While the past couple of weeks in MMA have been filled with controversy outside of the cage, the sport returns to the fights themselves starting on Friday night. Wheatland, CA’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sacramento with 2017 UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber‘s A1 Combat beginning its calendar of shows for 2023.
Originally, A1 Combat 7 was supposed to have been held on the night of Jan. 14 in Wheatland, but when the UFC’s itinerary for the first three months of the new year was revealed, the promotion moved its first card of 2023 up one day to avoid having the tail-end of UFC Vegas 67 go up against the start of A1 Combat 7. UFC Vegas 67 had its main event shuffled on Monday. No. 7 contender Sean Strickland (25-5 MMA, 12-5 UFC) steps in on five days’ notice to battle No. 12 contender Nassourdine Imavov (12-3 MMA, 4-1 UFC).
A1 Combat 7: Night of Champions (main card Friday, 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT on UFC Fight Pass) is aptly named because of the now-eight fights taking place, three of them are for vacant titles to highlight the show. The A1 Combat 7 main event is no exception.
Vacant Featherweight Championship To Be Awarded Friday
Just as had been the case at welterweight and middleweight earlier on in the evening, A1 Combat 7 closes out with a battle for supremacy at 145 lbs. Andrew Coyne (5-1 MMA, 1-0 A1 Combat) fights Justin Cornell (4-1 MMA, 1-0 A1 Combat) in the A1 Combat 7 main event, an all-California affair.
This title fight will be a maximum of three rounds at five minutes per round to close the show. Friday’s headliner isn’t the first time that these two fighters have been scheduled to scrap in the cage.
A Canceled Booking Leads to Title Fight
Initially, Coyne and Cornell were slated to meet on May 1 during the inaugural A1 Combat show, an event marred by a fracas at the weigh-in the day before, but the fight was scrubbed prior to the event for reasons unknown. Unlike this Friday, the canceled contest was a nontitle affair.
Nearly eight and a half months later, these two fighters will finally meet inside the cage. This time, there are high stakes involved in the A1 Combat 7 main event.
A1 Combat 7 Main Event Fighter Comparison
Heading into Friday night’s main event, Justin Cornell stands as the taller man at 5-foot-10, compared to the 5-foot-9 frame of Andrew Coyne. No reach information for the fighters was available at press time.
Ordinarily, we’d mention which of the two fighters is favored by the oddsmakers at this point. Currently, no betting odds are available for A1 Combat 7. If you plan on betting on any fights taking place this weekend, please wager responsibly.
Andrew Coyne Looks to Run Winning Streak to Four
Andrew Coyne enters the A1 Combat 7 main event on Friday night having gone 4-1 in his last five fights. Currently, he’s on a three-fight winning streak, which was extended last time out thanks to a split decision victory against Dorian Ramos (4-1 MMA, 0-1 A1 Combat) on May 28 in A1 Combat 2. The prospect of their fighter’s winning streak extending to a fourth outing is undoubtedly important for the Coyne camp during fight week.
What’s perhaps more important, however, is the fact that Coyne will be getting a “home game” on Friday night in the A1 Combat 7 main event. His camp is based out of Sacramento, meaning that he’ll only have to travel a short 36-mile distance to get to the arena.
Winning the featherweight championship in front of his hometown fans would undoubtedly be a major boon for Coyne, but can he pull it off? Tune in on Friday night and find out.
Justin Cornell Heading Into Enemy Territory for A1 Combat 7 Main Event
In the other corner, Justin Cornell has posted a record of 4-1 thus far in his young MMA career. Most recently, he returned to the win column with a first-round submission (armbar) versus Adrian Guzman (6-4 MMA, 0-2 A1 Combat) on July 31 during A1 Combat 4.
However, Cornell’s bid for championship gold comes with a challenge. He’ll be playing the role of the bad guy on Friday night in the A1 Combat 7 main event. Cornell’s camp is based out of Jackson, CA, a one-hour, 33-minute car drive from Wheatland.
Thus, he’ll be hearing boos when he walks out to the cage this weekend. Whether or not he can make the fans unhappy on their drive home after the A1 Combat 7 main event remains to be seen.
Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction
Stylistically, the A1 Combat 7 main event on Friday night looks to favor the home-standing Andrew Coyne, a wrestler, compared to Justin Cornell’s background as a jiu-jitsu fighter and a striker. Thus, it stands to reason that we could be looking at a battle won and lost on the mat.
Watch For Coyne’s Ground Game
Although Andrew Coyne is a wrestler, when the situation gets precarious, he’s able to fight off his opponent’s offensive effort. Dorian Ramos found this out firsthand in July.
After a taxing first round where Ramos was able to establish cage control, he was able to go back to the well in round two. Upon Ramos taking him down from the clinch, Coyne managed to briefly reverse position and take back mount, yet Ramos was able to snuff this effort out.
Later in the round, Coyne took Ramos down and took back mount before milking the clock with his grappling. Even though Ramos fought valiantly to try and get out of the hold, it was to no avail.
This takedown late in round two, along with a back clinch and another takedown in round three, were instrumental toward Coyne taking the victory by decision after 15 minutes. A slam in the final seconds ended all doubt as to who would win the contest.
If Coyne can take Cornell to the ground with regularity, the A1 Combat 7 main event will be his.
Justin Cornell is Vicious With Submissions
In the other corner, Justin Cornell can be brutal on the ground, something that Adrian Guzman knows all about from July 31. Right from the command to fight, Cornell put Guzman in the clinch before landing a knee to his face.
Upon Guzman working his way out of the clinch, Cornell landed a few crisp punches and a kick to the body. About two minutes into the period, Guzman took Cornell down and landed some ground-and-pound shots.
Cornell eventually managed to reverse the script, taking Guzman down and assuming top mount, rolling him over to apply the necessary torque to lock in the armbar inside the first round’s final minute. Guzman tapped out immediately after rolling over.
If Cornell takes top mount, it could be the opening he needs to submit Cornell and take the championship in the A1 Combat 7 main event.
At the core, the A1 Combat 7 main event could very well be a fitting end to a great night of fights. This is a fight that can’t be missed.
Prediction: Andrew Coyne by Unanimous Decision.
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