The UFC returns to Japan this weekend with another Fuel TV card and, in truth, this one is pretty freaking stacked from top to bottom. For the complete preview of the card, including Facebook prelims, fellow WhatCulture.com columnist, Mitchell Stucky, joined me on the Getting Lucky MMA Podcast (E030). Main card preview below. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1VaaP7io2I Main Card Preview Dong Hyun Kim (16-2-1, 1) vs. Siyar Bahadurzada (21-4-1), WW: Kim is a world class grappler and judoka, which was evident in his utter dismantling of Paulo Thiago, BJJ black belt, on the ground back at UFC: Macao. The only people to defeat Kim are Demian Maia, the best BJJ master in all of mixed martial arts, and Carlos Condit, a fighter that is surprisingly effective in his offense from the guard and extremely well rounded in all areas. Siyar makes a great story as an Afghan fighter with tremendous power, 11 KOs. While Siyar and Kim both share a common last opponent, Paulo Thiago, the blue print for beating fighters of Siyar's style has been in place since UFC 10. Ground, control, fatigue. And that tactic is precisely why Kim is an elite fighter. This fight will end in a grappling clinic as a UD for the Korean. Mizuto Hirota (14-5-1) vs. Rani Yahya (17-7), FW: Don't feel bad if you don't recognize either of these fighters, because no one else does either. Hirota is making his promotional debut in the UFC after coming off a loss in his sole Strikeforce fight. That's right, a loss. His opponent is a submission expert with impressive grappling credentials. His record in top level MMA competition though gets rather spotty with a combined WEC + UFC record of just 6-4. With little else to really separate these fighters, go with the local fighter to avoid the Pacific Ocean cardio curse. Hector Lombard (32-3-1, 1) vs. Yushin Okami (28-7), MW: Here's a secret: this is actually the best fight on the card and it's buried four deep. Okami is clearly the best Japanese fighter on the planet at the moment, which is less of praise for Okami and more the dire state of Japanese MMA. If Dong-Hyun Kim represents the elegant body mastery, heavy hips, and dogged determination of judo, then Okami embodies the slow-footed, negative fighting, hug master. His last fight with Alan Belcher was quite frankly a disgrace. Lombard on the other hand is now somehow vastly under-rated for gamely fighting Tim Boetsch with a fractured sternum and losing a decision. Even with a 1st round obliteration of Toquinho, Lombard's stock remains ridiculously low. He's a BJJ black belt, an Olympic judoka, and possesses perhaps the heaviest hands in the division. He will annihilate Okami. Takanori Gomi (34-8, 1) vs. Diego Sanchez (23-5), LW: This would have been a great fight in 2007. As it is, these are two fighters on the down side of their primes. Gomi's decline hit a temporary upbeat when he outgunned Mac Danzig in Macao following a TKO over Eiji Mitsuoka. As is the case with most Asian fighters, Gomi is a completely different animal when he doesn't have to travel over the Pacific to battle. Let's hope the trend continues. After being exposed by BJ Penn, Sanchez's career has been in a bit of limbo. He's only 2-2 since, fluctuating back and forth between Welterweight and Lightweight. His wrestling is above average. His striking is not. The only thing that Sanchez really has that differentiates him is that he is utterly insane. From his strangely transfixing walk-outs (YES!) to his propensity to unflinchingly take huge amounts of damage in the cage, Sanchez is basically all heart at this point of his career. The fight will be interesting, but only for the in-ring drama and not for any impact on title contention in the LW division. Stefan Struve (25-5) vs. Mark Hunt (8-7), HW: Looking at this fight, it is easy to get carried away with what you want to happen rather than what you know will happen. If courage, willingness to brawl, and an iron chin were the sole ingredients of greatness, Hunt would be the P4P all-time GOAT. Unfortunately, the days of Tank Abbott are long gone and now skill, cardio, and strategy rule the cage. Hunt is certainly resurgent after six straight losses. He's riding a three fight win streak, but unfortunately all of those wins are over strikers. Struve is a gangly, goofy, towering Swede ... with serious submission skills. He's got 16 career subs. Coincidentally, six of Hunt's seven career defeats are by submission. Oh boy. If Struve has half a brain cell, he will ground Hunt and sub him. It's a real shame, too, because Hunt is one of the most likeable fighters around. Wanderlei Silva (34-12-1, 1) vs. Brian Stann (12-5), LHW: Seeing Wandy since the Crocop head kick makes every fight fan a bit nostalgic for the old days of PRIDE. Silva is a shadow of his former self. His jaw is almost to Chuck Liddell level fragile. Ever since the Croatian head kick, Wandy is just 3-7 and he's been brutally KO'd four times in that stretch. Ouch. If it wasn't for his glorious history as the unstoppable Axe Murderer, poor Wanderlei would have been out of the UFC a long time ago. The good news? We get Wanderlei back at LHW. Brian Stann, aka American Dad, would have no chance against Silva circa 2004. Alas, no one beats Father Time. Stann has sufficient stand-up and good power (9 KOs) to end the night early. Expect the All-American to win via knockout and hopefully, just hopefully, Wanderlei will say his goodbyes once and for all in front of the very fans that made him into a legend. Sayonara, Wandy.
Robert Curtis is a columnist, podcaster, screenwriter, and WhatCulture.com MMA editor. He's an American abroad in Australia, living vicariously through his PlayStation 3. He's too old to be cool, but too young to be wise.