Featherweight and IDF red beret Noad Lahat faces American Jeremiah Labiano in the third fight of the evening, before 44-year-old Haim Gozali goes head-to-head with Ukrainian Arsen Faitovich in the welterweight contest at the Menora Mivtachim Arena.
Bellator fighter Lahat, 33, who was born in Petah Tikva, goes by the nickname “Neo”, after the lead character in cult film The Matrix, due to his speed of movement during fights. The former UFC fighter, who lives in San Jose, California, will hope his speed, combined with a 10lb weight advantage, will bring him a 12th MMA career victory.
Lahat will also be aiming for his fourth win in as many fights on home soil, with his most recent win in Israel coming in November against American Scott Cleve.
Gozali, meanwhile, looks to be in for an even fight, sharing similar height and weight statistics with his opponent. The former security guard began his career in 1998 “back when it was just free fight, with open-palm strikes and no weight-classes or much in the way of records”, says Ram Gilboa of martial arts website Bloody Elbow.
Mental as well as physical toughness helped Gozali recover from serious injury following a stabbing in 2005 to return to the cage by the following year. Gozali, is known as “Batman” by fans due to his near obsession with the superhero, of whom he has many tattoos – including a large bat sign across his chest.
He also has a large collection of comics in his home in the southern Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam.