For the first Saturday in quite a while we have no action involving Japanese fighters however we do still have action in Asia with a title double header in South Korea.
One of those title bouts will see the KBM Heavyweight champion Sung Min Lee (7-1, 2) defending his title against Hyun Tae Bae (6-1-1, 4), in what looks like a really decent and well matched bout. Lee has had a frustrating year. He was originally expected to fight in Japan earlier in the year, before his plans were changed and now he'll be making his first defense of the Korean title here. As for Bae he won the KBM Cruiserweight title and is moving up in weight for the bout.
The other title bout here will be for the KBM Lightweight title and will see Moo Hyun Kim (5-1, 1) take on Dong Hyun Won (3-3) for the vacant title. Coming in to this one the 27 year old Kim will be the big favourite, though he was beaten just a few fights ago by Gyu Beom Jeon. At 36 years old Won can't afford a loss here if he's ever going to win a title., but sadly has lost his last 2 and will be entering the bout as a very clear under-dog.
Restaurant Lyubimyi, Krasnodar, Russia
Our focus is also on Russia where a number of Central Asian fighters are in action in some rather low level fights.
One of the bouts on this show is set to see 22 year old Mirzamukhammad Khikmatullaev (5-3, 3) take on Egor Popov (0-1) in a 6 rounder. Coming in to this Khikmatullaev is looking for a third straight win following an upset loss to the then debuting Pavel Vasiutovic in July. Russian fighter Popov was blasted out in just over 2 minutes in his debut this past July and we suspect he'll struggle to survive to do much better than that here.
Arguably the most interesting hopeful on this show is 19 year old Ulugbek Qayumboev (2-0, 2), who is looking to score his 3rd win in just 5 months. The youngster has been can crushing so far but was a decent amateur on the Uzbek scene and we suspect he'll be moved up in the next year or two. Here we will see him against the more experienced but limited Murodzhon Toshev (1-8, 1), from Tajikistan, Toshev has been stopped in all 8 losses and we are expecting another early defeat for him here.
Another young Uzbek on this card is Russian based Middleweight Eldor Abdukodirov (2-1, 1) who looks to bounce back from a loss last time out as he takes on the win-less novice Mobin Goodarzi (0-1), from Iran. We suspect Abdukodirov will pick up his third win here, though we do wonder if a loss in December 2019 may affect how he fights here, and he was very fortunate in his debut, in April 2019.
Metro Manila, Philippines
Ateention turns to the Philippines this coming Saturday as ESPN5 televised their first show of the new year. It's not a bumper card, but does feature some notable names as the channel looks to increase the profile of a number of Filipino fighters.
One of the notable bouts on this card will see the unbeaten pairing of Dave Apolinario (9-0, 6) and Mark Vicelles (9-0-1, 5) battle for the WBO Asia Pacific Youth Flyweight title. We've been impressed by Apolinario since he made his debut back in 2017 and the 20 year old looks like a dynamite prospect with speed, skills, power and a lot of potential. This however is a step up in class and Vicelles will be coming to do more than just make up the numbers. The 23 year old Vicelles has already ruined 22 unbeaten records, and will be looking to expose another touted domestic rival here. We're expecting real fireworks and excitement here in what should be the show stealing bout.
In a good supporting bout Reymart Gaballo (20-0, 17) will be taking on Japanese foe Yuya Nakamura (9-2-1, 7) in what should be an interesting assignment. Gaballo will be favoured, he really impressed last year with wins against Stephon Young and Julias Kisarawe, but Nakamura is no push over, and he impressed in December when he should have had a win over Yougu Yu, though the judges found a way to score that a draw. Gaballo should win, but Nakamura won't be there to just make up the numbers.
In another supporting bout the hard hitting Romero Duno (18-1, 14) will face off with Indian Kuldeep Dhanda (7-1, 1) in what is expected to be little more than a stay busy bout for Duno. The Filipino puncher is on a 9 fight winning run, including his break out win over Christian Gonzalez from March 2017, and looks like a potential world title contender. Dhanda on the other hand has never previously fought outside of India and lacks a win of any note, suggesting he will be completely unable to cope with Duno's power and skills.
Jeonju, South Korea
In Korea fans will be getting a double title show, with domestic Cruiserweight and Welterweight titles up for grabs. The theme of the show is Korea Vs Japan Vs China, but sadly the international bouts are over shadowed by the title bouts.
The Welterweight title will see either Yong Hwan Jun (4-4-1, 2) or Dong Young Kang (4-5-2) being crowned as the new champion. Neither of these two are great, but the Korean Welterweight scene isn't very good right now and hopefully getting the title scene up and running will kick start that, with fighters vying for a shot.
The Crusierweight title fight on the other hand will see Hyun Tae Bae (5-1-1, 3) battle against Kyung Hak Lee (3-5-1, 1). The 29 year old Bae returned in December, after more than 2 years out of the ring, and stopped Tae San Kil to earn his shot at the title. Lee on the other hand is without a win since March 2011, and it seems like this is little more than a coronation event for Bae.
One other bout of note here will see the unbeaten Dong Myung Shin (1-0), who impressed on debut in September, battle against Chinese fighter Yiping Gao (3-5, 1). Shin looked really good, defeating Hiroyuki Sagehashi on debut, and we're expecting him to shine again here. At the age of 30 Shin will need to be active to make any mark on the sport, but could be one of the few Korean with the skillset to impress internationally.
Another Asian fighter in action in the US is Filipino Genisis Libranza (17-1, 10), who will be looking to make his US debut following an aborted bout in January against Carlos Buitrago, who failed to make weight for a bout with Libranza. He will be up against Gilberto Mendoza (11-6-2, 4), who is a 29 year old who has yet to score a win of note. This should be seen as a showcase to Libranza if we're being honest.