Once again the injury bug has struck, this time for the first UFC visit to Seoul, South Korea.
The card is laden with local fighters and a few recognisable names for a Saturday morning rarity that could turn out to be a real barn burner. 5Dimes will be providing you with the odds and I’ll be reviewing the main action.
Choi v Sicilia:
The Korean Superboy, Doo Ho Choi makes just his second appearance in the UFC this weekend with an 18 second debut win still a lasting memory. One of a number of South Korean fighters on the card this chap may just be the one with the ability to go the furthest, surpassing the current marquee fighter for the country, Dong Hyun Kim who appears later in the card. With 10 stoppage wins from 13 fights he brings an electrifying, and extremely violent element to the card and is a real contender for Fight of the Night, if it goes that far.
Sam Sicilia has pretty much limped through his octagon career after taking part in the TUF:15 series. Just about holding a positive record at 5-4 is hardly the foundation from which solid structures are built and there is a feeling that he may have already reached his ceiling. But Sicilia has something huge in his favour; his fights are rarely boring and violence is all but guaranteed.
Favouritism is clear and it’s for the Korean fighter but I don’t think that the margin should be so wide. Sicilia can, and has been stopped but he has been in the deep end for some way longer and that exposes him to a higher calibre of fighter; albeit he has struggled against many of them. I do favour Choi but not at the quoted odds so I’ll test the durability of Sicilia and take a small play on this reaching the second half of the fight.
Recommendation: Over 1.5 Rounds – 2 units at -120 (4/5) @ 5Dimes
Akiyama v Mina:
Yoshihiro ‘Sexyama’ Akiyama makes his first octagon appearance in a little more than a year. That fight, you may remember, marked his first appearance in more than two years and allowed him to claim a victory for the first time since 2009. The win over Amir Sadollah was the first win in five and surely gave a small stay of execution. At 40 years old and with father time very much in his opponent’s corner this could be the last time we see the Japanese sensation inside the cage.
Alberto Mina refers to himself as the ‘Soldier of God’, which is just silly since Yoel Romero already has that title. Romero is far bigger and scarier than Mina so I’m, sure he’ll be looking for him to change that soon. Mina enters the fight with a successful debut in the Macau card adding to an impressive unbeaten record that now stretches now to 11. That fight, against Shinsho Anzai, wasn’t particularly impressive as Mina was tagged repeatedly and his cardio had all but gone by the end of the first round.
I’m really torn on this one. Akiyama at his peak is the better fighter hands down. But his peak has long gone and such a period of inactivity doesn’t enhance the skills. Mina is unbeaten but was bested for the best part of the round by a fighter of a far lower calibre than Sexy. Still torn, I’m taking the fight to go the distance. Mina does appear to have very poor cardio but Akiyama hasn’t finished a fight in seven years. He struggled to put away Amir Sadollah and this could be a snoozer that kills the momentum created by the opener. I’m not hugely confident so this will be only a small play.
Recommendation: Mina / Akiyama goes 3 round distance – 1 unit at +130 (13/10) @ 5Dimes
Kim v Waters:
If you’ve already cast your eyes over the prelims then no, your eyes are not deceiving you; this is the second Dong Hyun Kim fighting on this card. This Kim is the better known version also referred to as The Stun Gun and is something of a UFC veteran. Kim has faced a murders row of talent at 170lbs, taking wins over Matt Brown, Nate Diaz and Erick Silva while coming up short against legitimate title challengers in Carlos Condit, Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley. All have been by TKO, one of them due to freak injury. He can be stopped but it takes extreme violence to achieve it.
Dominic Waters finds himself in a strange and rather unenviable position as one half of the co-main event. Strange, because he hasn’t faced anyone or done anything of note to get there, yet unenviable as this is an enormous step up in class from his usual level of opponent. With a single appearance in the UFC ending in defeat in the Fight Pass prelims for a TUF card he feels like a strange choice for a heavy handed veteran to face.
With Kim the biggest name at present in Korean MMA this feels like an exhibition bout of sorts; something that is made to showcase the talents of Kim to a local television audience. The mismatch is clear for all to see and it is surely a matter of time before it ends. Waters has never been stopped in his brief career but Kim’s power should see that stat change on Saturday morning.
Recommendation: Hyun Kim wins inside distance– 2 units at +138 (11/8) @ 5Dimes
Henderson v Masvidal:
Ever the company man Benson Henderson headlines for the UFC in their first appearance in South Korea and in the last deal of his current contract. When the original opponent was wrecking machine Thiago Alves this represents a risky move; one that has not exactly been mitigated with Masvidal. On the surface a strange choice to headline, particularly with Kim on the card the American fighter is of Korean and American heritage and both his name and reputation should resonate well with fans. Since losing his title to Anthony Pettis he has displayed a reckless regard to fight anyone, a move that has seen him step up to 170lbs for his last two fights.
Stepping in for the injured Thiago Alves as a late replacement is the always game Jorge Masvidal. What Alves brought with prospective violence Masvidal counters with experience and durability. The 38 fight veteran makes his 9th appearance for the UFC and looks to maintain an impressive record that has seen him win six of his eight fights to date. Losses to Rustam Khabilov and Al Iaquinta the only black marks, the latter of which was a highly contentious split decision loss. He is a different beast to Alves, one that is likely to hit a little softer but push back a little longer.
Although Henderson dropped two straight, and three of his last six he remains a formidable opponent. Written off against the much larger Brandon Thatch he took care of business late into the fourth round. A similar story can be expected against Masvidal with the Miami native going to a decision in 13 of his last 15 fights, only a single submission and knockout win have upset that sequence which suggests that Benson is in for a hard night. Hard nights are what makes Benson the fighter he is and this could be tailor made for him to point fight his way to a hard earned win. Five rounds should be expected but Henderson could sneak in a submission late on.
Recommendation: Henderson wins by 5 round decision – 2 units at +106 (21/20) @ 5Dimes