With the UFC commandeering the Saitama Super Arena, and Wanderlei Silva headlining the event at 205lbs, feelings of nostalgia begin to cross the minds of fight fans who remember Pride in its heyday. Mark Hunt battles a comically tall heavyweight in what seems like a classic Pride sideshow bout (but has obvious heavyweight implications), Japanese stars take to the main card (Takanori Gomi, Mizuto Hirota and Yushin Okami), and a whole host of other intriguing bouts to boot.
Is this fight card going to be Pride reincarnate? Not really, no. No stomps, soccer kicks, openweight bouts, or screaming announcer ladies will keep this from becoming the JMMA of old. However, it is one of the more solid fight cards Japan has been offered in recent years, with an international flavor to spice things up. Will Wanderlei Silva turn back the clock and finish Stann violently? Will Lombard streak through Okami? Will the Afghani fighter with a mysterious aura get past the South Korean judoka? Let’s get to the predictions.
In this light-heavyweight bout, not too much is up for grabs divisionally. Both men have fought at middleweight during the recent stretch of their UFC tenure, with Silva occasionally taking bouts at 190 to keep things interesting. A loss for either though could cost them employment, so it’s fair to say something is riding on the bout. Both men have knockout power, but I believe Stann’s chin is solid enough to withstand the manic haymakers that Silva will inevitably throw. To be sure, Silva could catch Stann flat footed, but I like the power in the All American’s hands and crispness of his strikes to finish the Axe Murderer and put an end on his career.
Stann via 2nd Round KO.
In a battle of mismatched heavyweights, you’ve got the tallest in the division against one of the shortest. Hunt is on somewhat of a career resurgence here, having won his last 3 fights in a row, and he sits just outside of contendership. If he beats the younger, taller fighter on a longer tear, he should have earned his position amongst the contenders at heavyweight. However, I think it’ll be a rough night for the fan favorite from New Zealand. Struve has not only gotten bigger, but his fight IQ has grown as well. I expect this fight to last longer than Struve’s fight with knockout artist Lavar Johnson, but I expect the same result.
Struve via 1st Round Submission.
Gomi sits in a similar position to Hunt, in that his career is sort of on an upward trajectory at the moment. His last fight against Mac Danzig showed a much crisper, and relaxed Gomi than we’ve seen in quite some time. Against Diego Sanchez, he’ll face a pressure fighter. While not necessarily the greatest wrestler in the world, Sanchez’s constant forward motion may give the former Pride champ a fit. It’s not implausible for Gomi to secure a win, but I think Sanchez sticks to a game plan and grinds out the victory.
Diego Sanchez via Decision.
This one is a more difficult one to pick. Yushin Okami is not Tim Boetsch. When I say that, I won’t expect him to use striking from the outside to pick apart the stocky Cuban. Okami’s game is more reliant upon his smothering top game and takedown ability. While he definitely has the tools to put Lombard on the mat, I don’t see the Cuban putting up with it. When Okami closes the distance, I expect Lombard will do what he more often than not has done: use his judo background to defend the takedown, put his fist to Okami’s chin, and end things early and violently.
Lombard via 1st Round KO.
In a battle of featherweights, Japanese regional champion takes on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Rani Yahya. Mizuto Hirota takes the edge in striking, no comparison there. Yahya is primarily a ground fighter and his stand up is severely rudimentary. The question will be if Yahya can get the fight to the ground. Early, I’d say so. I believe Yahya will either get the takedown or pull guard. If Hirota can weather the early submission attacks of Yahya, I think it’s his fight to lose. Hirota is the more well-rounded fighter, and should cruise to a decision.
Hirota via Decision.
This welterweight scrap has some divisional implications. For Kim to win, it would see him shut down another prospect at welterweight, and put him on the right track back to the top. For Bahadurzada, it will just be his second fight in the UFC, and if he can beat a UFC mainstay and ground wizard like Kim, it will certainly allow his prospect star to shine brighter. Will the ground game of Kim be enough to keep the knockout ability of Bahadurzada to a minimum? I think so. Kim will get the takedown, hunt for chokes, and repeat his performance against Paulo Thiago.
Kim via Decision.
Marcelo Guimaraes defeats Hyun Gyu Lim via decision.