Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest LinkedIn
March 18, 2024

Knuckle Up News | BKFC 58 Bulgaria 2

After such an intense card from Bulgaria back in November of 2023, BKFC is coming back on March 22 with BKFC 58 live on TrillerTV.

Kaloyan Kolev vs Toni Markulev
Cruiserweight Main Event

Some of the fighters from the first BKFC Bulgaria event will make a second appearance here including half of your main event. Out of the 12 bouts last time, there were eight finishes - well really 7 because there was that weird slippery shoe debacle that had Amer Abdulnabi looking like he switched his boxing boots with bowling shoes. We also had a heated main event with two all time greats out of the country in Rosen Dimitrov and Tudor Zhelyazkov who buried the hatchet after a Dimitrov finish. Enough of the past, let's look toward March 22nd and for our audience in the west, their fights start early as mentioned above! Be sure to catch the first prelim and stick around to the end because I'm predicting more knockouts and more tightly lined odds that promise action all night long. The books are catching onto us as you may have noticed with all but one dog winning in Miami! The "favorites" trend is likely to continue here but I think a few dogs come out on top with so many heavier weight class matchups here, it's going to be an electric night in Sofia!

Kaloyan Kolev landed a whopping six punches the last time the BKFC was in Bulgaria because he was on the other side of what we'll refer to as shoe gate. Honestly, as embarrassing as that may have been for Abdulnabi, he likely got off easy because Kolev is an absolute powerhouse who's only loss was delivered to him by Armen Petrosyan. He sits at 12-1-0 in professional MMA and 75% of his wins came by T/KO, many of which were in the first round. He's spent most of his career in Max Fight which is one of Bulgaria's premier MMA organizations.

Toni Markulev steps into the BKFC Squared Circle for the first time and has a real challenge on his hands but something tells me he's prepared. He sits at 11-2-0 in pro MMA and has only lost to great competition including a current athlete on the UFC roster in Duško Todorović. Like his counterpart in the main event, Markulev has a wide majority of his wins by T/KO in the first round. Markulev started out in Karate as a child but has abandoned that more point-fighting style and looks to be a solid boxer more than anything else. He will need every one of his skills in this matchup as will his opponent.

Paths to Victory

I see a bit of a feeling out process going on for the first two minutes or so but when these guys get to throwing, someone is going to go down. The easy thing to think here is Kolev has a ton of round one knockout, Markulev has a ton of round one knockouts, this thing is ending inside 30 seconds! While that logic states that 1+1=2, fight math is a difficult thing to grasp and more often than not 1+1= anything but 2. Both fighters have a very similar all around style. They both have a solid wrestling base which gives a fighter great conditioning, they both have bombs in their hands and they both are going to plot forward after making their initial reads. It's going to be like that Spiderman meme where clones are pointing at each other but I'm banking on a knockout here and I think it's delivered by Kolev. If you're betting, you're hoping that the line is very close because of the wide array of unknowns. Another thing to note here is the six year age difference favoring the 31 year old Kolev. Markulev needs to fight the urge to feel out the younger lion and come out ready to end the night quickly, but both men have a "never say die" attitude and chins that have only been cracked once a piece. Look for a round 3 or later KO.

Vaso Bakočević vs Ramadan Nooman
Welterweight Co-Main Event

We have two guys competing for "The Bad Guy of Bulgaria" title and neither man lives there. Look at their social media profiles and you'll see what I mean, talk about a couple of gritty dudes that love violence! Vaso 'Psychopath" Bakočević has a 43-24-1 record in professional MMA at just 34 years old! I'm not sure what's more impressive, having 68 professional MMA fights under your belt or continuing your success, late in your career in bare-knuckle boxing where he is undefeated at 3-0. He's fighting Ramadan "The Assassin" Nooman who as you can imagine has far less experience but he also hasn't been knocked out 12 times. His chin is rather easy to find however, having the same amount of T/KO losses as wins at four a piece. Nooman fights out of Egypt where he is part of Hell Team and owns a promotion called Nightmare FC. I think this is Psychopath's fight to win here. The massive experience edge in both MMA and bare-knuckle boxing should allow him to make this look easy. This is far from a mismatch though so the line should not reflect it as such. I say it all the time with bare-knuckle boxing, there should rarely if ever be a +600 or more dog. Throw me in there with Mike Perry and I'll be a high three figure, or even high five figure dog. Keep an eye out for a potentially ridiculously wide line and if the books give us one here, it's a tough fight to bet.

Veselin Ivanov vs Zohrab Azimov
Featherweight Bout

We have a striker vs wrestler in a purely striking match here but the catch is that the wrestler has faced a higher level of MMA competition and has BKFC experience. Ivanov is that Combat Sambo vice champion in 2014 and 2016 and he scored a knockout in round three at BKFC Bulgaria last year. I love seeing mid to late fight knockouts from a fighter because it lets you know that they can get hit and not wilt, they didn't get lucky by just blitzing in and throwing shots and they have the cardio to go longer than two minutes. Zohrab Azimov is a kickboxer by trade and an experienced one at that. He holds a kickboxing record of 33-25-2, was a 14 time champion in the sport within his home country and a two-time European WAKO KB champ. Even though I just gave Ivanov his well deserved praises, his last BKFC bout gave us reason to hit the pause button on a bet. Ivanov was putting sloppy pressure on a BJJ fighter who refused to take his head off of the centerline and looked a bit out of place in there. Ivanov is solid but he's getting what seems like a big step up in skill level against an 8 year younger striker. Give me the kid, Zohrab Azimov in a competitive back and forth war. You might get him at dog odds too!

Jivko Stoimenov vs Yunus Batan
Middleweight Bout

Here we have an interesting matchup between a kickboxer in Batan and a well-rounded but grapple heavy mixed martial artist in Stoimenov. Stoimenov is actively on the roster of the Polish promotion KSW, which is very high level for Europe and the world for that matter. The guy's only gone the distance once in his Eight year career and he gets most of his finishes early and by knockout. The kickboxing of Batan is not to be taken lightly with a lot of high level experience and accolades, the most impressive of which being the fact that he is a two-time WAKO World Champion. These two are going to size up well together to the reach of the kickboxer won't matter as much as he would hope. Stoimenov should be a favorite here and with the more active schedule, he will likely be the fresher fighter should the bout go long. Batan seemed to fade in his last BKFC appearance and was knocked out in round three.

Steve Pasche vs Dominik Estorer
Cruiserweight Bout

It's been a rough couple of weeks for French combat sports with so many high profile French athletes taking rough losses but I think Pasche makes his people proud here. He's fighting a dangerous German boxer in Esotrer who's 3-0-0 in the sport. When Estorer made the choice to remove the gloves, he did lose early in round one. Pasche is going to give Esotrer all kinds of problems here. He is a two time champion in a European bare-knuckle league which has a shallow talent pool compared to the BKFC, but he's experienced in the sport nonetheless. Expect Pasche to come out and control the fight and go headhunting from the opening bell until one of the two drop. Estorer would be wise to bring the fight to the Frenchmen right away and not give him a moment to get rolling downhill. Pasche does not mix up shots to the body so Estorer should hold a high guard, bite down on the mouthpiece and expect to take and give a flurry of shots. There will be no feeling out here and the fight likely ends in round one.

Nikolai Alexiev vs Mehdi Barghi
Heavyweight Bout

Two MMA fighters toe the line and one has been much more active than the other recently. Barghi has fought four times since 2020 holding a 1-2 record spanning that time and Alexiev has not fought since 2017. With Alexiev coming back into the fight game after a rough seven-fight skid, you have to wonder where the confidence level is at. Barghi will have the gas tank should this go deep with his wrestling background but we likely don't see a round three no matter who gets their hand raised. If I'm putting money down, I can't do so on a fighter who has been so inactive in Alexiev. Another good look for Barghi is his ONE FC experience. ONE FC is legitimately the second highest level MMA promotion on planet Earth. The activity and cardio is on one side here but you can't teach heart which Alexiev has in spades along with almost 5X the professional fights as the Iranian. This will be an interesting matchup likely favoring Barghi.

Stanoi Tabakov vs Petr Beránek
Heavyweight Bout

Tabakov is on a nice little five-fight MMA winning streak with a 7-2-0 record overall. He got his losses out of the way early and looks to allow that momentum to get him a win in a brand new sport. He's going up against a fellow mixed martial artist with much more experience in MMA and even a couple of BK fights under his belt. Beranek really seems to be focusing on boxing lately having shifted away from MMA to traditional boxing and bare-knuckle.I think he's been sharpening the daggers while Tabakov may still be primarily focused on MMA with his Sambo background. For that reason almost exclusively, I feel Beranek is the side and you should get a good line because of Tabakov's momentum. I will say that Tabakov seems to be the more capable fighter and if this was MMA, I'm on Tabakov all day. This aint MMA and I think the guy focusing on boxing wins a bare-knuckle boxing match. Might be overly simplified, but 1+1=2 in my head here. I'm not sure if this is a solid fact but Tapology has Beranek scheduled for another bare-knuckle fight less than one month after he faces Tabakov so he's feeling like he walks through his opponent.

Angel Petkov vs Felipe Maia
Lightweight Bout

Both fighters made a solid showing of themselves last time the BKFC traveled to Bulgaria, Maia more dominantly with an early knockout. Petkov took Jivko Stoimenov to a decision and won via split so that was anybody's fight at the end of the day. Petko is going to out throw Maia significantly here if and only if the fight goes longer. Maia will use long punches and tight technique while Petkov is going to try to make this dirty. Maia will have an advantage early this evening and as the fight goes longer, the side is Petkov. He has the proven ability to go long and keep the volume up, but I don't think we see a decision here. Maia is going to overwhelm Petkov early and set himself apart. I think the Brazilian leaves the Arena Sofia with a 2-0-0 record in the BKFC and he gets a co-main or featured spot next time.

Tomas ​​Vojtela vs Iliyan Adrianov
Featherweight Bout

Tomas Vojtela has a lot of combat sports experience in a variety of sports including Lethwei but his results leave a lot to be desired. Adrianov is quite the opposite with limited experience in kickboxing, boxing and MMA. These are a couple of young guys opening up the main card and the vast experience for Vojtela may just be enough to give him an edge here. He will need to tighten up his punches and focus his energy on connecting with the tough Adrianov more than he did in his last fight. His striking numbers were poor with 55 thrown and only 20 landed. If Adrianov can counter, and I believe he can, he will stop Vojtela in the second or third round. Starting the main card off with a dog picks makes sense to me here if the books give Vojtela the advantage just because of his single fight in the organization. Experience does count for a lot in this sport so tread lightly here because this is a true toss up and if I was lining the fight, I'd set it at a pick'em. In that case you side with the dog so let's see who is favored here and go against him!


For the prelims, I'm going to group all of them together here because all six fighters involved have 0-0-0 records in the BKFC but they should be fun and competitive. In the only female fight of the night, kickboxers Daniela Graf and Nicole Schaefer square up and represent German bare-knuckle boxing. Schaefer is considerably younger but far less experienced. I'm going against the grain and siding with the 41 year old Graf over the 27 year old in Schaefer.

In the second prelim of the night, Ruslan Tokhtarov takes on Ludwig Wolper. We are going to see a technical fighter vs a brawler here and as simple as it sounds, whoever implements their gameplan wins. I believe the technical WKF world champion, the WKF Austrian champion and kickboxer with a 34-8 record dictates the outcome of this fight and that's Tokhtarov.

Emil Enchev vs Sakis Zampelos opens up the night and I think this is straightforward but I hope I'm wrong. Greek combat sports as a whole need someone to rise to the occasion. They are underrepresented across the board and the talent pool there is pretty shallow as of 2024. The Bulgarian boxer in Enchev is a tough and talented striker who's entire personality revolves around fighting. I think he is putting more pressure on himself to win here and show out in front of his home crowd. This fight sets the tone for the night and he knows he needs to represent Bulgaria on a card with fighters from at least 10 countries. Enchev has several advantages here and he should be a considerable favorite.

Written by Ryan Dean
*Fight card subject to change