” retired, the 28-year-old Silva does possess the training partners to continue his progression, working alongside surging fighters such as Cleveland McLean, Julien Williams and UFC lightweight Mike Davis. However, the Brazilian has thus far served as a gatekeeper for UFC hopefuls, most recently dropping a split decision to recent UFC debutant Daniel Argueta, though Silva gave a generally good account of himself and had some positives to take away. For one, the Argueta fight marked the second consecutive outing Silva has gone the distance in a five-round affair. Additionally, the booking with Argueta came together quickly after Silva earned a unanimous decision over Andre Soukhamthath at CES 66 almost two months to the day of his LFA bantamweight championship fight. With three months to prepare for a three-round fight, the -155 favorite Silva may be able to weaponize pace against Askar, a +125 underdog at most sportsbooks.
Rest of the Card
LFA 138 is currently scheduled for a six-fight main card with fun matchups littered throughout the evening. Masuto Kawana, a countryman of Tanaka’s, will meet Fortis MMA’s Elijah Johns (8-2) in a main-card featherweight tilt. Johns, who has won six of his last seven fights in LFA, will be looking to make a statement against Kawana. The younger brother of UFC bantamweight Miles Johns, Elijah is already on the UFC’s radar, and a dominant showing will move him one step closer to stepping out of his brother’s shadow. Kawana and Johns will not be the only featherweights in action, however, as AJ Cunningham will look to improve to 9-2 when he takes on 6-4 Shea Conley. Cunningham, the Attitude MMA featherweight champion, will look to avenge his unsuccessful debut in LFA with a win over Conley, a kill-or-be-killed action fighter who has seen the judges’ scorecards just once in 10 professional fights.
Jota Ninomiya (1-0) will be looking to work his way towards prospect status when he fights Nick Talavera at 145 pounds. Ninomiya, an Enshin Karate fighter, has been fighting for LFA since his amateur days where he piled up a 4-2 record, though he rode a four-fight winning streak into his professional debut against Ricky Field which he was able to wrap up in just 34 seconds. Talavera, conversely, went 5-5 as an amateur and will be hoping to make a successful LFA debut. Unbeaten Motaz Askar will kick off the main card fighting Chris Mecate at a 150-pound catchweight. Askar trains under Marc Montoya at Factory X Muay Thai, and will be looking to put his striking to use against Mecate, a former Division I wrestler at Old Dominion University and assistant wrestling coach at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California.