UFC on Fuel TV 8 Predictions
The UFC once again invades the Saitama Super Arena for the eighth UFC on FUEL telecast. The UFC’s return to the Mecca of Asian combat sports boasts everything a Japanese fanbase could ask for: Thunder and Lighting, a heavyweight fight featuring an inordinate size disparity, and Wanderlei Silva.
So, before I finish shaving my head, and polish off my final email campaigning for soccer kicks to be allowed, just this once, for Japan/Axe Murderer nostalgia, here are my picks.
Kudos to Joe Silva for making me salivate over a fight whose combatants combine for a 3-8 record in their past four fights.
But Brian Stann is a war hero, incredibly articulate, and definitely someone you can’t help but root for. And Wanderlei Silva is the personification of MMA cult-of-personality. From his hand-wringing, his staredowns, to his anomalous brutality- much of which was cultivated in the same Saitama Arena he returns to on Saturday- Silva will be lauded long after he decides to hang them up. Rightfully so.
That time is now.
Dana White has made no secret that he feels The Axe Murderer should retire. And despite unprecedented appeal and high-profile fights, Silva has never gained traction in either the 185 or 205-lb divisions as a contender. It’s a tale we’ve seen before with Silva’s former foil and former light-heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. White seems sincere in his reticence to profit off the physically diminished skills of an iconic hero.
Former U.S. Marine Brian Stann can punctuate his legacy and likely usher in the post-Silva era with a win on Saturday, a task he is more than equipped to handle.
Both fighter’s draw fans due to their appealing stand-up styles. Stann has struggled in the past with accomplished grapplers, and although Silva does carry respected BJJ credentials, there’s no way he turns into a takedown artist in front of the Japanese faithful in Saitama, Japan. This fight will be dictated in the stand-up, and it will be who can land significantly first that will earn the win.
Based solely on the diminishing returns of Silva’s chin relative to Stann’s, I expect the American to create an opportunity to send Silva out the way he would want, brazenly brawling in front of strangers who love him.
Prediction: Stann via KO in 2nd rd. Wrong
The co-main event of the evening would seem more reminiscent of a Street Fighter cosplay than a heavyweight tilt with legitimate divisional implications, but this is the MMA landscape we currently live in.
As a fan-favorite, Hunt is having a late career resurgence with three-straight octagon W’s following SIX consecutive losses. The Super Samoan’s inauspicious UFC debut came at UFC 119, and was the product of a contract obligations on Zuffa. The gameplan was seemingly to allow the then 5-6 Hunt to compete and see what modicum of value could be levied off the K-1 kickboxing stalwart. Hunt was quickly dispatched by Sean McCorkle, a caricature of a heavyweight and a fighter no longer near a UFC fight. But in short order, the 38-year-old has capitlaized during the twilight of his career, defeating Chris Tuchscherer, Ben Rothwell, and Cheick Kongo, legitimate veterans, consecutively.
As for Stefan Struve, the 25-year-old is already a veteran of the organization: his 9 octagon victories already puts him 4th on the all-time list for most wins in division history. Struve’s youth, evolving skills, and persistence will bode well for him as a future fixture in the heavyweight division. Which is good, because he’s dropping this fight.
Simply put, despite the glaring advantages Struve seemingly has at his disposal (reach, most notably), he has failed to develop an effective jab that keeps opposition at bay. Worse still, as opponents close the distance, he is very susceptible to getting his upright head punched repeatedly. Not what you want to do against Hunt’s iron-fisted barrage.
Struve’s real chance is to take Hunt to the mat and employ his far superior ground game, which is an effective weapon in his arsenal, even more so considering Hunt’s glaring deficiencies as a grappler. Struve could potentially submit or TKO Hunt if he can hold position, but I am less inclined to believe that’s how it shakes out.
I feel Hunt will be able to get into range and throw overhand missles at the precarious target that is Struve’s head. If Struve gets it to the ground he better capitalize quickly because every second he’s on the feet with Hunt is a countdown to disaster.
Oh, by the way, if I’m right and Hunt is victorious, that’s 4-straight, which is by far the best winning streak in the division. Crazy Parallel Universe Contender, anyone?
Predicition: Mark Hunt def. Stefan Struve via KO in 1st rd. Right
Despite missing weight by two pounds and forfeiting 20 percent of his fight purse to “The Fireball Kid,” I still feel this is Sanchez’s fight to lose. Although, the fact “The Dream” came up short on the scale does give me pause; an uninspired Diego, like the doughy one that lost to John Hathaway at UFC 114, is a very beatable adversary for top UFC talent.
Luckily, I don’t think Gomi is a top talent.
Gomi has managed to rattle off two straight UFC victories, thus bring his octagon record to an even .500, but all opponents seem to have to do is dictate the terms of the fight and Gomi wilts. His one-dimensional striking game can still put people’s lights out- but it certainly isn’t a strategy to bank on against a very durable lightweight in Sanchez.
I expect Sanchez’s gas tank to suffice over three rounds and allow him to outpace Gomi, grinding him down in the process.
Prediction: Sanchez wins via submission in 3rd rd. Right
Ah, the battle of middleweights who I wouldn’t favor over Anderson Silva and who struggle against fly in the ointment fighter Tim Boetsch, or, for those preferring a melodius tagline, Thunder vs. Lighting.
The awkward reality of this fight is both have very different levels of reward if they win. As it stands, an Okami victory doesn’t likely move the needle towards a title shot unless he tears a still-beating heart from Lombard’s chest, and even then I wouldn’t be clamoring for his rematch against Spider. But,as the UFC brass has shown, a tenured top-tier contender, who typicallys wins but doesn’t draw PPV buys, can’t afford to risk a loss on his resume. See Fitch, Jon.
Lombard, however, can erase all memories off his listless fight against Boetsch and have a modest case for immediate contendership with victories over Rousimar Palhares and Okami in consecutive bouts, guys who don’t offer a lot of upside but are dangerous opponents all the same.
The X-factor is Lombard’s preternatural ability to stay upright. I think Okami will struggle to get Lighting to the mat, and the few opportunities he might actually create, I imagine Lombard’s athleticism won’t allow him to be kept there.
Hector has too much explosion for Thunder, and I expect him to use it early and make us all salivate over his next matchup.
Prediction: Lombard def. Okami via KO in 1st rd. Wrong
Don’t look now, but Brad Tavares has quietly amassed a 5-1 record in the UFC.
The atheltic and durable TUF 11 alum has shown a strong penchant for taking decisions off similarly hard-nosed fighters in his young UFC career, going to the scorecards in three consecutive bouts, notching victories in his last two.
So it’s only fitting that standing in his way is 32-year-old Japanese wrestler- and generally rough-and-tumble-looking dude- Riki Fukuda. The former DEEP fighter will be making his second appearance in Japan as a UFC competitor. That home field advantage paid off in his decision victory over Steve Cantwell at UFC 144. But I am wagering against deja vu.
Although I do expect a competitive fight, given both fighter’s propensity to stick around for three rounds, I am favoring the youth and athleticism of the 25-year-old Hawaiian. I foresee Tavares using his superior speed to out land Fukuda and putting his explosiveness to task if Fukuda drags him to the mat.
Prediction: Tavares def. Fukuda via decision. Right
This may be the easiest fight handicap in combat sports history. Here’s a breakdown, courtesy of MIT janitor Will Hunting:
“Bantamweight Takeya Mizugaki can’t get on a role- he’s starting to wonder if he’ll ever have the stones to put two W’s together ever again. I mean this Japanese fighter hasn’t notched consecutive victories in his last five shawwts!. And now he’s going through the paces, and what do you think he does? He goes gonzo on Jeff Hougland ha-rd at UFC on Fuel TV 6. Now he’s up against Bryan Caraway, a hard-nosed veteran on a three-fight win streak, who I don’t have a problem with and has never done anything to me. Now the Washingtonian is locked-and-loaded, currently training with Team Alpha Male alongside the likes of perennial dual-division title contender Urijah Faber, a cute ancillary benefit considering Faber was the last man to finish Mizugaki via, you guessed it, rear-naked-choke! So what do I think? I’m holding out for something better.”
Yep, that’s pretty erudite stuff off a guy from Southie.
Predicition: Caraway def. Mizugaki via submission in 3rd rd. Wrong
REST OF THE CARD:
- -Rani Yahya defeats Mizuto Hirota via decision. Right
- - Siyar Bahadurzada defeats Kim via TKO in 2nd rd. Wrong
- -Cristiano Marcello defeats Kazuki Tokudome via decision. Wrong
- -Kyung Ho Kang defeats Alex Caceres via submission in 2nd rd. Wrong
- - Hyun Gyu Lim defeats Guimaraes via decision. Right
EVENT TOTAL: 5-6