The UFC returns to Japan this weekend with UFC on FuelTV: Silva vs. Stann live from the Saitama Super Arena. The Japanese fans absolutely love Mixed Martial Arts, the card is loaded with Japanese fighters, who will be fighting in front of their home crowd. The main event of the evening is UFC legend Wanderlei Silva taking on former U.S. Marine Brian Stann, who was actually born on an Air Force base in Japan. The card also features the tallest fighter in the UFC, 6’11 heavyweight Stefan Struve, as he goes for his fifth consecutive win against Mark Hunt. Let’s get to the picks:
Preliminary Card (Webcast): Hyun Gyu Lim OVER Marcelo Guimaraes, Alex Cacares OVER Kyung Ho Kang, Cristiano Marcello OVER Kazuki Tokudome, Bryan Caraway OVER Takeya Mizugaki, Riki Fukuda OVER Brad Tavares
Main Card (FuelTV):
Dong Hyun Kim (16-2-1-1) vs. Siyar Bahadurzada (21-4-1) Welterweight Bout – Bahadurzada enters this bout on a seven fight win streak, he has not lost since November 2008, and is (1-0) in the UFC after knocking out Paulo Thiago in 42 seconds. Kim is a savvy UFC veteran who has only lost twice in the UFC, once by knockout to Carlos Condit and once to Demain Maia due to a rib injury. He has wins over the likes of Nate Diaz, Matt Brown and Amir Sadollah to name a few. Interestingly enough, both of these fighters last matches were wins over Paulo Thiago. I feel like Kim has not looked like himself in recent fights, so I am taking Bahadurzada, I respect Kim but am picking the hotter fighter. THE PICK: Bahadurzada by TKO in the First Round.
Mizuto Hirota (14-5-1) vs. Rani Yahya (17-7) Featherweight Bout – There is little doubt that Rani Yahya is the more experienced fighter, he owns several notable wins, including victories over Josh Grispi, Mark Hominick and Eddie Wineland. If you were a fan of the WEC, you should remember Yahya, he had many memorable fights with the promotion. Mizuto Hirota is relatively new to US based promotions as a competitor, but has won several titles in Japan, his last bout was a decision loss to Pat Healy in Strikeforce. I am taking the experience here. THE PICK: Rani Yahya by submission in the Second Round.
Yushin Okami (28-7) vs. Hector Lombard (32-3-1) Middleweight Bout – I highly respect Yushin Okami, he is such a smart fighter, and has beaten several very talented opponents in the UFC including a personal favorite of mine Alan “The Talent” Belcher (Twice), Nate Marquardt and Mark Munoz. He has done battle with the great one, Anderson Silva, but lost by TKO in the second round. Okami is a threat to win every bout that he is in, he is so smart and technically sound, and Chael Sonnen once called him “the one fighter whom I never want to fight again.” That being said, anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows that I am a huge fan of Hector Lombard, and I am probably more excited for this fight than any other fight on the card. Lombard had one 25 fights in a row, but could not fight in the UFC due to visa issues, until these issue were resolved and he made his debut against Tim Boetsch last July. Lombard lost the fight by a controversial split decision, despite scoring a knockdown and several takedowns, and rumors were that he had some lingering issues from training and was nowhere near 100%. In his next match in December, Lombard knocked out dangerous grappler Rousimar Palhares in the first round, and I believe that he will eventually get a shot at Anderson Silva and the UFC Middleweight Championship. If you have not seen Lombard yet, I beg you to watch this fight, and prepare to be amazed. Okami is smart, and if he makes Lomabard fight his fight and takes this to a decision, he can win. I think Lombard knocks him out. THE PICK: Lombard by TKO in the Second Round.
Takanori Gomi (34-8-1) vs. Diego Sanchez (23-5) – Lightweight Bout – Any fan of the UFC has seen these two veterans of the octagon many times in the past. Diego Sanchez holds victories over Kenny Florian, Nick Diaz, Karo Parisyan, Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida to name a few, and has won fight of the night six times. Takanori Gomi has beaten some of the greats in his PRIDE days and is coming off back-to-back victories over Eiji Mitsuoka and Mac Danzig. Against like opponents, I kind of lean Sanchez here, so despite coming off a year layoff I am favoring him in what should be an excellent fight. THE PICK: Sanchez by Decision.
Mark Hunt (8-7) vs. Stefan Struve (25-5) Heavyweight Bout – Do not let Mark Hunt’s Mixed Martial Arts record fool you, he was first a long time kickboxer with 30 victories under his belt, and is one of the most dangerous strikers around. Hunt seems to have found his stride in the UFC, winning his last three fights over big heavyweight names Cheick Kongo, Ben Rothwell and Chris Tuchscherer. Hunt’s weakness, however, is escaping submissions as six of his seven MMA losses have been by submission. He is nearly impossible to knockout and can stand and strike with anybody, I would not be shocked if he knocks Struve out. I was a Stefan Struve doubter for the first part of his UFC career, he is 6’11 inches tall (hence the name “The Skyscraper”) and I thought that he would never last in the UFC, but he has proven me wrong. Of Struve’s five losses, two are to former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos and Ultimate Fighter winner Roy Nelson. Since his loss to Travis Browne in May of 2011, Struve has won an impressive four straight fights against tough opponents, and is reestablishing himself as a heavyweight contender. I think that Struve’s main advantage here is his submission game, eh has taken out dangerous strikers with submissions before, and Hunt has trouble defending them. This fight goes one round, either Hunt knocks Struve out or Struve grabs a limb and taps Hunt out. THE PICK: Struve by submission in the First Round.
Wanderlei Silva (34-12-1-1) vs. Brian Stann (12-5) Light Heavyweight Bout – One of the greatest fighters of All-time, the future Hall-of-Famer has wins over more big names than you can count. However in his last 10 fights he is just 3-7, before that stretch he was a ridiculous (31-5-1-1) and age is starting to catch up to the 36-year-old who has been in so many battles. Brian Stann is a former U.S. Marine who has been awarded a Silver Star for his service in Iraq, he is as tough as they come, and has only been beaten by knockout once in his MMA Career. As these are two of the toughest guys you will see in the octagon, I could see this fight going the distance, as both of these guys prefer to stand and strike. Wanderlei has just been in so many more fights, while Stann has been in more literal battles, due to experience I am giving the edge Wanderlei in a decision. He is just technically a better fighter. THE PICK: Silva by Decision.
Preliminaries (51-35-1) Main Card (46-28) Overall (96-63-1)
Main Events (12-3)
MMA PICKS RECORD (by event):
UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche –
Preliminaries (5-3) Main Card (4-1) Overall (9-4)
UFC on FuelTv: McDonald vs. Barao –
Preliminaries (1-5) Main Card (3-3) Overall (4-8)
UFC 156: Edgar vs. Aldo –
Preliminaries (3-3) Main Card (3-2) Overall (6-5)
UFC on FOX: Johnson vs. Dodson –
Preliminaries: (4-2) Main Card (2-2) Overall (6-4)
UFC on FX: Bisping vs. Belfort –
Preliminaries (3-3-1) Main Card (2-2) Overall (5-5-1)
Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine –
Preliminaries (5-1) Main Card (4-1) Overall (9-2)
UFC 155: Velasquez vs. dos Santos –
Preliminaries (6-1) Main Card (0-5) Overall (6-6)
UFC on FOX 5: Henderson vs. Diaz –
Preliminaries (2-5) Main Card (3-1) Overall (5-6)
UFC 154: St-Pierre vs. Condit
Preliminaries (5-2) Main Card (2-3) Overall (7-5)
UFC on FUEL TV: Franklin vs. Cung Le –
Preliminaries (1-2) Main Card (4-1) Overall (5-3)
UFC 153: Silva vs. Bonnar –
Preliminaries (5-1) Main Card (4-2) Overall (9-3)
UFC 149: Faber vs. Barao –
Preliminaries (4-2) Main Card (2-3) Overall (6-5)
UFC 148: Sliva vs. Sonnen II –
Preliminaries (3-2) Main Card (5-1) Overall (8-3)
UFC 146: Dos Santos vs Mir –
Preliminaries (4-3) Main Card (4-1) Overall (8-4)
UFC on FOX 2: Evans vs. Davis –
Main Card (3-0)