Previewing UFC Fight Night 142
The UFC is back in action on Saturday night following Friday’s card with a Top 15 Heavyweight matchup from the land down under. In a very busy weekend after 13 fights on Friday Night, we head right into another card on Saturday Night. We get the typical cast of characters that always seem to show up on these Australian cards, and the main card has some fun fights on it. Plus, we get a fun Heavyweight main event featuring former UFC champion Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos (19-5 #7 Ranked Heavyweight) taking on rising contender Tai “Bam Bam” Tuivasa (8-0 #11 Ranked Heavyweight). The Australian crowds are always rowdy, so they will certainly be behind all their home country fighters. Let’s hope we close the UFC weekend with 12 solid and entertaining fights.
We kick off Saturday on UFC Fight Pass as two newcomers to the UFC face off with Damir Ismagulov (16-2) takes on Alex “Hitman” Gorgees (6-0). For former M-1 Global Lightweight Champion Damir Ismagulov, his UFC debut comes while he is on an 11-fight win streak. Ismagulov has 9 career knockouts and gets to enter the cage against a less experienced fighter also on his debut. He will look to get his UFC career started quickly with a win in the opening bout of the evening. For Australia native Alex Gorgees 6 wins in all 6 of his career matchups bring him to the UFC as an injury replacement. He won his pro debut via DQ but has since finished all 5 of the fighters he faced. He has 3 knockouts and 2 submission wins. He is going to have to find a way to make up the experience difference against Ismagulov. This is going to be a barn burner to kick off the night. Prediction: Damir Ismagulov via Decision.
We close the Fight Pass prelims with another Lightweight showdown as Mizuto “Pugnus” Hirota (18-9-2) takes on Christos “The Spartan” Giagos (15-7). A rough stretch for Mizuto Hirota as of late droppin2 straight. In his return to the UFC Hirota has gone 1-2-1. This is a big spot for him as a win keeps him in the world’s largest MMA promotion. A loss, however, could find the 37-year-old searching for a new home. Hirota has some power with 10 knockouts, but he must fight smart in this matchup. He will have to try and avoid the takedown and stay on his feet if he wants to take home a win. The UFC debut for Christos Giagos did not go as planned. A second-round submission loss to Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira (23-8) in September gives him a quick turnaround here. Giagos has 7 lockouts and 3 submissions on his record. If he can get the fight to the mat, he should be able to take over the fight. Giagos picking up a win over a veteran like Hirota could go a long way to keeping him around in the UFC. Prediction: Christos Giagos via Decision.
We jump over to the FS1 prelims and kick it off at 125lbs as Elias Garcia (6-1) takes on Kai “Don’t Blink” Kara France (17-7 1NC). Elias Garcia dropped his UFC debut in July to Mark “Bumblebee” De La Rosa (11-1) but returns here to welcome a newcomer to the UFC. That was Garcia’s first professional loss and he will look to rebound Saturday. Garcia has 2 knockouts and 3 submission wins. He will need to get back to basics and avoid the big right hand of Kara France in this one. After appearing on Season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter Kai Kara France lost his first bout. He then went on to win 5 straight matchups and earn his shot in the UFC. Kara France has 9 career knockouts and will be looking to add to that Saturday. He is a talented fighter with a ton of experience. If he wants to hang around even after the 125lb divisions rumored demise happens a win here is a must. Prediction: Kai Kara France via Decision.
Up next, we head to Welterweight as Keita “K-Taro” Nakamura (33-8-2 1NC) takes on Salim “Grizzly” Touahri (10-2). Keita Nakamura has alternated wins and losses in his last 6 matchups heading into Saturday. The 34-year-old hasn’t really found the ability to put together a win streak in the UFC He is going to look to bounce back from his last loss and keep that going. Nakamura has a ton of fights under his belt and the ground game has been his specialty. he owns 17 career submission wins. For Salim Touahri his UFC debut ended in disappointment when he dropped a 3-round decision to Warlley Salves (13-3). He now returns looking to get himself his first UFC victory. Touahri is going to want to keep this fight standing as he will be dealing with a submission machine in Nakamura. Touahri has a chance to make a nice impact if he picks up a win here. Prediction: Keita Nakamura via Submission.
We get a Top 10 Flyweight bout next as former title challenger Wilson Reis (22-9 #8 Ranked Flyweight) takes on Ben “10” Nguyen (17-7 #10 Ranked Flyweight). Wilson Reis is on a serious slide having dropped 3 straight matchups. The jiu-jitsui whiz is on the verge of having to find a new promotion. He is going to want to get this fight to the ground to try and add to his 10 career submissions. He leaves so much to be desired on the feet that it is impossible to think he would have any shot if this fight stays standing. For Ben Nguyen, a loss to longtime Flyweight contender Jussier Formiga (22-5 #1 Ranked Flyweight) was the result of his last appearance in the UFC. He returns Saturday to try and get back on track. Nguyen is in a big spot going against a guy who has been in the Top 10 for a long time and even fought for the title. Nguyen has 8 knockouts and 5 submissions on his record. A win here and he is right back towards the top of the division if it hangs around. Prediction: Ben Nguyen via Decision.
We close out the prelims at Welterweight as Aleksei Kunchenko (19-0) takes on longtime UFC veteran Yushin “Thunder” Okami (34-12). Aleksei Kunchenko is looking to build on his UFC debut victory over former title challenger Thiago “Pitbull” Alves (27-13). The former M-1 Global Welterweight title is undefeated in his career. He has 13 knockouts and 1 submission win. Kunchenko can be a factor in the UFC at 170, and a dominant win here would go a long way to start that trek up into the rankings. Yushin Okami spent almost 4 years away from the UFC before returning in the fall of 2017. He was quickly submitted in his return. However, he rebounded from that when he scored a decision win over Dhiego Lima (14-7) in April. Okami is a skilled guy who spends a lot of time closing distance and grinding out wins. 17 of his 35 career wins have come on the scorecards. Okami has fought some of the best fighters in the world. He will have his hands full in this one, however. He needs to slow Kunchenko down and force him to work in the clinch. Prediction: Aleksei Kunchenko via TKO.
We head to the main card as the UFC welcomes Jim “The Brute” Crute (8-0) to take on Paul “BearJew” Craig (9-2). After receiving a contract following episode 6 of The Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series Jim Crute will make his UFC debut Saturday. Crute is 22 years old and to be making his debut in his home country of Australia will be something special. Crute has been very well-rounded finishing 3 opponents by knockout and 2 submissions. Crute is going to have to calm the nerves as quick as he can in this one. If he can stay calm during the start to this one, we could see a great first impression. Paul Craig scored one of the best come from behind wins in UFC history. He was down bi to heavy favorite Magomed Ankalaev (10-1) when he threw up a hail mary triangle choke and secured a table at the 4:59 mark in the 3rd round. The submission win snapped a 2-fight losing streak for Craig. He then signed a new deal with the UFC and here looks to stop the hype on a brand-new prospect. Craig is a guy who wants to get the fight to the mat. He has 9 submissions on his resume and has the advantage almost every time when the fight hits the ground. Prediction: Jim Crute via TKO.
We head all the way down to Bantamweight next with two brand new UFC fighters as Suman Mokhtarian (8-0) takes on “Super” Sodiq Yusuff (7-1). Fresh off his stint on Season 27 of The Ultimate Fighter Suman Mokhtarian has a chance to debut in the UFC. His run on the show was cut short with a first-round loss, but the 26-year-old Australian will still get his shot. Mokhtarian looks to finish his opponents with submissions having 6 of his 8 wins end that way. He was injured on the show but now is fully healthy and ready to go. Look for Mokhtarian to push the pace and try and get this fight to the mat quickly. Sodiq Yusuff is another contract winner from The Contender Series as a 3-round decision in Season 2 got him his chance. Yusuff is primarily a striker who holds 4 career knockout wins. His unorthodox striking is going to make a difference in his UFC career. He must shut the takedowns down in this matchup if he is going to get a win in his debut. Prediction: Suman Mokhtarian via Submission.
We head to Welterweight next as Jake “The Celtic Kid” Matthews (13-3) takes on Tony Martin (13-4). The Australian native Jake Matthews has rattled off 3 straight wins. At 24 Matthews has already appeared in the UFC 10 times. Matthews is a talented striker, but his submission game can’t be slept on. He has 4 knockouts and 7 submissions on his record. Matthews will have the power of the Australian crowd behind him in this one. A fourth win in a row for Matthews he could find himself in the Top 15 at 170lbs. Tony Martin got his second win in a row in stunning fashion with a head kick knockout of newly retired Ryan LaFlare (13-3). Martin is starting to build some momentum at 10lbs and a win over a kid like Matthews would go a long way. Martin has 8 submission victories and that is what made his knockout of LaFlare so stunning. He can’t get enamored with the striking though as that was his first career knockout. He will need to stick to his basics and look to close the distance early. Prediction: Jake Matthews via Decision.
We get a UFC legend next as former Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (25-11 #13 Ranked Light Heavyweight) returns to face rising Australian contender Tyson Pedro (7-2 #14 Ranked Light Heavyweight). For Mauricio Rua, the MMA world has given him a long and lucrative career. He was a legend in Pride well before he made his way to the UFC. He only furthered his legend in the UFC when he claimed the 205lb title in his second try at it in 2010. Since then things have gone up and down for the sure-fire Hall of Famer. He had been back on the rise winning 3 straight before a knockout loss in July to Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (31-13 #3 Ranked Light Heavyweight) derailed his head of steam. Shogun is certainly on the back side of his career, but we have seen flashes of the guy that was at the top of the hill at Light Heavyweight at the beginning of the decade. Shogun owns 20 career knockouts and the power is always the last thing to go with fighters, so we may get a highlight that we aren’t expecting. Tyson Pedro burst on to the UFC scene with back to back 1st round finishes. Since then, however, he has dropped 2 of his last 3 including his last matchup against Ovince Saint Preux (22-11 #10 Ranked Light Heavyweight). Pedro is a talented guy, but sometimes he can be a tad overzealous and get himself in trouble. Pedro is in a big spot here and is a heavy betting favorite. The UFC clearly like him to put him in this spot and a win would go a long way for the young Australian. Prediction: Tyson Pedro via TKO.
We head to the CO-Main Event and another MMA legend enters the cage as Mark “Super Samoan” Hunt (13-13 1 1NC #10 Ranked Heavyweight) takes on Justin “Big Pretty” Willis (7-1 #15 Ranked Heavyweight). Mark Hunt is the pride of Australian combat sports. The 44-year-old, however, is finding less success in the cage these days. He has suffered back to back losses and has lost 3 of his last 4. However, one thing that hasn’t gone away is Hunt’s power. He will be looking for the big right hand and then to be able to walk away as his opponent this the canvas. Hunt has faced the who’s who in the MMA world and obviously father time will eventually win so let’s just enjoy this one as he looks for another knockout. Justin Willis is undefeated in the UFC. He has not lost since dropping his MMA debut back in 2012. Willis has gone the distance in 2 of his 3 UFC fights. He is going to have to keep his head on a swivel in this one. Willis does have 4 knockouts to his name but knocking out a guy like hunt is a tall task. This is a don’t look away from the TV because the fight could end at any second type of matchup. Prediction: Mark Hunt via TKO.
We close the show and the weekend with two more Heavyweights as former UFC Champion Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos (19-5 #7 Ranked Heavyweight) takes on rising Australian star Tai “Bam Bam” Tuivasa (8-0 #11 Ranked Heavyweight). Junior Dos Santos has alternated wins and losses losing his Heavyweight title in 2012. Injuries had slowed the 34-year-old Brazilian. However, he has shown that he still possesses the boxing skills that got him the title in the first place. When the talent has gone up however he has seemed to struggle a bit. He has a chance to vault back in the title picture just a year and half since his last challenge for it with a win here. Dos Santos has 13 knockouts and if can dial it back and catch Tuivasa we could see a very disappointed Australian crowd. Tai Tuivasa has shot into the minds of UFC fans for not only his impressive finishes but also his post-match antics. His celebratory beer out of a shoe gimmick certainly has gained some traction. Tuivasa is only 25 and has some impressive athleticism for a guy his size. His last matchup where he won a decision over Andrei “The Pit Bull” Arlovski (27-17 #13 Ranked Heavyweight) was one of his most impressive fights to date. Tuivasa has 7 career knockouts and some serious power. A win here and we are talking about a guy who will skyrocket towards the top of the UFC’s Heavyweight Rankings. Prediction: Tai Tuivasa via TKO.
The UFC has an extremely busy weekend and Saturday is no different than Friday. This is a stretch for the UFC that closes out the year where there is basically at least one card every weekend until we hit January. If you are an MMA fan you are in serious heaven with all these matchups and cards. Hopefully, we get some great fights as we go this weekend and with 25 fights on the two cards combined it almost seems impossible not to. The Australian cards are always a ton of fun because the crowd get so into their home fighters so that place will be rocking Saturday night.