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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is starting the New Year abroad with its first-ever show in Singapore, hitting Marina Bay Sands this Saturday (Sat., Jan. 4, 2014) with UFC Fight Night 34. Headlining the international event is a showdown between final Strikeforce Welterweight champion, Tarec Saffiedine, taking on last-minute replacement Korean bruiser Hyun Gyu Lim.
In addition, one of Japan MMA's top veterans will make his long-awaited Octagon debut when "The Crusher," Tatsuya Kawajiri, faces undefeated Sean Soriano in the co-featured fight of the morning (in the United States).
UFC Fight Night 34, which can only be seen online with "UFC Fight Pass," will feature six "Prelims" under card bouts with lots of new talent.
Let's take a look:
155 lbs.: Mairbek Taisumov vs. Tae Hyun Bang
Joining Adlan Amagov as a representative of Chechnya, Mairbek Taisumov (20-4) has made his name in the M-1 promotion, most recently topping former champ Artiom Damkovsky via third-round submission. The 25-year old had previously lost to Damkovsky in 2010, going 7-1 between those two bouts.
Taisumov has never gone the distance in victory, splitting his wins between knockouts and submissions.
Having left the sport in 2010 to fulfill his mandatory military service, Tae Hyun Bang (16-7) returned this June with a technical knockout win over Joo Dong Hwang. A training partner of headliner Lim, he had previously gone 1-3, the losses coming to the likes of Takanori Gomi and Jorge Masvidal.
Exactly half of Bang's victories have come by form of knockout.
Of all the debuting fighters on the undercard, I feel like Taisumov has the most upside. He packs some serious power both standing and in his ground-and-pound, plus an effective wrestling and submissions game. Bang might have a bit more experience on the highest level, but nearly three years away from the sport and a recent win over a 3-4 fighter don’t give me confidence.
"Beckan’s" wrestling advantage decides the fight; should "Macho" prove a handful standing, he’s got the ability to take the fight to (and end it on) the mat. Plus, he stopped a neo-Nazi with kicks to the leg while the guy was on his back. How could I not pick him?
Prediction: Taisumov via first-round submission
145 lbs.: Dustin Kimura vs. Jon delos Reyes
Dustin Kimura (10-1), a 24-year-old submission specialist, suffered the first defeat of his young career this past September, succumbing to a Mitch Gagnon guillotine after a cracking first round that saw each man hurt the other with body shots. He had previously stopped Chico Camus in his debut, choking out the Roufusport-trained product in the third round.
Kimura has not gone to the judges in his past seven fights.
Jon delos Reyes (7-2), 26, is another veteran of the PXC promotion, joining Hyun Gyu Lim and fellow debutant Russell Doane. He has won four straight since losing to Doane in 2010, all via stoppage. He has ended four fights by tapout, the remaining wins coming by way of knockout.
Reyes hasn’t fought in over a year, has faced much weaker competition than Kimura, and is making his UFC debut. Kimura may need to develop his wrestling more before becoming a player in the division, but he should be too much for Reyes.
Though I’ll admit to having seen little of Reyes, there is nothing to suggest he’s ready for a step up this big. Kimura in one.
Prediction: Kimura via first-round submission
135 lbs.: Leandro Issa vs. Russell Doane
Part of Singapore’s standout Evolve MMA squad, Leandro Issa (11-3) joined teammate Zorobabel Moreira on the wrong end of the Upset Express last year, suffering a stunning loss to young Korean Soo Chul Kim. Despite the setback, he bounced back in impressive fashion, out-grappling wrestling standout Yusup Saadulaev to raise his record to 8-1 in his last nine.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu standout, he has tapped seven opponents and owns a win over the Ashikan Judan, Masakazu Imanari.
Riding a 2-2 run, Russell Doane (12-3) scored the biggest win of his career this past November, becoming the first man to stop UFC vet Jared Papazian via strikes. He had won eight straight before that run and defeated Tyson Nam in his pro debut. Ten of his victories have come inside the distance.
Doane can certainly crack; stopping Papazian is no mean feat. His bout with Michinori Tanaka has me a bit worried, though. Doane had all kinds of trouble with the Japanese prodigy’s grappling and seemed rather willing to concede takedowns to attempt front headlock chokes.
Against Issa, that’s not acceptable.
The knockout loss to Kim makes Doane’s puncher’s chance a very real one. I still believe Issa should be able to down him early and lock up a choke.
Prediction: Issa via first-round submission
Three more UFC Fight Night 34 "Prelims" matches to preview and predict, featuring four debuting fighters.
See you tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 34 card this Saturday morning, starting with the UFC FIght Pass "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 a.m. ET, right on through the main card action, which is slated to begin at 9 a.m. ET.