The UFC heads to the land of the rising sun as the Saitama Super Arena plays host to UFC Fight Night.
With Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua’s withdrawal from the headline bout, Yushin Okami has returned to the UFC to take on Ovince St-Preux in the new-look main event. It’s a serviceable fight, but it’s not really the sort of main event many would have hoped for.
However, the co-main event battle between former strawweight title contenders Claudia Gadelha (pictured) and fellow Brazilian Jessica Andrade offers a much more interesting and exciting bout – and one that probably deserves the main-event billing more than the OSP-Okami bout.
There’s also some keen interest in the light-heavyweight debut of former K-1 superstar Gokhan Saki. ‘The Rebel’ steps into the UFC’s 205-pound division looking to put his world-class kickboxing skills to good use inside the octagon.
The fight card for Japan features a host of Asian fighters and a smattering of recognisable names to hardcore MMA fans, but with the big names notably absent, who should you be keeping an eye out for on fight night?
Let’s bring you closer to the fights…
Ovince St-Preux vs Yushin Okami
© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
This hastily-arranged main event came about when the main event draw, former PRIDE superstar Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, was forced off the card. Yushin Okami offers local interest, but the star power in this bout has all but disappeared.
St-Preux (pictured) is a prodigious athlete, who should have more than enough to deal with Okami, who is big and strong, without possessing out-of-this-world striking or submission skills. Expect the Tennessee native to get the W here, most likely after a lacklustre five rounds.
Claudia Gadelha vs Jessica Andrade
I’ve gone into detail in my preview for this contest, and you can check it out on this very blog by clicking here.
Takanori Gomi vs Dong Hyun Kim
Back in the day, Takanori Gomi was considered one of the world’s premier lightweight fighters. But sadly those days are long gone and ‘The Fireball Kid’ is in danger of being snuffed out of the UFC completely.
On Friday night Gomi (pictured) takes on Dong Hyun Kim, an exciting fighter with little to no striking defence, who loves getting involved in a tear-up. His bout with Marco Polo Reyes at UFC 199 will go down as one of the best unheralded UFC fights of recent times.
© Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports
This is almost certain to be Gomi’s final fling in the UFC. He’s lost his last four bouts, all in the first round, with three coming by TKO. That’s not a good look for anyone, let alone someone considered one of the world’s best a few years back.
The fight will give Gomi a chance to go out on a high in his homeland, and it would be a great way for a Japanese MMA legend to end his career. But fairytales in MMA are few and far between, and I fear he could be sent to his fifth straight defeat by a younger, fresher, less battle-scarred opponent.
Expect an inside-the-distance victory for Kim.
UFC Fight Night: St-Preux vs Okami – Fight Card
Predicted winners highlighted in green
|Ovince St-Preux||Yushin Okami||Light-heavyweight bout|
|Claudia Gadelha||Jessica Andrade||Strawweight bout|
|Takanori Gomi||Dong Hyun Kim||Lightweight bout|
|Gokhan Saki||Henrique da Silva||Light-heavyweight bout|
|Teruto Ishihara||Rolando Dy||Featherweight bout|
|Jussier Formiga||Ulka Sasaki||Flyweight bout|
|Keita Nakamura||Alex Morono||Welterweight bout|
|Syuri Kondo||Chan-Mi Jeon||Strawweight bout|
|Shinzo Anzai||Luke Jumeau||Welterweight bout|
|Daichi Abe||Hyun Gyu Lim||Welterweight bout|
[Photo Credit: © Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports]