The UFC makes its, now annual, pilgrimage to Japan this weekend in a show that airs slightly earlier than normal. Despite the muted atmosphere these shows are always well received and competition is high.
With a Japanese fighter appearing on every bout in the main card, Mark Hunt isn’t technically Japanese but fought there for so long he is an adopted son; there are numerous opportunities to get the home crowd on their feet. I see things slightly differently and predict a tough night for the locals. Let’s review the main card and see where there is some money to be made.
Horiguchi v Reyes:
Whenever the UFC brings a promotion overseas it makes the decision that home-grown fighters are to fill a slot on almost every bout; making his third appearance for the UFC is Kyoji Horiguchi and he fits the bill perfectly. With seven consecutive wins he has earned his place and at only 23 years of age he has plenty of time on his side to make his mark.
Jon Reyes gets a second opportunity to impress having failed in his first chance. A first round defeat to Dustin Kimura represented the third defeat in a fledgling career and it is surprising that he is placed on the main card for his next chance. Seven fights in six years doesn’t suggest that he will ever be prolific and a career at the top is likely to evade him.
Horiguchi is a knockout machine, proving this on his debut against Dustin Pague. He should open as a huge favourite and rightly so. Reyes has proven himself to be submittable but that isn’t something that Horiguchi favours. I’ll be taking Horiguchi to finish this early on with the type of knockout that wins bonus cheques.
Recommendation: Method of Victory – Kyoji Horiguchi by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 6/4 (+150) @ Boylesports
Kunimoto v Walsh:
Kiichi Kunimoto returns to the octagon for the third time in 2014 after appearances in both China and Brazil. In China he took a win by DQ for a fight he was losing, this must be put down to debut nerves as he submitted highly rated Daniel Sarafian in Brazil in one of the night’s biggest upsets.
Richard Walsh won the battle of the UFC debutants when taking a decision from Chris Indich in Canada in April this year. That fight represented his first outside of his native Australia and away from the regional scene. In Japan he gets a chance to improve his record to 2-0 when fighting overseas.
Kunimoto carries a significant edge when comparing experience and this is vital when fighting in the UFC. Walsh is still young and has a lot of time ahead of him to reach the next level but it won’t be in Japan. Kunimoto has an excellent submission game as Sarafian found out to his cost. Walsh holds only the one defeat, by submission, to current UFC fighter Robert Whittaker. It is by this method that I give the home fighter the winning edge.
Recommendation: Method of Victory – Kiichi Kunimoto by Submission – 6/4 (+150) @ BetVictor
Tate v Nakai:
Making her fourth appearance inside the octagon is Miesha Tate. After losing to Cat Zingano in her debut, and the right to appear in the TUF series alongside long-time rival Ronda Rousey she caught a break when injury forced Zingano off the show. In addition to taking her coaching slot she also took her title shot, a rematch from their Strikeforce bout where Rousey arm barred Tate to take her Women’s Title In the rematch the outcome was the same although Tate managed to take Rousey out of the first round for the first ever time. Earlier this year she took a comfortable decision from Liz Carmouche to set up this fight, in the process tying with Carmouche, Rousey and Davis for the most number of fights in the UFC.
Making her UFC debut is unbeaten Pancrase fighter Rin Nakai. Nakai has fought in her native Japan on 17 occasions wining all but one fight, a draw. Based on the level of opponent faced this is a career high and a huge challenge. In Japan the scene could not be set any bigger to make a real impression.
Tate has the advantage in all aspects of this match up. She is taller with the reach advantage, she has a more rounded skillset than Nakai and her experiences with elite fighters will see her through this. Nakai could turn out to be something special but will probably take a fight or two at this level to realise her potential. The betting suggests that this will go the full three rounds but I think that Tate can win by submission or knockout just by moving forwards and pushing Nakai against the fence. If this tactic works then the knockout feels more likely and at odds of 8/1 is frankly ridiculous.
Recommendation: Method of Victory – Miesha Tate by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 8/1 (+800) @ Boylesports
Akiyama v Sadollah:
In what feels like an eternity outside of the cage we finally get a return for Yoshihiro Akiyama. The Japanese sensation has been on the sidelines for a long time now and most new fans will never have seen him compete. His fights have always been entertaining if largely unsuccessful. He has hinted that this will be his last fight but a win may change that mind-set although it probably shouldn’t.
Amir Sadollah promised so much when winning TUF 7 that he simply couldn’t possibly deliver on this. Beating CB Dollaway in the finale he ran into the left hand of Johny Hendricks in his next outing. That loss benched him for almost a year, ruining any momentum in the process. He has not been seen in the octagon since losing a decision to Dan Hardy in Nottingham, England. It was arguably one of his better performances as he took the fight to the British fighter on home soil and threatened an upset for long periods.
If this card were not in Japan there isn’t a chance that this fight makes the main card. Both fighters have been inactive for at least two years, two and a half for Akiyama. He may have owned an impressive record pre-UFC but his record since arriving is shocking. A fan favourite he has lost four in a row and in his only win he lost to Alan Belcher, I am sorry but he did. Sadollah has flattered to deceive, stumbling to decision wins over low level fighters and coming up short against the next tier. ‘Sexiyama’ is the favourite but nobody wins in this fight, it will certainly be the last for one of them, it could and should be for both. Sadollah wins an un-thrilling decision.
Recommendation: Method of Victory – Amir Sadollah by Decision – 11/4 (+275) @ BetVictor
Jury v Gomi:
In an interesting co-main event Myles Jury puts his undefeated record on the line against Japanese veteran Takanori Gomi. The younger fighter by 10 years it is Jury who has the most to lose from this fight. After winning TUF 15 just two years ago he has racked up a further five victories over some respected names putting himself in the top 10 along the way. Most recently he took a comfortable decision over Diego Sanchez which gave him the number nine slot. Now he faces the unranked Gomi looking to break top five.
Gomi makes his second appearance of the year, his ninth as a UFC fighter and 46th of a remarkable career. At 35 his career is on a downward trajectory, but in truth it would have taken a herd of wild horses to keep him off a card in his home country and the UFC was only too happy to oblige. It is a tough fight for Gomi as the better fighters in this promotion have tended to get the better of him so it will be more of a gauge for Jury than Gomi.
Jury is incredibly well rounded as a fighter possessing an arsenal of submissions alongside knockout power and excellent cardio. Gomi, on the other hand, has a granite chin but remains susceptible to submissions and at 35 his cardio will be suspect. Jury could pressure Gomi for 15 minutes and take the decision but I think he will be looking for a real marquee name on his record, for this reason I see him pulling out all the stops for a finish. He won’t knock Gomi out, but he just may crank the neck or lock the arm to get it.
Recommendation: Method of Victory – Myles Jury by Submission – 9/4 (+225) @ Boylesports
Nelson v Hunt:
Mark Hunt makes his return to the Octagon after his thrilling draw with Bigfoot Silva in Australia. Numerous injuries have kept the Antipodean on hiatus but where better than Japan, where he fought so many times in Pride, to make his return. The transition from Pride was tough on the Super Samoan as he fell into a run of six consecutive defeats which rendered his career and legacy, in tatters. Something in the UFC clicked for Hunt and after winning four on the bounce found himself in a contenders match with JDS for the next title shot.
Back in the win column himself is Big Country, Roy Nelson. In a result that literally everyone saw coming he finished Big Nog inside a round in a horrible match up, hopefully sending the Brazilian legend into retirement in the process. That win saw a reversal in fortune for Nelson who had his back against the wall with a pair of poor performances against Miocic and Cormier.
You really couldn’t match two harder heads than this as both fighters are almost impossible to finish, certainly when fighting at their best. Nelson has been stopped just the once in his career and that was six years ago. By comparison Hunt has been stopped twice, both to devastating strikers in JDS and Melvin Manhoef, the latter under K1 rules. With the size of both competitors it is highly unlikely that the full five rounds is reached as both have suspect cardio once the fight goes beyond 10 minutes. With that in mind I am inclined to look for the stoppage. When the irresistible force of Roy Nelson meets the immovable object of Mark Hunt then the immovable object goes down. Despite being the underdog I’ll be taking Nelson to put the 40 year old Hunt into retirement by way of stoppage in the middle part of the fight.
Recommendation: Method of Victory – Roy Nelson by KO, TKO or Disqualification – 9/4 (+225) @ Boylesports