Previewing UFC Fight Night 117
The UFC is only 6 days removed from their last event, but this Friday they will originate from Saitama, Japan on FXX. The UFC hasn’t been to the Saitama Super Arena in over 2 years, but the Octagon makes its return to the place that hosted some of the greatest bouts in PRIDE history and the final PRIDE event in 2007. The main event took a bit of a hit when Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (24-10 #5 Ranked Light Heavyweight) was forced to pull out due to injury on a week’s notice. The UFC has brought in former Middleweight Title challenger Yushin “Thunder” Okami (32-8) taking on Ovince Saint Preux (20-10 #6 Ranked Light Heavyweight). One of the biggest storylines is the debut of kickboxing legend Gokhan “The Rebel” Saki (83-12 1 NC Kickboxing record 0-1 MMA). The card is not eye-popping, but neither was UFC Pittsburgh and that was one of the most entertaining cards of the year so surprises can happen anywhere. There was one bout pulled during weigh-ins after a scary weight cutting incident with Mizuto “Pugnus” Hirota (19-8-2) missing weight and looking wobbly and super dehydrated while trying to weigh in thus canceling his bout with Charles “Boston Strong” Rosa (11-3). That means there are only 10 bouts on the card just like last week let’s take a look at the night.
The night kicks off on FXX featuring “The Ace” Hyun Gyu Lim (13-6-1) welcoming Daichi Abe (5-0) to the UFC and the Welterweight division. Hyun Gyu Lim has not fared well in his last 2 outings in the UFC losing via knockout in both appearances. That evened out his UFC record to 3-3. Those are the kind of fights Lim has been in his entire career having 10 knockouts to his name. He will be looking to stand and bang with Abe and try to end this fight super early. Lim can’t afford a third straight loss as that would almost mean an exit from the UFC right around the corner. The Pancrase veteran Daichi Abe has just 5 professional fights to his name. He has seen the judges once and the other 4 opponents were all dispatched via TKO or KO. The power for the younger Abe might be what makes the difference in this one. Expect this one to get stated fast and kick off the night with a bang. Prediction: Daichi Abe via TKO.
We move next to Shinso “Animal” Anzai (9-2) taking on Luke “The Jedi” Jumeau (12-9) at 170lbs. Shinso Anzai got his first win in the UFC back in September 2015. He has been out for 2 years with a back injury. Now he will be making his return to the UFC and looking to build a win streak at 170. Anzai has racked up multiple knockouts in his career and will be looking to add to that total Friday night in Saitama. Luke Jumeau is 3 months removed from making his UFC debut in a decision victory back in June. Jumeau fought a hard-fought decision, but he has the tools to win anywhere on the fight goes Jumeau has 5 knockouts to his name and prior to the decision in his debut he had finished 8 straight opponents. Jumeau looked very good and a win here will continue his rise up the ranks. Prediction: Luke Jumeau via Submission.
Making her UFC debut Syuri Kondo (5-0) steps into the Octagon against Chan-Mi “Ottogi Girl” Jeon (5-1) in the Women’s Strawweight Division. Suri Kondo has fought exclusively under the Pancrase banner and was the Women’s Strawweight Champion before joining the UFC. She has gone the distance in a majority of her bouts. She also has an extensive kickboxing background along being a professional wrestler. With her making a debut she could be a great addition to the Women’s Strawweight Division. Chan-Mi Jeon is 20 years old and coming off her first professional loss in her promotional debut with the UFC. Unlike her opponent Jeon has been a finisher having knocked out 4 different of her opponents. Jeon will need to use that experience from her loss in the UFC to come back even stronger. She showed a lot of heart in that matchup against the much more experienced fighter JJ Aldrich (5-2). This one should be a solid matchup with some real talent in the Octagon and a potential new contender emerging. Prediction: Syuri Kondo via Decision.
Our third and final Welterweight bout of the night closes out the FXX prelims as Keita “K-Taro” Nakamura (32-8-2 1NC) and Alex “The Great White” Morono (13-4). Keita Nakamura is returning to the UFC after almost a full year layoff following a decision loss. Prior to that he had gone 2-1 in the UFC. Nakamura is at best on the mat with 17 career submissions to his name. His 2 wins in the UFC have both come via rear-naked choke, and actually 15 of his career wins are by that rear naked choke. Nakamura will look to get the fight to where he can take his opponents back and sink in that choke that has been so successful for him. Alex Morono is coming off a brutal knockout loss to Niko “The Hybrid” Price (10-0 1NC) in a fight he was arguably winning until the finish. Morono has the ability to put a lot of pressure on his opponent and has solid stamina. He has been able to knockout 4 of his opponents while submitting 5 along the way. Morono will need to keep Nakamura off his back to prevent that rear naked choke. This should be a great one to polish of the FXX prelims. Predictions: Keita Nakamura via Submission.
We jump over to the Flyweight division and the main card on FXX for a matchup between Jussier Formiga (19-5#5 Ranked Flyweight) taking on Ulka Sasaki (20-4-2). Jussier Formiga is coming off a loss in his last UFC appearance that gives him 2 losses in his last 3 fights. He has consistently stayed at the top of the rankings and has fought the best of the best the 125lb division has had to offer in the UFC. Formiga has a simple game plan, and it is to get the fight to the mat and try and finish the fight with his Jiu-Jitsu. He has 8 career submissions and when he doesn’t get the fight finished on the mat he always ends up with the judges. He will certainly have a test on his hands in this matchup. Ulka Sasaki rebounded from a loss with a 2nd round submission back in June. His ground game has looked very good in his last few appearances in the UFC. It was good to after he lost to former Flyweight Title Challenger Wilson Reis (22-8 #6 Ranked Flyweight). Sasaki has solid ground skills when it comes to going against strong grapplers especially in that Reis fight. In the third round against Reis Sasaki put it on him and even had his back for a majority of the round. This could turn into a real grappling matchup. Prediction: Ulka Sasaki via Submission.
In what could vie for fight of the night honors Teruto “Yashabo” Ishihara (10-4-2) takes on Rolando “Dy Incredible” Dy (8-5-1 1NC). Teruto Ishihara has dropped two straight decisions, but he is always one of the most dangerous strikers at 145lbs. After a draw in his UFC debut he went out and knocked out two straight opponents. Ishihara has showed some real toughness in the last two appearances and he has the ability to end the fight at any time. Ishihara needs this victory to ensure his spot on the UFC’s roster, because a third straight loss could mean an exit from the promotion. Rolando Dy’s last outing was cut short after an eye injury forced a stoppage after round 2 in June during his UFC debut. Dy has been a pretty solid up and coming prospect who has shown the ability to knock his opponents out and submit them. Dy will need to avoid the big shots on the feet and close the distance against Ishihara. If he can stay out of the danger zone Dy does have a serious shot at getting his first win. This one has the potential to be a knock down drag out war early in the night. Prediction: Teruto Ishihara via TKO.
The UFC debut of kickboxing legend Gokhan “The Rebel” Saki (0-1) is up next going against Henrique “Frankenstein” da Silva (12-3). Gokhan Saki has not fought an MMA fight since 2014. He has instead been a legend in the world of kickboxing. He has rattled off a record of 83-12 and 1NC in kickboxing at the highest level. He was the Glory Light Heavyweight Champion, participated in multiple K-1 Grand Prix’s, and took on the who’s who in the kickboxing world. The question will become how these skills will translate to the Octagon. The standup will be fine, obviously, but what if the fight goes to the ground. That is the biggest question mark in this debut and it has been brought up since his signing. Saki will need to keep the fight standing, and the matchup may be exactly what he needs. Henrique da Silva entered the cage for the UFC at 10-0 and after winning his first 2 UFC bouts he has hit a skid. There has been 3 straight losses since December of last year and the last one was a 22 second knockout loss. Henrique da Silva is a knockout artist. He started his career with 11 straight knockouts including his UFC debut. He seems like the perfect dance partner for a guy like Saki in his UFC debut. This is make or break for da Silva so expect a balls to the wall performance out of the 28 year old Brazilian. Prediction: Gokhan Saki via TKO.
Pride legend Takanori “The Fireball Kid” Gomi (35-13 1NC) returns to Japan to take on Dong “The Maestro” Hyun Kim (14-8-3) in a Lightweight bout. Takanori Gomi is a legend in the MMA world from his career in Pride. The former Pride Lightweight Champion has however fallen on hard times recently in the UFC. He has lost his last 4 straight and 5 of his last 6. The last 4 straight have all been 1st round finishes with three being knockout losses. This may be a final trip to the Octagon for the 39 year old. He will need to stay calm early and stay out of the danger that has ended with nights early the past 4 times he’s come to the Octagon. Dong Hyun Kim returns to the Octagon following his first UFC win in December of last year. After suffering 2 straight loses to kick of his UFC career Hyun Kim was able to take a decision victory and move along. He has 5 knockouts on his resume, which could be a big factor in a fight with a guy like Gomi whose chin is on its last leg. This could be the night we say goodbye to a legend of the sport in his home country. Prediction: Dong Hyun Kim via TKO.
The Co-Main event of the evening is up next and it features the last 2 title challengers for the UFC Women’s Strawweight Title Claudia “Claudinha” Gadelha (15-2 #1 Ranked Women’s Strawweight) and Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade (16-6 #4 Ranked Women’s Strawweight). Claudia Gadelha is one of the best female fighters on the UFC roster, and has fought hard against Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-0 Women’s Strawweight Champion) She has rattled off two straight victories since her loss in the title challenge, and has looked sharp in both matchups. There is no doubt that she has all of the tools to become the champion, it is just Joanna that stands in her way and has defeated her twice. For Jessica Andrade she will be looking to rebound from her own defeat in a title challenge back in May of this year. Andrade has a go forward style and a chin to match. She will stand in the pocket and throw punches for the entirety of the fight. She has a big gas tank and that allows her to just keep pushing forward and try and walk her opponents down. This will be a war in the cage, where Gadelha will have to stay sharp and defensive to avoid the big shots from Andrade and employ a good counter game. This could easily be the fight of the night and there is no question about it being the best matchup on the card. Prediction Claudia Gadelha via Decision.
The Main Event is next and it will feature the return of the former Middleweight Title Challenger Yushin “Thunder” Okami (32-8) taking on Former UFC Light Heavyweights Contender Ovince Saint Preux (20-10 #6 Ranked Light Heavyweight). Since leaving the UFC in 2013 Yushin Okami has gone 5-2 primarily fighting in the World Series of Fighting which is now the Professional Fighting League. Okami will be stepping up in weight against OSP, but he was always a much larger Middleweight. Okami will need to utilize his clinch and grappling game to try and neutralize the big punching power of OSP. Okami has always showed the ability to go the distance, his 16 career decision victories tell that story. He may be able to drag this fight deep into the 4th and 5th rounds and really take advantage of OSP who in the past has gassed in fights. Okami will most certainly have the crowd behind him fighting in his home country, and returning to the UFC after 4 years of being away. OSP rebounded after 3 straight losses with a submission victory back in April. His unorthodox striking style and knockout power are something that has to be dealt with in every matchup he has. OSP will surely be looking to send the crowd home early and disappointed with that power. OSP also has sneaky ground skills that he has used throughout his time in the UFC, and that could play a huge x-factor in this matchup, if Okami does try to take this to the ground. Even with the late opponent change this should be a great main event to close out the night. Prediction: Ovince St. Preux via TKO.
The UFC will continue to roll on in their return to Japan and the arena that is synonymous with PRIDE. The crowd will be into the matchups as usual and having a guy like Yushin Okami headlining the card surely brings them in to it even more. It is disappointing that we don’t get to see Shogun return to Japan where he was such a big star during his Pride run, but injuries happen and the main event will still be a great way to cap the card off. This is a rare Friday Night card for the UFC, but it is great for fight fans who will have two full fight cards within 6 days of each other leading up a week off before UFC 216 on the first weekend of October.