Frans Mlambo finished off his 2021 run as a winner in more than just a single way.
SBG Ireland’s bantamweight prospect fought and won in Combate Global’s annual Copa Combate tournament: a one night, 8 man affair. Now 12-5 after the event, Mlambo defeated Kevin Cordero in Sunday’s final by a close split decision after a wild back and forth for three rounds. Having been up 29-28 on two of the judge’s scorecards, it was the former IMMAF world champion getting the nod.
To cap off the victory, Mlambo also earned $100,000 and a shot at bantamweight champion David Martinez; the bout is expected to take place at some point in 2022.
The quarter and semi finals of the tournament were contested over a single five minute round, and the final was a standard 3×5 minute fight.
In the beginning of the final, Mlambo had the upper hand in the striking department against Cordero, tagging and wobbling him multiple times. About halfway through the round, Cordero took the fight to the floor but was quickly tangled up in a tight guillotine choke which he was eventually able to escape.
In terms of striking, the second round was much of the same with Mlambo landing plenty of clean shots on Cordero. However, the Spaniard had a lot more success on the floor, taking Mlambo’s back and looking to sink in a rear naked choke and spending the majority of the frame working his ground and pound.
The fight was clearly 50/50 heading into the final 5, so it all depended on how the third played out.
There were no takedowns or submission attempts in the third round, only stand up action. For five minutes the two men traded, looking to seal the victory for themselves, but in the end it was Mlambo who landed more clean shots to steal the round on two judge’s tallies.
Earlier in the night, Cordero had won his quarter final bout against Luciano Ramos by a close split decision of his own, but bounced back with a knockout win over Leo Muniz in the semi final.
Mlambo claimed his second split decision of the night in the final, but started his night off with the first split total against Peru’s own Jose Zarauz. In the semis, however, it was a different story. Mlambo fought Cristian Barraza and dominated him for five minutes to claim a unanimous decision, sending him into the final where the rest has already been written.
Mlambo is expected to face David Martinez for the Copa Combate bantamweight championship at some point in 2022.