Japan’s Saitama Super Arena known to host some of the biggest MMA fights in the history of the sport brings another packed card after two long years. This is the ninth event in Japan and the card features MMA stars from the east just like the previous ones specifically tailored to this MMA market. Let’s look at things that make this an interesting event, you don’t want to miss out.
SHOGUN RUA INJURED, OUT FROM THE MAIN EVENT
A knee injury sustained during the training camp has left Shogun Rua with the decision to pull out from the main event. Shogun won’t be getting his rematch against Ovince anytime soon. The former light heavyweight champion was knocked out cold in just 34 seconds of the first round by Ovince three years ago. Despite being injured, Shogun pressed for continuing to fight relying on medication and therapy. It was a tough decision to make but seeing no other option left, Shogun had to pull out.
YUSHIN OKAMI MAKES HIS RETURN
Former UFC middleweight title challenger Yushin ‘Thunder’ Okami makes his UFC return as a light heavyweight & quick replacement for the injured Shogun Rua. Okami last fought in the UFC four years ago when he lost to Ronaldo Souza via TKO in round 1. Since moving out of UFC, Okami gathered a record of 5-2 in WSOF, Deep, Pancrase and PFL organizations in welterweight division. He’s currently on a four-fight win streak and must get pass through the light heavyweight OSP if he wants to make his second run successful. On paper, everything is tilting towards OSP; being a bigger fighter, more power & strength, better reach and movement. It’s not going to be easy jumping two weight classes above fighting a bigger and more elusive fighter like Ovince.
Prediction: OSP via TKO
FORMER TITLE CHALLENGERS BATTLE FOR SUPREMACY
Apart from being Brazilians, Jessica Andrade and Claudia Gadelha have other things in common; they both have fought the reigning strawweight champion Joanna, they both are 3-2 in their last five fights, and are top contenders inline for the next title shot. This is a big fight for the strawweight division as the winner gets the next title shot early next year. Claudia is a well-rounded MMA fighter with good striking and ground game. She has only lost twice in her career to Joanna champion, that too after going the distance both the times. Jessica on the other hand has brute strength advantage which she will use to take Claudia down, just like she did with the champion.
Prediction: Claudia via Decision
GLORY KICBOXING CHAMPION MAKES HIS UFC DEBUT
Gokan ‘The Rebel’ Saki known for his ferocious fighting style now makes his transition to MMA after 15 long years competing in Kickboxing. He’s fought the who’s who of kickboxing world – Alistair Overeem, Badr Hari, Daniel Ghita, Ray Sefo, Tyrone Spong and Melvin Manhoef. Also known as ‘The Turkish Tyson’, Saki boasts a solid kickboxing record of 83-16 with 59 knockouts. He went on to win the Glory title belt but due to bad relationships with the promoters was unable to get next big fights. That’s when he was stripped of the belt and it’s been two years since he last competed. The only time Saki competed in MMA was 13 years ago, which he lost via TKO.
Brazilian Henrique da Silva (12-3 MMA, 2-3 UFC) will be welcoming Saki in this light heavyweight duel and promises to surprise him with his own striking. Though he’s on a three-fight losing skid, Silva sees this fight as an opportunity to overcome the dark phase he’s been going through. We don’t know much about Saki’s ground game, though that’s where he doesn’t want to finish the fight. Saki will be looking to use his elite striking to make an impact in his debut and it’ll turn out to be a tough night for Silva if he can’t get pass the early onslaught from the Dutchman.
Prediction: Saki via KO
THE FIREBALL KID’S LAST CHANCE
Takanori Gomi is at the tail end of his long illustrious MMA career. Once a feared light weight who knocked out fighters with his lightning speed punches he now stands at crossroads having lost four fights in a row. All these four losses have been in the first round and well under 8 minutes. His chin is not the same, as he has been cracked three times in a row. Also, his speed and ground game have diminished over the years. Having to face a brawler like Dong Hyun Kim in his home front, Gomi must come back to his old self giving the MMA fans one last fire ball performance. Kim is tough, has good wrestling and can fight anywhere the fight goes. He has better chances to take big shots and can fight anywhere the fight goes. He will rely on his wrestling when Gomi starts finding his rhythm and try to overpower the Japanese on the ground. If Gomi does manage to win and in a spectacular fashion, this event would be a perfect stage for him to hang up his gloves. On the contrary, he doesn’t want to retire with five straight losses and this is his only chance to write a good end to his long fighting career.
Prediction: Kim via Decision
ALAN JOUBAN MAKES DEBUT AS AN ANALYST
UFC Welterweight fighter Alan Jouban (15-6 MMA, 6-4 UFC) makes his in-studio analyst debut alongside experienced champions Daniel Cormier and Michael Bisping, while Karyn Bryant is the show host. This is will be his third career venture apart from his current MMA and modelling career. Looks like Alan doesn’t want to limit his capabilities with just fighting inside the cage. He brings in his weekly podcasting experience along with appearances in UFC Tonight, UFC Fight Pass and UFC Now. With his high fight IQ, Alan will be a good addition to the existing line up of analysts and add more colour to the show.