RFA 26If it seems like it’s been a while since there was an RFA card on AXS TV, that’s because it has. The promotion took the month of May off in a sense, as they co-promoted the AXS TV event with Legacy FC on May 8th. Prior to that, RFA 25 was all the way back on April 10th. The promotion is back on the airwaves this Friday night however, as RFA 26 takes place from the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colorado. The major attraction is the organization’s welterweight title bout in the main event, as Ben Smith looks to defend his belt against UFC veteran Gilbert Smith. The 35-year-old champion earned his title with a third round TKO over Tat Romero at RFA 24, where his wrestling was on full display. That was the most recent victory in a six-fight streak dating back to June 2013. Despite his age, Ben has only been competing since 2012 as a professional, as he began his career by winning three fights in one night in Utah. Since then, his only losses have come to young Canadian prospect Brandt Dewsberry and former RFA champ and UFC veteran Mike Rhodes. Gilbert has gone 5-2 since being cut from the UFC, suffering losses to Brian Foster and (an outrageously-sized) Chidi Njokuani in what was supposed to be a bout for the RFA welterweight title. He too relies heavily on his wrestling game, but also possesses a tight squeeze on a variety of chokes. In the co-main event at RFA 26, Marcus Edwards looks to build off of his recent Titan FC victory over Adam Nijem as he takes on Brazilian Thiago Alves (no, not the one with the piece of nose in his forehead). Edwards lives and trains in Colorado at Factory X, while Alves has relocated to Utah and brings a two-fight winning streak into this contest. Jarred Mercado looks to rebound from his unsuccessful title challenge against Luke Sanders as he faces Brazilian submission specialist Bruno Frazatto. The winner of this bout could be well-positioned to challenge for the RFA bantamweight title when Sanders gets the eventual call from the UFC, and the styles should be interesting as Mercado’s wrestling is his best attribute and Frazatto relies on his BJJ. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting line for the RFA 26 main event today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check it out: ——————– MAIN CARD (AXS TV, 10pm ET) RFA Welterweight Title Gilbert Smith -125 Ben Smith -115 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: This is quite an interesting fight, as both men are primarily top position grapplers. Whoever can win the wrestling battle early will probably be able to tire their opponent out and make it very difficult for the balance of the fight to shift in the later rounds. I think Gilbert Smith will get the early takedowns, and I believe that Ben Smith is more willing to accept bottom position than Gil even if takedowns do go the other way. On the feet, Ben’s striking has improved and he may have a slight advantage, but he won’t threaten Gil like Chidi Njokuani did. This all comes down to cardio, and even though Gil did gas after struggling for takedowns against Njokuani, I don’t think that will be the case here. I’ll take the challenger by decision.