A Bare Knuckle Blood Feud In Tampa Bay
What happens when you have a one-sided blood feud with a fighter who will forever be out of your grasp? If you are Paulie Malignaggi; you fight anyone remotely in your self-proclaimed nemesis’ (Conor McGregor) orbit. The man in McGregor’s orbit he’s chosen to seek his pound of flesh from is long-time McGregor camp training partner: Artem “The Russian Hammer” Lobov. The mechanism with which Malignaggi has chosen to get that ‘pound of flesh’ is as the main event for Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) 6 taking place in Tampa, FL this Saturday, June 22nd.
The BKFC is still a relatively new promotion in comparison to its other combat sports promotions in both boxing & MMA having only debuted a little over a year ago.
However, in the year since they’ve begun putting on fights they’ve tried to position themselves as a more violent, tough, in your face standup striking only alternative to Boxing & MMA. For those unfamiliar with what makes BKFC different than other combat sports here is a brief guide to the rules of the promotion:
-The fights will take place in a 22-foot diameter squared platform like a traditional boxing ring. However, in the center of the platform is an 8-foot circular wring where the fighters will begin the fight and start every additional round. The format is punching only like standard boxing, no knees, eye pokes, head butts, elbows, or kicks.
– Fighters will wear a glove that protects the wrist and upper part of the hand, but clearly has the knuckles exposed, allowing it to be a bare-knuckle contest.
-Unlike boxing, fighters will be allowed to clinch and “Dirty Box” similar to what you may see in MMA or Muay Thai. Additionally, fighters will be able to throw punches in the open clinch or in a Muay Thai style clinch that includes grabbing the back of the neck.
-Fights will occur over 5 rounds lasting 2 minutes each unless a knockout or referee/ringside stoppage occurs.
For fans still on the fence or unsure of what they might see Saturday night; just know there will be action, there will be knockdowns, and there will be blood. I’ll be covering the fights live from Expo Hall in Tampa so keep your eye on our twitter feed and website for up to date coverage leading up to and during the actual fights Saturday night. Below I’ll breakdown the main card and offer some fight predictions to hopefully help your bank accounts. Let’s get to the card:
Main Event: Paulie Malignaggi vs Artem “The Russian Hammer” Lobov (155 lbs)
Preview: Boxing fans know Paulie Malignaggi from his accomplished as a former champion boxer, as well as his recent success as a Showtime ringside boxing commentator. Despite not having fought professionally since 2017, Malignaggi gained a spike in notoriety when he was one of Conor McGregor’s sparring partners in his lead up to McGregor’s fight against Floyd Mayweather. Leaked sparring footage from McGregor’s camp of a possible (slip or knockdown) of Malignaggi during his sparring session with McGregor led to the feud. Despite McGregor largely ignoring Malignaggi after the Mayweather fight was over, Malignaggi refused to let the perceived slight slide and turned his sights to anyone associated with the Irishman. This is how Artem Lobov got into Malignaggi’s sights after the reality of never getting a shot at McGregor became apparent.
Artem Lobov may not be a household name but inside the MMA and UFC communities, he became a sort of a fun tongue in cheek meme during his time in the UFC. Lobov was an average UFC fighter with an essentially .500 career win-loss record. However, this did not stop fans and media alike to build a persona around Lobov as an ‘unbeatable dominant force’ despite his relatively pedestrian career inside the octagon. He always fought hard but would never get confused as some type of elite striker or grappler in the octagon.
Fast forward to Paulie Malignaggi sucker-slapping Lobov in a gym, spitting on Lobov, and attempting to hit him with a microphone during a press conference and we have a fight between two men who clearly want to hurt one another. Speculation has been on going as to whether The Notorious One Conor McGregor will make a surprise appearance to support his training partner Lobov. No matter if McGregor makes an appearance this fight will be a fun one.
Odds: Malignaggi -130 vs Lobov +110
Prediction: Vegas has this fight as a relatively close one at -130 (Malignaggi) & Lobos as a slight dog at +110. Malignaggi is head and shoulders a better boxer than Artem Lobov, this indisputable. Even considering Malignaggi’s ring rust, the advanced age of 38, and history of being known as more of a slap puncher than hard puncher he holds the speed and punching advantage over Lobov. The only real discernable advantages I see are Lobov’s familiarity of fighting in a Muay-Thai clinch something Malignaggi has absolutely zero experience in and Lobov having fought with smaller ounce gloves vs bigger opponents than Malignaggi leading me to think his chin is far tougher than Malignaggi’s at these points in their careers. It’s tough for me to see anyway Lobov beats Malignaggi in a boxing exhibition so Lobov’s only strategy has to be to crowd, clinch, and rough up Malignaggi by turning it into an ugly swing for the fences war.
If Lobov can catch Paulie flush there is a chance he could hurt or force Malignaggi into a slugfest he’s not prepared to endure over five rounds. Lobov has experience fighting in the BKFC small circular ring which could allow him to put pressure on Paulie who has never competed in this style of fight or ring before. I know a majority fans are hoping Lobov can make Malignaggi pay for all of his pre-fight antics. Paulie has by far been the biggest instigator in this fight but ‘wanting something to happen’ doesn’t mean it will actually happen.
In a fight that is effectively a boxing match with no gloves, I have to take the superior skill, technique, and high-level boxing experience of Malignaggi over the rudimentary bar brawling style of Lobov. I think the fans will get an exciting fight either way with both guys likely ending up bloody and maybe even some post-fight antics depending how the bout ends.
Malignaggi by TKO/doctors stoppage at (-125)
Lightweight Championship (135 lbs): Reggie Barnett Jr vs Johnny “Brutal” Bedford
Preview: The culmination of the inaugural lightweight championship tournament will see former UFC veteran Johnny Bedford take on Reggie Barnett Jr. Both men have done well in their BKFC debuts with Bedford having the more decisive win via TKO victory his last time in the squared circle as Barnett Jr won via unanimous decision. Both men appear confident but Bedford will maintain a significant size & experience advantage over Barnett Jr heading into this title fight. Bedford has fought in the UFC previously where most of Barnett Jr’s pro fights have been in smaller promotions or regional boxing events.
The one advantage Barnett Jr may have is he is the more traditional boxer of the two men and despite his size disadvantage, he should have no problems closing the distance with the speed & movement he displayed in his last BKFC bout.
Odds: Reggie Barnett Jr +125 vs Bedford -155
Prediction: I do not think this fight makes it to the judges. Bedford has a bit of a nasty streak to him and I think he will look to stop the smaller Barnett Jr as quick as he can. If he can avoid getting sucked into a phone booth style fight and use his reach advantage I think he can break Barnett Jr down over the first couple of rounds and finish him late.
Bedford via KO at (-155)
Chris “The Crippler” Leben vs Dakota Cochrane (190 lbs Catchweight)
Preview: Originally scheduled for a fight vs Brennan Ward, a last-second fighter change will now have Chris Leben taking on Dakota Cochrane at BKFC 6. Ward apparently was not happy with the agreed upon weight of 190lbs and tried to leverage it into more money at the last second. BKFC president was not going to get strong-armed so after Leben agreed they made the switch with Cochrane as his opponent. Leben is 5 years older than Cochrane but has a significant size and natural weight advantage as Cochrane has competed most of his MMA career at 170lbs.
Most fans will likely know Cochrane from either his Bellator fighting days or his most recent second-round knockout of former UFC champion Johnny Hendricks in a bare-knuckle bout last year. Leben has won both of his previous BKFC fights by first-round stoppage but if Cochrane stopped Hendricks he can definitely test Leben’s chin with his power.
Leben typically likes to brawl which should fit right into Cochrane’s style as he too likes to kind of wing his punches from his hips. These shots are big looping punches that if they connect can stop most fighters at his size. Leben was preparing for a more technical boxer prior to the fighter change so it will be interesting to see how easily he adjusts to a guy bringing a similar style to their bout.
Odds: Chris Leben -135 vs Dakota Cochrane +105
Prediction: I will be shocked if this fight makes it past the first two rounds. Both men are coming to bang and end the fight as quick as they can. I think the main X factor in this bout will be speed and who can get their power punches off first leading to a stoppage. Leben is the older fighter but I think he still has the speed advantage in comparison to Cochrane who likes to load up but may find himself in some trouble if Leben gets on top of him and catches him with a big uppercut as he likes to do.
Leben by 1st round KO (-135)
For those longtime UFC & combat sports fans interested in Chris Leben’s journey back, take a look
at his story: https://www.thearenagym.com/chrislebenstory/
2019 Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship to Date: 0-0-0
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