Happy Saturday morning MMA fans! Hopefully, everyone had a great Thanksgiving feast, enjoyed the football that took place on that day and Black Friday, as well as all the deals. If MMA was something you were deeply craving this weekend, the UFC was the only promotion (barring KSW) that bothered to have you covered.
Unfortunately, the card that they put forth just began its prelims, and has slotted to kick off the main card at 7am Central Time. So, a lot of people who will read this will do so after the card has already ended. Besides, if you have Fight Pass, you can watch the event at any time, so that’s fine! However, add in the absence of the original co-main, the co-headliner, and other fighters bowing out to injury, and the card is a shell of its former self.
Two of the eight main-carders don’t even have Wikipedia pages, as is the case with most of the prelim fighters. Alas, here are my picks of a (hopefully) fun card.
Prelims (5/4 a.m. CT, UFC Fight Pass)
Dominique Steele (13-6) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (13-7-3)
“Huh? Stun Gun got relegated to the bottom of the prelims?” That’s what some people may have thought when they saw Kim’s name. Apparently, Steele was supposed to be on the main card, against the always entertaining Hyun Gyu Lim. Sadly, Lim got injured, the UFC decided to sign a Dong in his place, and Steele got relegated to the very bottom of the prelims.
Anyways, Steele is mostly a decision machine. He got knocked out in his UFC debut against the criminally underrated Zak Cummings in July, and needs a win to stay in the UFC. His opponent is making his UFC debut, and has 11 finishes to his credit. Sadly for UFC fans, I see Steele being super cautious, and hugging mini Stun Gun for 15 minutes, en route to a boring decision win. Prediction: Steele via unanimous decision.
Marco Beltran (6-3) vs. Ning Guangyou (5-2-1)
The next fight yields no interest from me. Beltran lost three straight before entering the UFC due to participation in a Latin American TUF season, and won his UFC debut against Marlon Vera over a year ago. Meanwhile, Guangyou won TUF China against Lian Xipeng, and followed up with a knockout win over folk hero Royston Wee. I guess I’ll pick him, since he finished Wee, is nicknamed “Smasher,” and both of those things are mildly cool. Prediction: Guangyou via decision.
Yao Zhikui (2-2) vs. Freddy Serrano (2-0)
How is a 2-2 Flyweight in the UFC? Thank the dreadful TUF China. No way I’m picking him, ever. Plus, Serrano actually has some UFC experience, albeit just one fight. Damn this fight is Jungle Fight level! Prediction: Serrano by whatever.
Seo hee Nam (15-6) vs. Cortney Casey (4-2)
Hamderlei Silva is back! One of the most decorated female fighters around, Nam is almost into nine years of professional competition. She has won 12 of her last 15, including nine of her last 11 and six of her last seven, with the last being a loss to Joanne Calderwood. I’m definitely a fan of hers, and would love to see her win inside the octagon.
Sadly, she’s actually an Atomweight, while Casey is a legit Strawweight. Plus, she actually gave Joanne Calderwood some trouble, while Nam did not. Oh, and Casey is a mom, so I kind of have to root for her. Regardless, I see her size and finishing ability (all wins via knockout or submission) being enough to end Nam’s night early. The heart begs to differ though. Prediction: Head: Casey via tko, round 3. Heart pick: Ham via biased decision.
Tae Hyun Bang (17-9) vs. Leo Kuntz (17-2-1)
Ah, the people’s main event. No matter who wins, MMA fans can rejoice in having witnessed a name matchup of such epic status.
Both men lost their UFC debuts to legit competition, but Kuntz has a way better record, and more finishing ability. While Bang may want to keep the sensations of fighting lasting longer, I see Kuntz stunning him in brutal fashion in premature fashion. Prediction: Kuntz via cold ko, round 3.
Mike De La Torre (13-5-1) vs. Yu Chul Nam (18-5-1)
After the visual delight that will be Bang/Kuntz, the potential Fight of the Night will take place, as Mike De La Torre takes on
De La Torre needs a win here, as he is 1-2 with a no contest inside the octagon. The no contest was initially a first round submission loss to Brian Ortega, who tested positive for drostanolone after the fight, which might be the only reason why Torre is still around.
Meanwhile, Nam is 1-1 inside the octagon, and a win can improve an already solid resume. The former Road FC Lightweight Champion has been fun over the length of his career, but has been involved in five straight decisions. De La Torre has finished 12 of his 13 career victims, and he knows how to entertain the masses. I see him doing the same tonight, finishing the fight in the second round. Prediction: De La Torre via tko, round 2.
Dongi Yang (12-3) vs. Jake Collier (9-2)
The headliinng prelim fight features one of the most secretly decorated fighters in MMA today. Yang is a third degree black belt in Judo, a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a fourth degree black belt in Yong Moo Do ( a Korean blend of Judo, Hapkido and Jiu Jitsu,) as well as a Sambo credentials. He has 11 knockouts in 12 victories, and while he only went 1-3 inside the octagon from October 2010 to May 2012, he’s won both fights since his release, and wants to prove his worth again.
Jake Collier is no joke however, having gone 9-2 thus far into his career, including wins over Gabriel Checco in RFA and a close decision a few months back for his first UFC win. He’s 1-1 with the promotion, so a win will definitely help him out. I think he’s a good fighter, and will probably win this bout. However, the heart begs to differ. Head pick: Collier. Heart pick: Yang.
Main card (8/7c, UFC Fight Pass)
Doo Ho Choi (12-1) vs. Sam Sicilia (13-5)
The main card opener, originally a prelim bout, should be a blast. Sicilia is a “knockout or bust” fighter who was expected to be cut after a 1-3 stint at one point, but has won three of four fight since, winding up with a 5-4 record inside the octagon over about three and a half years with the promotion. Eight of his wins have come via knockout, and he also has four submissions, but he has learned to pace himself better these days.
Meanwhile, Choi is also an action fighter. Ten of his 12 wins have come via finish, including nine knockouts. He has a flying knee to his credit, and his last six fights have been knockout wins, including an 18-second wipeout of Juan Puig in his UFC debut last November in Austin.
Honestly, I don’t know who to pick. Sicilia is more well-rounded (a rarity in MMA,) but Choi is a killer. The logical choice may be Sicilia, but I’m going with the hometown product here, in a thriller. Prediction: Choi via ko, round 2.
Yoshihiro Akiyama (14-5, 2NC) vs. Alberto Mina (11-0)
Sexiyama is back! The revered Korean star has had some troubles inside the octagon, including four straight losses to follow up his UFC debut win back in July 2009 at UFC 100. That fight was a split decision over recently retired Alan Belcher, so it could’ve been five straight losses for Akiyama to kick off his UFC tenure. He then too almost two years off, returning against an equally rusty and since released Amir Sadolla last September. A win today would excite the masses.
That said, Mina is the better fighter, no doubt. He’s unbeaten, has finished every opponent, and only two of his victims have escaped the opening round. He may not be a black belt in GaidoJitsu or a third degree black belt in Judo like Akiyama, but he’s still legit, and could really be a threat in the UFC. That said, I can never pick against Sexiyama, so I’ll have to put forth an illegitimate Heart pick to go with my actual pick. Prediction: Mina via first round finish. Heart: Sexiyama, via whatever.
(8) Dong Hyun Kim (25-3-1, 1NC) vs. Dominic Waters (9-3)
Finally, the real Dong Hyun Kim takes the stage. And, it’s not against his original opponent or slot, either.
The original co-main event was supposed to be MMA and K-1 legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic against Anthony Hamilton. Then, Cro Cop retired, tested positive for HGH, and Masvidal/Kim was elevated to the co-main spot. However, after co-headliner Thiago Alves got hurth for seemingly the 100th time in his career, Masvidal was given the headliner slot, and Dominic Waters was chosen as the live dog that was to take on Kim.
Waters is a solid fighter. He’s got experience at WSOF and RFA, and trains with Jon Jones, Holly Holm and various other championship-level fighers at Jackson-Winkeljohn. However, Stun Gun is one of the five best Korean fighter ever, and I see him winning with ease tonight. Prediction: Kim via dominant decision or late tko.
(6) Benson Henderson (22-5) vs. Jorge Masvidal
Finally, the potential UFC 186 co-main event will take place. Ever since April’s ill-fated card began getting doused by injuries, Masvidal and Henderson, still Lightweight at the time, volunteered to fight each other in the co-main event of the card. However, the bout never came into fruition, Rampage Jackson still fought in it, and this bout was added to the exceptionally lengthy book of “what ifs” in the sport.
Now, after original headliner Thiago Alves got hurt once again, the bout finally takes place, at 170. Bendo is the former UFC Lightweight champion who finally garnered positive fame after losing the belt. Then viewed as a boring decision fighter who was too voally religions, he is now revered for changing his style and taking various short notice bouts, as well as asking for other short notice spots. This is the final fight on his contract, so he’ll either get a nice raise, or he’ll bolt for another promotion. The “Smooth” one is a free thinker, so what he’ll do is entirely a mistery.
That said, the former champion is still a heck of a fighter. Now ranked #6 in the Welterweight division, the black belt in Taekwondo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu possesses ten submission wins, and avenged a controversial decision loss to longtime friendly rival Donald Cerrone with a dazzling submission win over vastly larger Brandon Thatch in the card-saving main event last Valentine’s Day, just a few weeks later. He has since been rehabbing from an injury, and was slotted for this card weeks back.
His opponent, Jorge Masvidal, has been through hell and back. A legendary streetfighter, “Gamebred” owns the honor of winning the first main event in Bellator history, as well as fighting for Strikeforce, and the UFC. No other fighter has done that, besides Josh Thomson, who did so years later.
Masvidal went 2-1 with Bellator, 3-1 at Strikeforce (the lone loss was a unanimous decision against then longtime champion Gilbert Melendez,) and is 6-2 inside the octagon. The only losses came against Rustam Khabilov two years back, in a Fight of the Night bout at the last Fight for the Troops card, and a robbery against Al Iaquinta, which is why this fight against Bendo is a clear cut rise in competition for him.
Both fighters are well-rounded, with crisp striking to go with high-level ground games. Both men can go the distance (Masvidal has won 16 decisions to Bendo’s 10,) and can boast double-digit finishes as well.
In the end, I believe this fight will go the same way it would’ve back in April. Masvidal will have his moments, and will serve as a legit threat. But, Henderson will be too much to overcome, and will likely win every round, in what should be a fun, long fight. Prediction: Henderson via unanimous decision (50-45×2, 49-46.)