XFC 43 Preview: After lengthy layoff, a new era and two tournaments await

A promotional image for the XFC 43 event. Credit: XFC.

After over four years on the sidelines, Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC) looks to return in a big way, as the publicly-traded promotion presents XFC 43, its debut event on NBC Sports Network, on Nov. 11 at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, GA.

In its new iteration, the XFC will host both the bigger names not signed to promotions like the UFC and Bellator, as well as up-and-coming prospects in the sport — as the XFC looks to establish itself as a new, true alternative product for MMA fans to constantly look forward to for high-quality events.

All in all, 12 bouts — five main card bouts, seven prelims — will be contested at XFC 43, with most coming in the form of lightweight and welterweight tournament bouts, in addition to the hyped main and co-main events.

The event’s prelims will begin with a welterweight “Young Guns” bout, featuring a pair of fighters making their professional MMA deubts. It will be Luis Conde-Navarro (4-0 am.) taking on Nicholas Horton (6-0 am.)

Navarro, of Xtreme Couture, most recently fought in Tuff-N-Uff, scoring first-round finishes of Brandon Manoff (2-2 am.) and Byron Fields (3-4 am.). Horton went the distance with current UFC fighter Khaos Williams in his first two amateur fights but has since racked up four straight submission wins, defeating Sherman Lovely (4-1 am.) and Riley Boomer (1-1 am.) in the span of just over three months to win two amateur welterweight titles.

The welterweight tournament then kicks off in the next bout when Ryan Dickson (10-5) meets Mike Hill (11-5-1).

Dickson will be competing in his first MMA fight in about five years in this one. Dickson won 10 of his first 12 fights, including a win over EFC standout Dave Mazany, but hasn’t fought since dropping three straight to Jason Fischer (14-4), Jason Witt (18-6) and Nah-shon Burrell (16-11).

Hill, who competed on season 16 of The Ultimate Fighter and is a veteran of WSOF and AFC, dropped a decision to new Bellator signee and CFFC champion Bobby Lee (12-4) at CFFC 85 a couple of months ago. It was Hill’s first fight in about two years, and the loss snapped a three-fight win streak.

The 170-pound tournament will continue in the next bout, as Larue Burley (9-4) faces Alex Sanchez (8-2). Burley is a veteran of Bellator, LFA, and WSOF, but after his six-fight undefeated run was snapped in 2015, the Power MMA product has not been able to string together back-to-back wins. Sanchez also won his first six MMA bouts before suffering a pair of losses as part of a busy 2019. Sanchez, fighting out of Entram Gym, has bounced back with a pair of wins in UWC Supremacy this year over Ivan Maya (2-5) and Jorge Olea (2-3).

Following that fight, the XFC’s lightweight tournament will get underway with a bout between Jose Caceres (15-10) and Tom O’Connor (8-1).

Caceres has competed professionally in the sport since 2010 and has competed for the likes of WSOF, Fight Time and CFA. The submission specialist, fighting out of American Top Team Kendall, however, has struggled a bit recently, losing three of his last four.

Notably, Caceres is the lone man to have defeated UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.

In spite of his good record, O’Connor hasn’t stepped into MMA action since July 2018. Since dropping his MMA debut, the XFFC veteran, has been unbeaten, proving able to finish on the feet or on the ground. His last fight was a late third-round finish of Chris Day at XFFC 18.

It’s then back over to the welterweight tournament, as Spencer Jebb (13-7) goes toe-to-toe with UFC veteran Bobby Nash (9-4).

Jebb, who at one point won seven fights in a row, has been a standout at Xcessive Force FC, as well as having appearances in Unified MMA, King of the Cage and WSOF. Jebb recently had a three-fight stint in M-1 Challenge, losing to Ingiskhan Ozdoev (5-4) and Isatay Temirov (9-2-1) but scoring a win over Vladimir Tyurin (7-4-1).

Nash won eight of his first nine bouts before a three-fight stint with the UFC in 2017. He was finished each time, losing to Li Jingliang (17-6), Danny Roberts (17-5), and Kenan Song (16-5) before being released. In his first fight since parting from the UFC, Nash finished Mark Stoddard (17-10) in 63 seconds in May 2019.

Another welterweight tournament bout will follow when Bradley Desir (10-6) faces Carson Hardman (8-2).

Desir last fought in March 2018, suffering a first-round knockout loss at the hands of Taj Abdul-Hakim (8-2) in Ring of Combat. Prior to that, “Featherstone” had won six of his last seven, with wins in ROC, CFFC, as well as a victory at Bellator NYC. Desir holds wins over Julian Lane (12-9-1), Nate Grebb (3-2) and Eddie Lenoci (4-3).

Hardman won his first five fights before suffering his first defeat against Clay Collard (18-8), a UFC vet and up-and-coming Top Rank boxer. He’s won three of his last four. In his most recent fight, his first outside Steelfist Fight Night, he knocked out Nate Kearsley (6-6) in 80 seconds.

The preliminary bouts conclude with the second fight in the lightweight tournament, which will see D’Juan Owens (18-15-1) face Scott Hudson (11-5-1).

Owens is currently on a pattern of suffering two consecutive losses before two consecutive wins. As a result, he’s lost six of his last 10. He’s most recently suffered back-to-back losses to Tristan Connelly (14-6) and Christian Leonard (9-8).

Hudson has won six of his last seven, with all fights in this span coming in BTC Fight Promotions, winning the BTC’s 165-pound title in June 2019 by defeating Dawmond Pickney (16-15) and retaining it almost exactly six months later against Jarel Askew (11-6).

The XFC 43 main card will begin with another “Young Guns” bout, this time at 125 pounds, as Enzo Perez (1-0) goes to war with Austin Bashi (2-0 am.). After going 1-1 in Tuff-N-Uff in 2016, Perez made his professional MMA debut in April 2019, defeating Nick Alwag (1-2) via first-round doctor’s stoppage. Bashi, who will be making his pro debut here, competed in two amateur bouts this year, scoring first-round stoppages of Garrett Wooden (1-1) and Tony Lichtenberger (0-2).

Then the action moves back to lightweight for more tournament action, as Kurt Holobaugh (17-7) faces Joziro Boye (17-5-1).

Following a departure from the UFC (after being brought in from Strikeforce), Holobaugh had a highly successful run in Titan FC, going on to briefly hold the promotion’s featherweight championship, before getting an opportunity to compete on Season 1 of Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS). He scored a knockout win and earned a UFC deal, though the fight in question was overturned to a No Contest due to a prohibited IV usage.

Things didn’t go his way in the UFC, however, as he’d lose to a murderers’ row Raoni Barcelos (16-1), Shane Burgos (13-2), and Thiago Moises (14-4) before being released. This marks Holobaugh’s first fight since his UFC tenure.

Boye, meanwhile, will enter this contest on an eight-fight win streak but having not competed in an MMA bout in almost exactly two years. His last outing came at Aruba FC 9 in November 2018, defeating Dawond Pickney.

One more tournament bout, still at lightweight, follows as the aforementioned Jarel Askew competes against Kenneth Cross (11-3).

Askew hasn’t fought since the loss to Hudson last year; he’s gone 2-2 in his last four and has lost four of his last six.

Cross has won five straight and eight of his last nine. The former lightweight champion of Lights Out Championship, a product of Michigan Top Team, competed on DWCS earlier this year, defeating Kevin Syler (10-1) by decision but not earning a UFC contract.

Cross missed weight for the bout by a pound, forfeiting 50% of his purse as per XFC rules.

The women’s strawweight co-main event will see Danielle Taylor (10-5) go head-to-head with a women’s MMA pioneer in Jessica Aguilar.

Taylor had a strong start to her career in King of the Cage, winning their strawweight title, before joining the UFC. There, Taylor went just 2-3, defeating Seo Hee Ham (23-8) and Jessica Penne (12-5) but losing to Maryna Moroz (10-3), JJ Aldrich (8-4) and current UFC strawweight champ Weili Zhang (21-1). She then went on to Invicta, defeating Montserrat Ruiz (9-1) at Invicta FC 33 before falling to Juliana Lima (10-7) in the opening round of the first Invicta Phoenix Series.

A competitor since 2006, Aguilar competed around the world, including Bellator and WSOF, winning the latter’s strawweight championship. She won 14 of 15, including wins over Megumi Fujii (26-3), Lisa Ellis (15-11) and Carla Esparza (17-6) before signing with the UFC. She only went 1-4 in the promotion, with her sole win coming against Jodie Esquibel (6-6).

Aguilar, who recently relocated to Houston, suffered defeats at the hands of Zhang, Claudia Gadelha (18-5), Cortney Casey (9-8) and Marina Rodriguez (12-1-2) before being released. This is her first fight since then.

Finally, in the bantamweight main event, another UFC veteran in Andre Soukhamthath (13-8) will do battle with Guilherme Faria (16-8).

Soukhamthath was a standout in CES MMA, winning their bantamweight championship before signing with the UFC. But Soukhamthath, who trains with the Blackzilians, had his own Octagon struggles. He went 2-5 in the UFC, scoring wins over Luke Sanders (13-3) and Jonathan Martinez (13-3) but suffering losses to Albert Morales (10-6-1), Alejandro Perez (21-8-1), Sean O’Malley (12-1), Montel Jackson (9-2) and Su Mudaerji (12-4).

After losing his first three MMA fights in 2008, Faria rebounded in a big way to win 13 of his next 15 fights. His momentum has taken a bit recently, losing three of his last four. He most recently competed in February, getting finished by Elismar Lima (23-7).

XFC 43 takes place on Nov. 11, with the main card beginning at 9 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network and FITE. Prelims begin at 5:30 p.m. ET on FITE.