Contenders 26 preview – Ultimate Fighter star Mysiala headlines, Goncalves returns, and Jaskiewicz looks for another highlight KO
- Credit: Archant
One of the region’s premier combat sports shows returns this weekend with a superb card featuring elite MMA action. Mark Heath previews Contenders 26.
What, when and where?
Contenders 26 will be held at the Epic Studios in Norwich tonight, with the first fight set for 6.45pm.
As is the show's USP, the event will feature a mixture of boxing, K1 kickboxing and MMA bouts, all inside a championship-sized cage.
There are 14 fights in all on the card, topped by three elite pro MMA clashes.
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Doors open at 5.30pm, with the main event set to start at around 10.15pm. Tickets start at £30.
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What a corker. One of the biggest names that has ever fought in the region, Ultimate Fighter veteran Przemyslaw Mysiala, squares off with Brazilian BJJ black belt Yuri Andrei for the light-heavyweight title.
Securing Mysiala, who was last seen competing on the UFC's wildly popular Ultimate Fighter TV show, is a major coup for Contenders - he's been one of Europe's top 205lb fighters for years, and has done battle with the likes of King Mo Lawal on Bellator.
He boasts a 22-9-1 pro record, and will have a significant advantage in that respect over Andrei, who is 7-11 and hasn't competed in MMA since 2015 - although the Brazilian has also competed in boxing and K1.
It's rare to see such a well-known fighter compete locally - and this dust-up could be worth the price of admmission alone.
The long-awaited return of one of the region's brightest and most charismatic MMA prospects, Andre Goncalves.
The Thetford lightweight looked to be on the fast-track to stardom not too long ago, racing to a 3-1-1 pro record and getting called up to compete on international shows.
Sadly though, injury issues struck and he's not fought since a crushing win over Linas Meistavicius back in February 2017.
He faces an intriguing test here in Julien Bouteix, who's moving up in weight, but boasts a shocking upset KO win over Richard Mearns back at Contenders 20.
Goncalves, no stranger to a bit of trash talk, told me: "I think it's a good fight for me. If this man weighs in at 70kg I'm going to be about double his size - he's going to find out that he won't have a single advantage over me.
"The break has been good for me. I'm hitting a lot harder than I ever have and I've grown and matured in the sport, and in life - my body is catching up with the pieces of the puzzle.
"My level is world class. I truly hope that this is the beginning of a new era for me. I want to have a few fights with Contenders and hopefully then move to the big shows, the likes of Cage Warriors, Bellator and whatever.
"I want to create my own legacy, make my two little girls proud and put my country on the map."
The first of the pro MMA fights on the main card features Konrad Jaskiewicz, who won my Flying Knee award for best knockout of 2018 with, fittingly, a flying knee in his pro debut win over Baruc Martin at Contenders 24.
The man nicknamed 'Skinny Power' is a giant at featherweight and will always be a threat with knees and kicks, while he also owns one of the quickest submissions in MMA history, a four second ankle lock win over Tommy Allen at Contenders 11.
He fights Aurelien Raymond here, a man who's also 1-0 as a pro, so someone's 0 has to go.
There's one rule with Jaskiewicz fights - don't blink!
Rest of the main card
The main card starts at 9pm with the final title defence of slick boxer Stevi Levy's 60kg reign before she makes the switch to the pro ranks.
Kings Lynn's Levy, who can box her way to points wins or slug it out if required, faces Jasmina Zapoczna.
Levy is great to watch and brings a big following with her from the town's Heros Gym, so the atmosphere for this one should be cracking.
Can she sign off in style, or will Zapoczna flip the script on the ending? Only time will tell!
Look out for
There's a cracking battle for the amateur featherweight title on the prelim card, as Bury's Jimmy Fell (3-1), coming off his best career win on Cage Warriors Academy in Colchester last month, squares off with the unbeaten Lee Miller (4-0), who's won every single fight by choke.
Elsewhere on the card, giant Norwich heavyweight boxer Jacub Adamski is also in action, facing Toby Davies in what wiill be a titanic meeting of two very large men.
Earlier still, look out for former Contenders K1 champ Piotr Panczak's return to action, while Elite Gym's Joseph Lincoln, who showed remarkable stamina, punch resistance and drive on his K1 debut last year, faces Daniel Higgs from Heros Gym.
How to watch
Contenders 26 will be streamed live across the world on two platforms - FITE TV and MMA TV, so if you can't be there in person, there's no excuse to miss the action!