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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    The Wrestling Fan's Guide to the MMA Weekend (11/18/21)

    Chris Honeycutt in the 2012 NCAA finals (Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)

    There are several former wrestlers competing in MMA this weekend, but the action is not confined to the UFC. There will be representatives of the style all over the world.

    On Friday, the action kicks off as Russian promotion ACA is back in action with a card in Minsk, Belarus. On the card, former Edinboro All-American Chris Honeycutt is back in action against Nikola Dipchikov. Honeycutt departed Bellator in 2018 and has since gone 2-1 with a victory over former Bellator champion Alexander Shlemenko. During his collegiate days, Honeycutt was a two-time All-American for the Fighting Scots.

    At about midnight on Friday going into Saturday on the East Coast, Rizin will host a card with two marquee matches featuring former wrestlers.

    Even at age 47, Miyuu Yamamoto is still competing, as she takes on Rena Kubota in the main event of Rizin 32. Yamamoto is a three-time World champion wrestler, with her first title coming back in 1991 before the first UFC event. Wrestling is a family affair for Yamamoto. Her father Ikuei was an Olympian in 1972, her sister Seiko is a four-time World champion, her late brother Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto was one of the most popular MMA fighters in Japan, and her son Erson is currently an MMA fighter but previously won a Cadet World championship in Greco in 2013.

    Despite being born in 1974, Yamamoto did not have her first MMA fight until 2016. In that debut, she submitted against Kubota, and she gets a chance to avenge that defeat here. There have been bright spots for the older fighter as she now holds a 6-5 record and fought for the Rizin super atomweight title in her last bout.

    Katsuya Kitamura made his wrestling debut on the world stage in freestyle at the 2006 World Championships. He then transitioned to Greco, where he represented Japan at the 2009 and 2010 World Championships. Kitamura was the favorite to earn the spot for the 2012 Olympics, but he received a two-year ban after testing positive for a banned substance.

    After a few years out of the spotlight, Kitamura began training professional wrestling at the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo in 2015. He quickly became one of the most popular performers in the company but reportedly suffered an injury and left the company in 2019. On Saturday, he will make his MMA debut at 35 years of age. His opponent will be 55-year-old part-time fighter and politically incorrect comedian Bobby Ologun.

    The UFC returns on Saturday with an event headlined by a fight between Miesha Tate and Ketlen Vieira. As always, wrestling will be represented on the card.

    Terrance McKinney was a highly ranked recruit coming out of high school after picking up a pair of Washington state titles and placing at the 2012 edition of Fargo. He continued to wrestle on the college level for Chardon State. McKinney will take on Fares Ziam on the card, and he has said he is extremely excited to fight on the same as his former coach Michael Chiesa. Chiesa meets undefeated Sean Brady in the co-main event.

    Sean Soriano won a state title in Rhode Island in 2007 and quickly transitioned into MMA. Instead of going the college route, he made his professional debut less than two years removed from high school. Soriano promptly graduated from the regional circuit and made his UFC debut in 2014 after only eight fights. After a three-fight losing streak, he was released in 2015 but has since fought his way back to the promotion. On Saturday, he takes on Shayilan Nuerdanbieke, who is currently 19-7 as a professional.

    Pat Sabatini is 15-3 as a professional and coming off back-to-back wins over Tristan Connelly and Jamall Emmers in his first two UFC fights. The former Rider wrestler returns to action against Tucker Lutz, who brings a 12-1 record into the Octagon.

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