Words by ALar
I don’t know about you, but something about MMA at Saitama Super Arena in Japan makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. This Saturday, the UFC will be returning to Japan for the first time since UFC 144. This card continues the organization’s streak of absolutely stellar cards. The crew at Zuffa really know what they are doing with these Fuel cards, every fight on the card has the possibility to be all sorts of epic. There, as expecteed, a strong Asian contingent on the card, as well as a few PRIDE vets. If you find yourself on the couch this weekend, this FUEL card might give you a few flashbacks to the good ol’ days of PRIDE. With two guys in the Main Event that I can’t help but root for, you can bet that I will be on the edge of my seat when Brian Stann and Wanderlei Silva start tossing leather. On to the Preview!
Main Card: 10 PM on FUEL TV
Dong Hyun ‘Stun Gun’ Kim (16-2-1, 1 NC) v. Siyar ‘The Great’ Bahadurzada (21-4-1)
If you take a look at both these fighter’s records, both are coming off wins versus Paulo Thiago, Kim by decision and Siyar by vicious KO. Dong was on a heck of a run from 2009-2011 notching wins over Nate Diaz, Amir Sadollah, and TJ Grant, but since then he has fallen in to the ‘win one, lose one’ tendency that many mid-card stalwarts encounter. Siyar on the other hand has won seven in a row, but has been out of the cage for nearly a year due to injury. With Siyar being a Blackzillian (and knowing their recent woes) he is a tough pick here, but he takes this one in a gritty battle. Bahadurzada by decision.
Mizoto Hirota (14-5-1) v. Rani Yahya (17-7)
Would you look down upon my MMA knowledge if I confessed I didn’t know a whole heck of a lot about these dudes? I did watch Hirota’s last fight in Strikeforce and he was blatently robbed of a decision win over Pat Healy in a grinding affair. Looking at Yahya’s record, he has faced the who’s who of the lighter weight classes over the years and faired pretty well. I think he takes a decision here. Yayya by decision.
Yushin ‘Thunder’ Okami (28-7) v. Hector Lombard (32-3-1, 1 NC)
This is the fourth freaking fight on a FUEL card?!?!? That really puts the depth of the UFC’s roster in perspective. This is one of those fights where Joe Rogan’s voice would get inexplicably louder as he described it in the pre-fight hype packages. You are throwing in a grinding grappler in Okami against an diesel fueled powerhouse in Lombard. Lombard demolished another expert grappler Rousimar Palhares last time out, while Okami Okami’d Alan Belcher on the last card of 2012. I don’t think Okami will be able to control the powerful Lombard and Hector will land one of his bombastic hooks on hometown favorite’s chin. Lombard by TKO.
Takanori ‘The Fireball Kid’ Gomi (34-8-1) v. Diego ‘Nightmare’ Sanchez (23-5)
Now this is a FIGHT! Gomi is, was, and always will be a PRIDE legend. He dominated the lighter weight classes of the promotion during its hey day. Look up his fight with Kawajiri and thank me later. You know he will try to recapture the glory days in front of the Japanese crowd. His opponent will be the fiery Diego Sanchez. Of Diego’s last seven fights, FIVE have been awarded Fight of the Night honors. Win or lose, the guy puts on a freakin’ show. With the current state of MMA judging, it is always a tough call when a hometown favorite is booked, but Gomi’s glory days are behind him. I think Diego takes a decision here, or at least he should. Sanchez by decision.
Mark ‘Super Samoan’ Hunt (15-7) v. Stefan ‘Skyscraper’ Struve (25-5)
I would have zero issue paying some of my own hard earned money to watch this fight. That Mark Hunt promo video has been sending shivers down the MMA community’s spine for weeks now and I am ridiculously stoked for this scrap. If you recall, I picked Stefan Struve as my 2012 Fighter of the Year. I mean, the dude had three SICK finishes last year, how could I not pick the big guy? Now for this fight… Hunt is a gigantic star in Japan, the respect they have for his warrior spirit is unparalleled. He will be a massive crowd favorite when he enters the cage on Saturday, but will be over a foot shorter than his opponent. As much as I would love to see the Super Samoan slug out a W here, I am wary of Struve’s submission skills. I mean, Sean bleeping McCorkle subbed Hunt back at UFC 119, and he isn’t exactly lighting the MMA world on fire these days. I hope and pray for a stand up battle between these two, but am going to call a submission win for the lanky Dutchman. Struve by submission.
Brian “The All-American’ Stann (12-5) v. Wanderlei ‘The Axe-Murderer’ Silva (34-12-1, 1 NC
Are you kidding me right now? Is this fight really happening? At Saitama Super Arena??? Wandy is a GOD in Japan, PRIDE Wanderlei may be the most dangerous fighter to ever walk this Earth. (Check out my Baddest Man on the Planet Chronology to get the picture…) The crowd will absolutely ERUPT when Wandy makes his walk to the cage. The interesting thing about this tilt is that it is taking place in the Light Heavyweight division. Both of these guys have been cutting down to Middleweight for their last few scraps, but will be avoiding the cut for this one and holding on to some of the power that the process saps them of. I have no idea how to predict this one, or even care about making the right call. These two dudes are two of my favorite people in the sport. You know I am as patriotic as apple pie and Pam Anderson in a bikini circa 1994, so you KNOW I am a huge Stann fan. I would have no problem casting my vote for that dude to be President in a decade a two. Seriously, and that is coming from someone with a Political Science degree from the best public university in the Northeast… And we ALL love Wandy. His brawling style is legendary and he has provided us with some of the best moments in the history of the sport. I hope these two toss haymakers for three rounds and when the final bell rings they go for the ‘bro hug’ and raise each other’s hands in mutual victory. If you had my junk in a vice and forced me to make a pick, I would have to go with Stann by decision. Regardless, I just hope this one lives up to its potential (unlike a certain Light Heavyweight fight last weekend…) Stann by decision, I guess…
FOLLOW US ON TWITTER!!! And enjoy this card from Japan and try not to reminiscne too hard about the good ol’ PRIDE days.