The UFC makes its debut in South Korea with a Fight Pass card that features an array of native Koreans plus a former champion in Ben Henderson (himself half Korean) at a potential crossroads fight in his career in the main event.
Where: Olympic Gymnastics Stadium, Seoul, South Korea
When: Saturday, the seven-fight Fight Pass preliminary card starts at 5 a.m. ET and the four-fight Fight Pass main card kicks off 8 a.m.
Benson Henderson vs. Jorge Masvidal
This is a really, really tough call. Masvidal is an excellent technician and absolutely monstrous for relative to Henderson. Henderson, as we know, basically has ability everywhere, although is perhaps most vulnerable here at range. Masvidal will have a reach advantage, one he knows how to exploit. The American Top Team fighter also has superb takedown defense, an active guard and essentially everything else you could want.
Still, it's hard to shake the idea Henderson will be the one trying to define the terms of the fight. Even if Masvidal doesn't concede the takedown, he's going to be fighting it off. Even if Henderson is also landing outside leg kicks to the calf, he'll likely do so and escape before any counters find their way back. It's not that I don't think Masvidal can hurt him, it's that if there's a knock on him, he lays back too much in fights. When he should be pressing, he's often preoccupied with shutting down the game of his opponents without much of a counter. Henderson has a wrestling edge here, but not much more. Masvidal is that good. Yet, this is a game where the winner is often the one finding a way to define the fight's terms or pressing the action to make it happen. It's fine to counterfight, but only if that means a) stopping opponents and more crucially, b) putting it back on them.
MMA is crazy and anything can happen, but fundamentally, we're talking two entirely different levels of takedown and grappling acumen. Kim has shown himself to be one of the best grapplers and positional control artists at welterweight. Waters might be able to slow Kim at times, but stop him? I just don't see it.
Akiyama has not looked all that great in quite a long time. Mina, if nothing else, has a good Thai clinch and jumping switch knee. He'll press the attack in open space. But he has no real footwork to speak of, was taken down with a trip off the whizzer in his last fight and is generally tough but unremarkable. Truthfully, I have no idea where Akiyama is either, but he's historically shown enough skill to be able to deal with the likes of Mina.
Choi is a lights out pocket striker, but he's more than that, too. It would be wrong to label him as a mouthpiece biter who swings with his eyes closed and manufactures success in the process. He is proactive on offense, but what makes him dangerous is his excellent judgment of distance and ability to surprise opposition with shot selection. His variation at key moments and ability to know when to throw is really, really underrated. He does have some defensive gaps and a high-level brawler like Sicilia could conceivably take advantage of them, but I like the Korean's chances.
From the preliminary card:
Mike de la Torre def. Yui Chul Nam
Leo Kuntz def. Tae Hyun Bang
Jake Collier def. Dongi Yang
Cortney Casey def. Seo Hee Ham
Fredy Serrano def. Yao Zhikui
Ning Guangyou def. Marco Beltran
Dominique Steele def. Dong Hyun Kim
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