Friday night on AXS TV, Canada’s premiere MMA organization, Maximum Fighting Championships, returns at 10 pm EST/7pm PST with a night of action the promotion to the north is known for. There’s even a brother vs. brother fight. The one caveat is the cancelled main event heavyweight title fight between Chris Barnett and Smealinho Rama, which was scrapped this week after doctors deemed Barnett unfit to fight with three holes in his retina. MFC consistently delivers good matches and great matchmaking, and this night is no different despite the last minute changes.
So with the main event off, we have a reshuffled card with four fights now, featuring bantamweights Ryan Benoit (6-1) taking on Anthony Birchak (9-1) at the top of the card in MFC’s newly-founded bantamweight division. Both of these men are fairly hot free agents, and with a good showing in the MFC, there’s a great chance we could see them in a big show soon. The competitiveness of this bout was captured in the opening line at Several Bookmakers, where Birchak was made a -125 favorite (bet $125 to win $100), while Benoit was as slight an underdog as can be, at -115 (bet $115 to win $100). Both fighters are wrestlers, with Birchak holding the edge in credentials as a national champion greco roman wrestler, but both have grown accustomed to striking in their MMA training, this could very well be a fight where they test each other’s stand up, in which Benoit holds the slight advantage. Birchak has won his last three fights by TKO after winning his first five by submission, with a decision and a loss sandwiched in between. Benoit has finished in all six of his wins, with five great knockouts and a submission win set up by his fists. His sole loss comes in this third fight of his career where he was on the wrong end of a unanimous decision at the hands of Tim Snyder. This is going to be a great fight to kick off MFC’s new 135 pound division. Since the line opened, the public has come in on Birchak, pushing his line up to -190, while Benoit sits at +150 now. Middleweights are up next with explosive Canadian submission specialist Luke Harris (9-2-1) looking to bounce back from his loss to Joseph Henle at MFC 34 and bounce back to his usual ways — which means a first round submission. Yep, Harris has 9 first round submissions to his name. Looking to defend those attacks is American Jason Zentgraf (7-1) who has won all seven of his fights via submission. Two of which were out of the first round, it must be said. Both of these fighters have built their careers in the MFC, so it’s interesting seeing them finally clash after an earlier scheduled bout was cancelled. Harris’ judo skills could be the deciding factor here, as they are superior to Zentgraf’s clinch and ground game, but Zentgraf is also a far more complete fighter. Zentgraf opened just over 2-to-1, at -215, and has come down slightly to -195, while Harris has gone from a +165 opener to +155 now. Heavy-hitting middleweights step into the MFC ring next, with UFC and Bellator middleweight Jay Silva (8-7) looking to get his career back on track and stop himself from losing his third fight in a row. His opponent is Sam Alvey (19-5-1), a 27-year-old brute who himself is coming off a loss to Elvis Mutapcic at MFC 36. The question, as always with a Jay Silva fight, is how will his chin hold up? He’s only been knocked out twice in his career, but he doesn’t react that well to getting hit, and Alvey has racked up 11 knockouts in his career with a smart stand up game that lends itself to counterpunching. No matter what, this fight will be an entertaining slugfest. Alvey opened as a -160 favorite, with Silva a +120 underdog, and bettors gobbled the line up. Alvey is now a 3-to-1 favorite and Silva is a +220 underdog. Finally, lightweights step into the white ring with Canadian Kurt Southern (11-4) looking to bounce back from an extremely disappointing loss that came in the final seconds of a sure win for him at MFC 36 against Jonatas Novaes. The wrestler Southern will face Zimbabwe born Mukai Maromo (8-3), himself coming off a loss at MFC 36. The 30-year-old Maromo is an MFC vet, going 4-1 in the promotion and was once considered a contender, which he still could be if he beats Southern. Stylistically, this is wrestler vs. striker, as Maromo is well-versed in the art of Muay Thai and Southern is known for grinding out his opponents and stifling everything they do with his top game. Maromo hasn’t done much to develop his takedown defense or skills in fighting from the bottom, so this will be an important test for him. Southern wants to get back on the winning track and up the ladder in the MFC lightweight division and avenge his loss in his promotional debut by stuffing Maromo to the ground. This could be a really great, fun fight. In what has become the most competitive fight of the night from a betting perspective, Southern sits as a -150 favorite over the +110 underdog Maromo — who he beat three years ago.