One more, for ole' times sake.
One of Brazil's most celebrated mixed martial arts (MMA) sons is heading back to his old stomping grounds this Saturday (March 2, 2013) as "The Axe Murderer," Wanderlei Silva, returns to Saitama, Japan, to headline UFC on Fuel TV 8. Looking to spoil his homecoming of sorts is former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion Brian Stann, who is eager to get back in the win column after a narrow decision loss to Michael Bisping.
The Saitama Super Arena will also host an amusingly asymmetric Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight clash that pits 5'10" Mark Hunt against 7'0" Stefan Struve on the televised main card. In addition, Middleweight contendership hangs in the balance as Hector Lombard faces Yushin Okami.
The six-fight FUEL TV main card will be preceded by five "Prelims" bouts that you can catch on the UFC's Facebook page this weekend, beginning at 7 p.m. ET. We breakdown the first three UFC on FUEL TV 8 "Prelims" below.
155 lbs.: Cristiano Marcello vs. Kazuki Tokudome
Two consecutive knockout losses can do a number on a fighter, but Cristiano Marcello (13-4) showed his tenacity against Reza Madadi in front of his countrymen, ekeing out a grueling decision over the Swedish grinder. Marcello, who has been fighting professionally since 1997, is famed for his ground game, which has brought him nine victories by tapout.
He is more than 10 years older and two inches shorter than Kazuki Tokudome (11-3-1).
Training with the likes of former Sengoku champion Masanori Kanehara, Tokudome has put together an impressive 6-1 record in his last seven fights, losing only to reigning King of Pancrase Isao Kobayashi. He has fought everywhere that's anywhere in Japanese MMA, competing in Zst, Deep, Sengoku and Pancrase over the course of his five-year career.
He owns five technical knockout victories and three submissions.
There is literally only one attribute I look for when picking a Marcello fight: Takedown defense. If his opponent has any at all, Marcello loses. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, from what I can gather, Tokudome does.
In fact, Tokudome is ordinarily a takedown-focused fighter, but it's not a stretch that he could work his wrestling in reverse and defeat his foe on the feet. I haven't seen much of his striking, but outstriking Marcello isn't a Herculean feat. And while Tokudome's jaw is a question mark, Marcello is about as far removed from being able to exploit that as you're likely to find at 155 pounds.
He'll brawl, shoot for takedowns, and never stop moving forward, but Marcello's wrestling and striking deficiencies will rear their ugly heads once again as Kazuki picks him apart for a clear decision victory.
Prediction: Tokudome by unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Alex Caceres vs. Kyung Ho Kang
Originally considered little more than a sideshow attraction, Alex Caceres (8-5) has cemented himself as one to watch at 135 pounds, winning three of his last four after starting his UFC career winless (0-2). While his takedown defense had historically been his Achilles' heel, "Bruce Leroy" showed visible improvement in that area against Motonobu Tezuka his last time out, stuffing and outstriking the Japanese standout for a decision win.
Caceres one of the more active fighters on the roster, this being his seventh fight in two years.
Kyung Ho Kang (11-6) was all set to join teammate Dong Hyun Kim in the UFC after three straight submission wins in Road FC. Sadly, Kang was forced out of his fight with Caceres in Macau, China, in Nov. 2012 because of an injury shortly before he had the chance. Now making his official debut, the 25-year-old Kang comes highly touted by Hatsu Hioki, who called him the best Bantamweight he had ever sparred.
Kang has tapped eight opponents in his nearly six-year career.
Caceres is a solid fighter with a solid skillset, but the Tezuka fight hasn't convinced me that he's fixed the wrestling issues that have plagued him throughout his Zuffa career. Kang, reportedly more than 160 pounds just three weeks out from this fight, is in a perfect position to exploit that. His powerful top game is up to the task of weathering Caceres' submission onslaught, while the latter fighter's lack of stopping power should prevent a striking discrepancy from adversely affecting Kang's takedown attack.
Kang's size and strength will be the deciding factor here as he weathers Caceres' scrambling and machine gun submissions to wear him down before locking in a second-round rear naked choke.
Prediction: Kang by second-round submission
170 lbs.: Marcelo Guimaraes vs. Hyun Gyu Lim
Though he entered the UFC with some hype behind him, Marcelo Guimaraes (8-0-1) -- who owns a win over Ildemar Alcantara -- was less-than-stellar in his Octagon debut, edging Dan Stittgen in a bout that bordered on unwatchable. "Magrao" was originally slated to welcome Hyun Gyu Lim (10-3-1) to the UFC in Macau, but suffered an injury that prompted David Mitchell to step in.
Guimaraes is the former Jungle Fight middleweight champion and will be competing for the second time at 170 pounds.
One of the biggest Welterweight fighters in MMA today, Lim's great size wound up costing him in Macau, as a problematic weight cut forced his bout with Mitchell to be canceled at the last minute. Nonetheless, he remains committed to fighting at 170, where he made his name as one of the most devastating combatants in the Asian circuit.
"The Ace," who has stopped his last five opponents in the first round, has seven wins by (technical) knockout to his credit.
On one side, we have a fighter who was arguably outstruck by Stittgen. On the other, we have a gargantuan beast of a man with a penchant for blowing away people in the first round. This isn't rocket science. Guimaraes' Luta Livre top control is effective, but he's physically outgunned by an enormous margin, a non-entity on the feet and woefully underequipped in the wrestling department.
Time will tell if the Macau weight cut disaster was a sign of things to come, but for now, Lim enters this fight with every advantage short of a gun. Expect him to smash the plodding Guimaraes with a heavy punching onslaught in the opening frame.
Prediction: Lim by first-round technical knockout
Tune in tomorrow for looks at the remaining two UFC on FUEL TV 8 "Prelims" fights, which include intriguing bouts in the Bantamweight and Middleweight divisions.
See you then.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire card on fight night (Sat., March 2, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, as well as the main card, which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on FUEL TV.