This Fourth of July weekend might be a light one in the sport of MMA, but the CFFC 98 co-main event this Saturday night on UFC Fight Pass is sure to provide some early Independence Day fireworks on a firecracker weekend and shake those UFC withdrawal blues as we wait for the much-anticipated UFC 264 on pay-per-view next Saturday night.
This co-headlining bout of CFFC 98 is part of a doubleheader weekend in combat sports from Philadelphia, as Saturday’s Cage Fury Fighting Championships card headlines back-to-back nights of action inside 2300 Arena.
Friday night, Cage Fury’s sister promotion, Fury Grappling, will make its debut on UFC Fight Pass with Fury Grappling 1, this after the promotion was swamped with questions from prospective viewers regarding whether or not the grappling card would stream on the platform.
Although not a title fight, the CFFC 98 co-main event will feature two up-and-coming prospects in the flyweight ranks as Santo Curatolo (5-1 MMA, all professional fights under the Cage Fury banner) will take on Dilshod Zaripov (4-1 MMA, 0-1 CFFC.)
Your CFFC 98 co-main event this weekend will be a maximum of three rounds at five minutes per round and will directly precede the battle for the promotion’s welterweight championship between titlist Evan Cutts and challenger Yohan Lainesse.
Let’s turn our attention back to the CFFC 98 co-main event for the moment.
CFFC 98 Co-Main Event Fighter Comparison
Heading into the CFFC 98 co-main event this Saturday night, Zaripov is the taller man, standing 5-foot-6, with Curatolo standing 5-foot-3. Unlike previous fight previews and breakdowns, there will be no reach advantage information presented here.
Santo Curatolo Believes He’ll Be Part of UFC Roster in the Future
As previously mentioned, all of Curatolo’s professional MMA fights have been under the CFFC banner. He’s gone 4-1 in his last five CFFC appearances, most recently dropping the promotion’s flyweight championship in October during CFFC 87.
That evening just before Halloween, he suffered a second-round knockout (punches) at the hands of Alberto Trujillo during the main event — but the now-former champ still has his sights set on fighting for Dana White and the UFC in the near future.
In an interview prior to his championship defeat at CFFC 87 in 2020, Curatolo mentioned:
“Nothing has been confirmed,” he replied, “I still haven’t seen a contract. I haven’t spoken to anybody from the UFC, so I mean it’s not definitely confirmed but CFFC and my coach are saying that there’s a zero percent chance I don’t get a call. It just hasn’t happened yet and I am waiting patiently and that’s it. When the time comes, I’ll be ready.”
Dilshod Zaripov Looks To Continue Good Form in CFFC 98 Co-Main Event
In the other corner. Zaripov has posted a 4-1 record in his last five MMA appearances and is currently sporting a two-fight winning streak — but he enters the CFFC 98 co-main event on Saturday night looking to exorcise some personal demons.
His CFFC promotional debut last November saw him lose to Miguel Junior Diaz (unanimous decision) in CFFC 88 just before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Since that loss to Diaz last fall, Zaripov has bounced back, winning in two events in the span of a week back in March, including being part of an unheard-of 54-fight card in Russia on March 21st.
Seven days removed from that marathon show, Zaripov scored a second-round knockout of Dimitry Akimov during Colosseum MMA: Battle of the Champions 20, as part of a 76-fight card.
However, a challenge awaits Zaripov before he even gets to 2300 Arena for the CFFC 98 co-main event: a 10-lb. weight cut. His natural weight class is the bantamweight ranks, though he has fought at flyweight on occasion, including in his most recent CFFC appearance.
He’s had to make this weight cut before, so there’s no reason why Zaripov won’t be able to make the weight cut again, though it bears watching this time around.
Film Study, Analysis, and Prediction
Stylistically, this CFFC 98 co-main event seems to favor the former champion. Curatolo has proven to be a well-rounded fighter, expanding his offensive prowess to include Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Curatolo: Quick Finisher
The one constant in Curatolo’s young MMA career has been the proclivity to make his nights at the office short ones, no lunch pail required. All of the former champ’s professional wins going into Saturday night have been scored inside the fight’s opening round.
Looking back at the video of his most recent win last summer against James Mancini, although the fight was slated for a maximum of 20 minutes, he only needed just over one minute to dispose of him with a vicious left-handed shot to send him down in a heap and call it a night.
Prior to that shot, he peppered Mancini with a few leg kicks.
Look for Curatolo to come out swinging early and often this weekend and if he unloads that left-handed punch in the early going, it could mean good night right then and there.
Zaripov Well-Rounded Himself
In the other corner, don’t sleep on Zaripov’s MMA acumen, as he’s proven to be a well-rounded fighter in his own regard.
Heading into the CFFC 98 co-main event this Saturday, he’s ended three of his four wins inside the distance (three knockouts, one submission). On film, Zaripov’s prowess to end the night in a hurry stretches back to his amateur MMA career.
Specifically, his penultimate amateur fight saw Zaripov nearly finish James Lodge with several submission holds and accumulate some ground control time before he was able to reverse it with a slam.
After some wrestling, Zaripov unloaded with a vicious combo of uppercuts, leaving the referee no choice but to stop the fight. If Zaripov is able to counterattack Curatolo’s left-handed shots with uppercuts, he can effectively give Curatolo fits in the CFFC 98 co-main event.
In the grand scheme, the co-main event on Saturday night could be a striker’s deluxe. Although they’re both flyweights, Curatolo and Zaripov have proven themselves capable of ending a fight with as little as one blow.
The striking prowess of both men may very well cancel each other out here, so it’s going to surely be an aspect of the fight to keep an eye on.
As mentioned before, a fight like the CFFC 98 co-main event is not the time to get something to eat. Make that fridge run before the fights come on, because you don’t want to miss anything.
Prediction: Santo Curatolo by First-Round TKO
Follow me on Twitter at @DrewZuhosky to see my latest work. Also, follow us on social media at @OTHeroicsMMA to stay tuned in with our content! Please visit our web page to keep up with everything MMA!
Featured Image Credits To Cage Fury Fighting Championships