This card has gotten a lot of flack from fans for various reasons. There are only 5 fighters that have previously fought in the UFC before leading the casual fan to struggle to find a reason to care. Then the UFC decides to implement the Fight Pass meaning that the card won't be shown on either Fox Sports channels and a few of the fans that still cared got their panties in a twist upon hearing that they would have to pay to watch the event. The UFC somewhat redeemed themselves by offering a two month free trial of the UFC Fight Pass meaning those that still care will be able to view it for free.
While it is damn near impossible to get the casual fan interested in this card it should draw a lot of interest from hardcore fans as there are some top fighters making their UFC debuts and opportunities for (mostly) young unknowns to prove they belong in the worlds top MMA organization. Tarec Saffiedine was the last Strikeforce welterweight champion and finally gets to show what he can do in the Octagon and a former Pride mainstay in Tatsuya Kawajiri makes a very long awaited debut. With as many unknowns as there are on the card it should bring a level of excitement as this is a sport where the unexpected is often expected. And tell me you aren't at all curious about a featherweight that stands at 6'4. I know I sure as hell am.
I know that this is not the most comprehensive preview... but you try and find footage on some of these fighters! This was hard as hell! I genuinely did the best I could and tried to only include what would really be needed to know about these fights... kind of like the title of the article indicates. Enjoy!
Tarec Saffiedine (14-3) vs. Hyun Gyu Lim (12-3-1), Welterweight
Saffiedine seems to be the thinking mans fighter. He doesn't have any overwhelming physical qualities that would put him in many top 10 rankings... yet he seems to float around most of them. He isn't a very powerful striker, his submission victories have disappeared since stepping out of the regional circuit, and he isn't a renowned wrestler. But he finds a weakness in his opponents game plan and exposes it, making sure he has the cardio to go the distance as well. His performance against Nate Marquardt is a perfect example as he leg kicked Marquardt until his legs were all shades of color due to Marquardt not checking them until it was to late and Marquardt's movement was limited for the rest of the match. So the question is what does he plan to do with Lim? Lim is a HUGE welterweight with a lot of power. He throws hooks from both hands with bad intentions and devastating knees. He doesn't take a very measured approach though and leaves himself open to a lot of strikes. I wouldn't be surprised to see this match seem similar to Saffiedine's match with Marquardt: Saffiedine keeps his distance moving in and out with strikes, particularly attacking the legs with kicks and allow Lim to tire out and force him to go into deep waters and fight the full 25 minutes. Lim has only gone 15 minutes once let alone 25. I'm sure that Saffiedine is aware of this seeing as how he manages to fight a smarter fight than his opponent every time. Lim is more talented physically and it is a real possibility that he can catch Saffiedine with a hook or knee, but I wouldn't count on it. Saffiedine is too savvy for that. Saffiedine by Decision
It is a long awaited debut for Kawajiri who was one of the top names at lightweight for years before dropping down to featherweight a few years ago. Kawajiri was strong at lightweight and is an absolute beast at featherweight, where there are few if any stronger than him at that class with his compact frame. Soriano on the other hand is somewhat lanky and uses that reach effectively in his striking which is very crisp and precise and uses a variety of punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. I haven't seen a lot of Soriano off of his back though... and that is what is key here as Kawajiri's bread and butter is to get the fight on the ground and wear his opponent out from top position. They don't call him the "Crusher" for no reason as he is very heavy once he gets the position to wear out his opponent and rains down shots. If your grappling defense has holes he will work his way to transition into a more favorable position with ease. From his back he is active in looking for submission attempts to improve his position and get the sweep. Soriano for his part is active from the top with GNP and looking for submissions, but the bottom line in this match is that he has never seen an animal like Kawajiri. Kawajiri has faced the likes of Gilbert Melendez (x2), Joachim Hansen (x2), Takanori Gomi, Josh Thomson, Eddie Alvarez, and Shinya Aoki. Soriano's best opponent seems to be... Elvin Brito. I like Soriano's poise, but I can't see how he is ready for this. He'll learn a lot from this experience, but he'll come up well short of victory. Kawajiri by TKO 1st Round
For someone with over 20 fights on their resume, Kunimoto is exceedingly hard to find footage of. The fact that he is on the main card makes it even more surprising. The only footage that I was able to see was 6 years ago and he was quickly choked out... I doubt the UFC signed him based on that performance so I'm inclined to believe that he has improved significantly since then. More than half of his wins have come by submission indicating he has a fair grappling game. I've been able to find photos as well and he seems to be somewhat small for welterweight. Dutra on the other hand is fairly stocky at welterweight. He likes to wing haymakers that have some power behind them, but shows a stiff jab as well. He displayed a variety of submission attempts in the fights I saw of him and he is very intense as well. And one more thing of note... both of Dutra's loses were via injury. Dutra has some wins over former UFC fighters whereas Kunimoto has a lot of cans on his resume. I know that the flight will be tough for Dutra to combat... but I like his intensity. I feel like he'll want to make the most of this opportunity more than Kunimoto who has been content to beat nobodies in a smaller promotion. Dutra by Decision
Kang exhibits a style similar to that of fellow Korean Dong Hyun Kim: get your opponent down and ground them out. At least that has been his game plan thus far in the UFC which has been contradictory to his performances before hand... with regards to the GNP part of it. He owns 8 submission wins within his 11 victories but has yet to make a serious attempt in the UFC. If we don't see them from him, Shimizu will more than make up for it as he has a great love for the submission himself. He uses submission attempts defensively at times to gain a more favorable position in order to string another one together and is excellent at transitions. But he is extremely tentative striking whereas Kang, though not exactly aggressive on the feet, shows a more willing and capable trigger. If Shimizu wins it will be by submission. Kang owns a considerable size and strength advantage and I would expect him to utilize it to pick up a victory and push Shimizu to the flyweight division where he will be a better fit. Kang by TKO 2nd Round
Holloway is tall for a featherweight at 5'11... but Chope makes him look short by comparison at 6'4. And no, he is not completely drawn out, he does have some muscle on his lanky frame... not a whole lot but it is there. Chope is also a solid submission grappler with 12 submission W's (8 by RNC), but hasn't learned to fully utilize his reach to his advantage in the striking game. With his all-around game, expect Holloway to try and keep the fight standing and use his technical boxing and kicks to try and pick Chope apart. Holloway may not land a great percentage of strikes, but he throws a lot and thus lands a lot. Chope's kicks have a lot of potential in them, but he hasn't learned to effectively land them yet. Unless he can do that I doubt he pulls this one out. Holloway has good submission defense and Chope's GNP is fairly weak. Throw in Chope getting Octagon jitters (as opposed to Holloway's previous experience) for his debut and it leads to... Holloway by Decision
Kikuno has been a mainstay in Japan for 8 years and is finally making the move to the UFC. He can be awkward for MMA fans who don't watch the Japanese promotions as he employs a very stiff karate style. If you are thinking of Lyoto Machida, remember that I said stiff whereas Machida is fluid and difficult to catch and Kikuno shows little elusiveness. His style has been effective nonetheless as he has good power and excellent body kicks. Mulhern was a lanky welterweight (he's 6'3) and will be a twig at lightweight. His strength deficiency won't be as noticeable at this weight, but I actually expect Kikuno to have more power as I'm sure Mulhern will have to give up some muscle mass to make the drop. The ground is Mulhern's world anyway and he is very slick at subs but doesn't have much of a wrestling base. Kikuno can be taken down but I don't think that Mulhern will (can?) employ the aggressive style that Kikuno struggles with. I question how well Mulhern will handle both the cut and the flight to Singapore. As a result, Kikuno will stalk Mulhern and attack the body (at 6'3, Mulhern will be hard to miss) and break him down. Kikuno TKO 3rd Round
Wee's claim to fame is that he is the first fighter from Singapore to compete in the UFC. Lets be honest... that is the only reason that he is on the roster with this card being held in Singapore. There is very little footage of him and from what is available he seems to be a capable grappler, but it isn't like he has faced a high level opponent yet as both opponents have a combined 3 fights and zero wins. Galera doesn't have a lot more experience but at least he has faced someone with a win on their resume. He's known as the "Scarecrow" for good reason as he stands at 5'11... almost freakishly tall at bantamweight. He is incredibly active off of his back and capable of submitting from the guard. His standup is shaky but has sound GNP. Considering few have any clue about Wee's standup it is difficult to predict anything about how that will go. But neither have ever gone the distance and with Galera actually having faced some adversity in the ring I gotta believe that he'll stand stronger in the bright UFC lights and gain a submission. Galera by Submission 1st Round
Taisumov has been on most prospect watch lists for a while at this point and is finally getting his chance in the UFC. At 25, he has plenty of time to blossom and it feels like the UFC is setting him up for a successful debut as Bang has had one match in 3 years and doesn't seem like actual UFC material in the eyes of many. The main thing that Bang has going for him is KO power and a solid chin but he seems way too tentative to be able to find a opening to put out Taisumov. Taisumov applies methodical pressure on his opponents at all times whether he is attacking with punches, kicks, elbows or GNP on the ground. Don't be surprised to see Taisumov go for a submission either as nearly have of his victories have come that way. Bang is tough though so I expect Taisumov to give him a beating for the full 15 minutes. Taisumov by Decision
It is difficult to find out a lot about Delos Reyes as there is limited footage on him. But based on what I was able to find he is a very aggressive fighter that doesn't utilize a lot of solid technique. He isn't without potential, but unless he reigns in his wildness that he could get away with on the smaller shows he won't last long in the UFC. What is even worse for him is that Kimura is fairly patient when it comes to waiting for an opportunity. Kimura is a powerful counter puncher and very aggressive from the guard looking for submissions. Throw in the fact that Kimura can take a shot that means Reyes will have a hard time putting him away before getting caught himself. Whether it is a counter punch or submission is the question. I'll play the odds and say submission. Kimura by Submission 2nd Round
Doane hits like a Mack truck. And as quick as his hands are he'll likely end up hitting Issa more likely than not. Doane has some very powerful takedowns as he largely uses brute strength to get his opponent down but he isn't likely to do so here as Issa's world is on the ground. Both are solid in their transitions and scrambles, but Issa will catch Doane in a submission if Doane isn't careful as Issa is a world class submission artist. So what this boils down to is Doane will want to keep it standing and Issa will want it on the ground. So the factors we need to look at are Doane's takedown defense (adequate) and Issa's takedowns (quite porous). If the fight does go to the ground Doane will try to get back up as quick as possible as he'll know what is coming. About the only thing Issa has to offer standing are awkward looking leg kicks which are effective but won't have anyone confusing him with Edson Barboza or Jose Aldo. So expect Doane to catch him as he won't have to worry about Issa's fists. Doane by KO 1st Round
Comments are always welcome. And I realize that due to the high level of relatively unknown fighters that some mistakes could have been made in my analysis. Let me know if you are aware of any.