UFC 2014: "Fightin' around the world!"
It's a New Year and new locale for the world's largest mixed martial arts (MMA) organization, with UFC hitting Marina Bay Sands in Singapore this Saturday (Jan. 4, 2014).
UFC Fight Night 34 will showcase a clash of Welterweight contenders in the main event when Tarec Saffiedine, who was last seen gimping Nate Marquardt for the Strikeforce Welterweight title, will take on Korean colossus Hyun Gyu Lim.
In addition, undefeated Blackzilians-trained prospect Sean Soriano will welcome Japanese MMA legend Tatsuya Kawajiri to the Octagon in a Featherweight showdown that will serve as co-main event.
We examined the first three of six scheduled "Prelims" bouts yesterday right here. Let's preview and predict the remaining trio that will air on "Fight Pass," the new online home for UFC's international events.
Here we go:
145 lbs.: Max Holloway vs. Will Chope
After making a good account of himself on the feet against Dustin Poirier before succumbing to a triangle armbar from mount, Max Holloway (7-3) reeled off three straight wins behind a solid striking attack, including knocking out The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) standout Justin Lawrence with a body shot. His 2013 has been a bit less successful, suffering a controversial decision loss to Dennis Bermudez followed by a slightly more one-sided defeat to Conor McGregor.
Holloway will be at a height disadvantage for the first time in his UFC career, standing five inches shorter than Chope.
Standing at a tremendous 6’4," Will Chope (19-5) has parlayed his height and submission skills into success on the Asian circuit, winning his last 14 fights since a Jan. 2012 defeat. Of those wins, 12 have come inside the first round, eight of them by rear-naked choke.
Most recently, Chope pounded out veteran Takumi Nakayama, who was unbeaten in his previous seven fights.
Chope’s huge and has fought with ridiculous frequency, but his competition has been absolute garbage. Of his last nine opponents, only Nakayama has a winning record. In addition, from what I’ve seen of his striking, he’s not great at keeping distance; however, he has a good high kick and clinch knees, but lets his opponents in far too easily.
His performances against McGregor (in which he broke his foot early) and Garcia (a short-notice bout) weren’t great, but Holloway is a terrific striker with very solid takedown defense. He puts combinations together beautifully and I don’t expect that to change with a height disadvantage. Though he lacks the stopping power to end things early, expect Holloway to run circles around Chope for the full 15 minutes.
Prediction: Holloway via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Katsunori Kikuno vs. Quinn Mulhern
One of the top veterans of Japan’s DEEP promotion, Katsunori Kikuno (21-5-2) enters the Octagon on the heels of five straight wins, the four most recent coming inside the first round. The karateka, best known for his hands-down style and crushing crescent kick, has ended 12 fights by form of knockout.
He has not been stopped since an arm-triangle defeat to Eddie Alvarez, whom Kikuno nearly put to sleep with a standing crucifix.
Quinn Mulhern (18-3) started his Strikeforce career on the wrong foot, having his seven-fight win streak snapped by Jason High. The remainder of his time in the promotion was a bit more successful, however, as he reeled off three consecutive wins. After suffering a hard technical knockout loss to Rick Story in his Octagon debut, he has elected to drop to 155 pounds, making his debut at that weight Saturday morning.
You know me and my affinity for Japanese MMA, so it shouldn’t surprise you that I’m picking Kikuno. Mulhern has not impressed me; he hasn’t demonstrated sufficient wrestling ability to take Kikuno out of his element and the fact that this is a clear desperation cut performed by someone who’s 6’3" bodes ill.
Kikuno is more than just a novelty -- he’s a powerful puncher with devastating kicks. His takedown and submission defense should be more than sufficient to force Mulhern to trade on the feet. After that, it’s just a matter of time until Kikuno’s crescent liver kick or counter right ends the show.
Prediction: Kikuno via first-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Royston Wee vs. Dave Galera
When he steps into the Octagon on Saturday, Royston Wee (2-0) will make history as the first Singaporean fighter to compete in UFC. He had previously competed in Malaysia, picking up two submission wins in less than two minutes each.
Wee will give up four inches of height to "Scarecrow."
One of the bigger Bantamweight fighters on the roster, the 5’11" Dave Galera (5-0) has finished all five of his professional opponents. He went to the third round for the first time in April, stopping Reydon Romero with strikes.
Three of his wins have come by submission.
I’m going to be honest: I have no idea what’s going to happen here. I’ve found no fight footage of Wee and just one of Galera’s fights, in which he got taken down incredibly easily before getting an armbar off his back.
Therefore, that just leaves the intangibles: Galera’s actually fought people with professional wins, is much taller and has fought four times since Wee last stepped into the ring. Let’s go with the big guy.
Prediction: Galera via first-round submission
If you're a fan of prospects and finishes of all sorts, this card's for you.
See you Saturday, Maniacs, bright and early.
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.