The featherweight division is ripe with standouts to the point some from the previous years are still waiting to get in the UFC. Even former ROC champion Julio Arce is awaiting his UFC debut with his coming January 20th following his win on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Bellator and LFA of course have been active in this division while it is one of the few that has champions in every independent promotion, even Professional Fighters League. The downside is the standouts are scattered all over the map.
The most dominant featherweight on the scouting scene is current PFL champion and former Titan FC and Ring of Combat champion Andre Harrison, still undefeated at 17-0. Two of Harrison’s victories in Titan FC were against Kurt Holobaugh and Desmond Green, now both UFC fighters. In Titan FC Harrison also defeated UFC vet Steven Siler and former CFFC champion Alexandre Bezerra before running out of competition in that promotion. Harrison’s last three fights were in WSOF/PFL including taking the belt from Lance Palmer and after the rebranding to PFL defended the belt against Steven Rodriguez. There is no way PFL will be able to hold on to Harrison, the question is will he end up in the UFC or Bellator.
Arguably the most tragic story in the featherweight class is that of Andy Main. In 2015 it looked like Main was on the verge of signing with the UFC after defeating UFC vet Nam Phan for the Pancrase title on UFC Fight Pass. Unfortunately a series of injuries and five cancelled bouts constituted Main’s 2016 while his only fight last year was a unanimous decision loss to relative unknown Chang Hyun Kim in Road FC. At 28 years old Main still has time, it’s a matter of if opportunities pan out.
On the other hand Juan Archuleta has been busy for King of the Cage in this division as well as bantamweight and even lightweight. The only loss in Archuleta’s 16-1 career came against Andres Ponce at WSOF 19 in March 2015. Since then Archuleta racked up thirteen wins including taking the KOTC belts at bantamweight, featherweight, and lightweight. Archuleta prefers featherweight at which he defended the belt against Mark Dickman in December.
It is difficult to know what to make of former Cage Fury Fighting Championship champion Alexandre Bezerra. Bezerra held that belt for four months in 2014 before losing it to Levan Makashvili in the fight that landed Makashvili in the UFC. In 2016 Bezerra picked up two wins in local promotion XCC then lost to one of the most dominant featherweights Andre Harrison in Titan FC. 2017 however only saw Bezerra fight once, a unanimous decision over Ray Wood in local promotion NEF. At 30 years old Bezerra has limited time, it looks like 2018 will be a make-it-or-break-it year.
The current CFFC champion is Pat Sabatini, an 8-1 fighter with six wins in a row in CFFC and Ring of Combat. In 2017 alone Sabatini went 3-0 defeating John de Jesus for the vacant title and defending it against Francisco Isata. His only loss was by unanimous decision to current LFA lightweight champion Robert Watley. Since Makashvili got in the UFC by winning this belt then keep an eye on Sabatini.
Even though Bellator have put as much emphasis in 2017 on the featherweights as they did on the lightweights and welterweights their division has stagnated. 15 fights on 22 “numbered” Bellator shows in 2017 took place at featherweight but the title fights for three years have been between Patricio Freire and Daniel Straus with those two having now fought a laughable four times. Freire first won the belt by defeating then-champion Pat Curran and defended it against Straus and Daniel Weichel before losing it to Straus in November 2015. After a win over Henry Corrales and loss to Benson Henderson Freire regained the belt by defeating Straus in April of last year. Straus went on to lost to Emmanuel Sanchez who lost to Curran and Weichel but has rattled off wins over Georgi Karakhanyan and Marcos Galvao before Straus. Bellator’s belt fights may be inbred but Sanchez isn’t the only upcoming featherweight as AJ McKee is undefeated at 10-0. In 2017 McKee plowed through four wins with Brian Moore being his most recent conquest. 7-0 Carrington Banks also calls Bellator home but hasn’t been as active, a unanimous decision over Steve Kozola being his only fight in 2017. Kozola’s loss to Banks was his only loss in his 8-1 record.
Six fights at DWTNCS took place at featherweight, equal to bantamweight and light heavyweight. The first episode saw Kurt Holobaugh earn his ticket to the UFC with a defeat of CES MMA champion Matt Bessette but the fight was overturned to a “no contest” due to Holobaugh’s use of an IV bottle prior to the fight. 22-7 Bessette is therefore still on a seven-fight win steak but CES MMA is considered a “protective” promotion unlike fellow AXS TV broadcast Legacy Fighting Alliance. Thanh Le picked up a win over Lazar Stojadinovic and next fights in the main event of LFA 31 January 19th. Casey Kenny is responsible for two of the six fights last season with a win over Cee Jay Hamilton and a loss to Adam Antolin while he also fights at LFA 31. Dan Ige didn’t earn a contract on the show but is confirmed to fight Julio Arce at UFC 220. Brandon Davis did however win a contract for defeating Austin Arnett with his Octagon debut also being at UFC 220. As mentioned above Julio Arce is on his way to the UFC after defeating Peter Petties while Grant Dawson is the only featherweight “shut out” after a win over Buddy Wallace.
Of the 30 LFA shows in 2017 there were 28 fights on main cards at featherweight. The current champion Kevin Aguilar holds a record of 13-1 with his only loss being to UFC vet Leonard Garcia in 2013, five wins ago. In 2017 Aguilar won the inaugural title by defeating three-time UFC vet Damon Jackson and defended it against ADCC Worlds vet Justin Rader. Looking to the future LFA start off 2018 with Bobby Moffett vs. Than Le. Le as mentioned above is coming off a win in DWTNCS while Moffett is coming off a win over Nate Jennerman at LFA 20.
- Bellator: Patricio Freire
- CES MMA: Matt Bessette
- Interim: Pedro Gonzalez
- CFFC: Pat Sabatini
- CWFC: Nad Narimani
- LFA: Kevin Aguilar
- M-1 Global: Khamzat Dalgiev
- One FC: Martin Nguyen
- PFL: Andre Harrison
- ROC: Bill Algeo
- TFC: Luis Gomez
- TPF: Adrian Diaz
- VFC: Ryan Roberts
- Other standouts: Pat Curran, Juan Archuleta, Alexander Bezerra, Lance Palmer, Emmanuel Sanchez, AJ McKee, Carrington Banks, Steve Kozola, Thanh Le, Bobby Moffett