On the heels of a number of notable signings, Eagle FC’s debut event for 2022 will take place on Friday, January 28th. The main event sees two accomplished strikers meet as Sergei Kharitonov looks to notch his 23rd knockout victory over a returning kickboxing legend in Tyrone Spong. The 41-year-old Kharitonov enters the bout with a cumulative record of 33-9, 2 NC and is coming off a first-round TKO victory of UFC veteran Fabio Maldonado in November. Kharitonov, who has ventured into both boxing and kickboxing, has always had a proclivity for striking battles. This has led to him securing KO victories over the likes of Semmy Schilt, Alistair Overeem, Andrei Arlovski, Roy Nelson, and Matt Mitrione. However, if there was ever a time to consider utilizing a grappling strategy, this would be it.
Opposing Kharitonov is the incredibly decorated Tyrone Spong, who makes a return to MMA for the first time since 2013. Spong’s notoriety in combat sports stems from his tenure as a kickboxer where he racked up an outstanding 107-7-1, 1NC record. In his kickboxing career, Spong won the Glory Light Heavyweight Championship and scored wins over the likes of Ray Sefo, Melvin Manhoef, Peter Aerts, Remy Bonjasky, and Saulo Cavalari. Unfortunately for Spong, in a 2014 kickboxing bout against Gokhan Saki, he sustained a terrible leg fracture, which saw his removal from both kickboxing and MMA competition. However, Spong has kept busy racking up a 14-0 record in boxing since that time. It will be very interesting to see if Spong returns to his penchant for kicking over seven years removed from his horrific injury. Otherwise, we may see Spong engage Kharitonov is a boxing-heavy affair.
The co-main event sees former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans return from a nearly four-year retirement to battle grappling ace Gabriel Checco. Evans enters the bout on a five-fight losing streak, with his last victory coming over Chael Sonnen all the way back in 2013. At 42-years of age and with nearly four years away from competition, it is very difficult to assess what kind of “Suga” we’ll see on Friday. Given his opponent’s capabilities in submission grappling, Evans’ best paths to victory will be to either utilize boxing to crack Checco – who has been susceptible to strikes in the past – or to utilize a wrestling heavy approach where he maintains top position and thwarts submission threats from Checco.
While Checco sports a 12-5 record in MMA, he has spent the majority of his recent career invested in high profile grappling bouts with the likes of Gordon Ryan, Mason Fowler, and Craig Jones. In MMA, Checco has utilized his grappling chops to secure the majority of his victories, but has also scored stoppage victories via strikes over the likes of Angel DeAnda and The Ultimate Fighter season 11 alumnus Joe Henle. Given that Evans has never been submitted in his 28-fight MMA career, Checco may seek to replicate some of his striking success against the questionable chin of Evans.
The remainder of the fight card features a bevy of recognizable names. On the main card, former UFC fighter Cody Gibson looks to continue his lobbying efforts for a return to the UFC when he squares off with former UFC Flyweight title challenger Ray Borg. Gibson is 6-1 since his UFC release and recently picked up a very impressive decision victory over The Ultimate Fighter season 14 winner John Dodson. At 34-years of age, Gibson’s window to make a return to the octagon is limited, but with a big win over Borg it may be possible. Borg, who was released by the UFC in 2020 after back-to-back withdrawals from bouts in which he was scheduled, picked up a victory in his first fight since the release over Canadian MMA veteran Jesse Arnett in June of 2021.
Dana White’s Contender Series alumnus Ramazan Kuramagomedov looks to extend his undefeated 9-0 record against UFC veteran John “Doomsday” Howard. Kuramagomedov has racked up three straight victories since his controversial decision victory over Jordan Williams on the Contender Series. Should he secure a 4th straight win over a long-time veteran in Howard, it is very likely that the UFC will take another look at the young prospect. Howard, meanwhile has had his ups-and-downs as of recently – alternating wins and losses in his last five bouts. However, Howard is always a KO threat having garnered surprising KO victories over Dennis Hallmann and current PFL Welterweight Champion Ray Cooper III.
UFC and WEC veteran Anthnony Njokuani returns to MMA competition for the first time since 2016 against Raimond Magomedaliev. Njokuani most recently competed in a bare-knuckle MMA bout against Wesley Golden which he won by TKO in December. However, in terms of standard MMA competition, Njokuani has not won a bout since 2013 and officially is on a five-fight losing streak. Opposite Njokuani, Magomedaliev at 8-1 enters the bout on a 3-fight win streak and holds a notable 17-second KO victory over The Ultimate Fighter season 21 veteran Valdir Araujo.
Of note on the preliminary portion of the card, UFC veteran Yorgan De Castro faces Shaun Asher, Miles Hunsinger returns to action for the first time following his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter season 29 opposite Demarques Jackson, and recent PFL tournament finalist Loik Radzhabov faces Contender Series and Bellator alumnus Zach Zane.
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