Photos by Martin McNeil and Esther Lin
MMAmania's Brian Hemminger takes a closer look at Saturday night's UFC on Fuel TV 8 main card bout between top welterweights Dong Hyun Kim and Siyar Bahadurzada. What's the key to victory for both men? Find out below.
Kim bounced back from a rough stretch to absolutely dominate Paulo Thiago in his last fight via superior grappling. It was one of his most complete grappling performances since joining the UFC and he's hoping he'll be able to shut Bahadurzada down in a similar fashion this weekend.
Bahadurzada absolutely crushed Thiago as well in his UFC debut, knocking the Brazilian out violently as he rushed in and forcing him to plank face-first on the canvas in less than a minute. After talking some trash to several UFC fighters but being unable to stay active due to some injuries, he's finally ready to get back in the mix.
Will Kim be able to shut down "The Great's" striking with his superior grappling? Can Bahadurzada connect with his powerful fists and put "The Stun Gun's" lights out? What's the key to victory for both men?
Dong Hyun Kim
Record: 16-2-1 (1 No Contest) overall, 7-2 (1 No Contest) in the UFC
How he got here: Dong Hyun Kim actually retired from his promotion in South Korea after winning his second professional fight. He would reemerge nearly two years later in Japan fighting for the Deep promotion where he would go 7-0-1 over the course of one and a half years.
After fighting to a draw in his last fight in Japan, Kim was signed by the UFC to fight Jason Tan at UFC 84 where he would win his UFC debut with big elbows on the ground.
After fighting to a close split decision victory over Matt Brown, Kim would lose a decision to Karo Parisyan but would have the result overturned when the Armenian tested positive for banned painkillers.
Since the Parisyan fight, Kim has fought three times and scored three consecutive unanimous decision victories. He's primarily used his judo and improved wrestling to stifle fighters and take them out of their games, most notably in his two bouts against Amir Sadollah and Nate Diaz.
His improving resume earned him a shot against Carlos Condit at UFC 132 but "Stun Gun" would be caught by a huge flying knee via "The Natural Born Killer" and would be finished for the first time in his career. Kim responded well to his first loss, beating Sean Pierson from pillar to post in his Octagon return.
After getting injured against Demian Maia and losing in the first round, he bounced back in a big way but absolutely crushing Paulo Thiago in one of 2012's most one-sided decisions. Now, he's ready for a big showing against Bahadurzada.
How he gets it done: Kim primarily used his wrestling and judo to defeat his opponents to start out his UFC career and that's exactly how he beats Bahadurzada.
Look for him to immediately close the distance and either try to use his offensive wrestling or his clinchwork to take the Blackzilian down and keep him on the canvas. You can't punch someone in the face with all your might if you're stuck on the ground
If he can't take Bahadurzada down, Kim needs to utilize his length with his kicks from a distance. The last thing he wants to do is stand inside the pocket and trade punches with him. Kim was hurt badly by that flying knee from Condit and Bahadurzada's punches are just as powerful as "The Natural Born Killer's" knees.
Record: 21-4-1 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
How he got here: Siyar, just 28 years old, has been fighting professionally for over 10 years now. He moved out to The Netherlands in 1999 and hasn't looked back in terms of his fighting career and training. "The Killer" won his first six fights, showcasing a powerful striking attack and a budding submission game and he became a staple of the Shooto promotion, fighting everywhere from Holland to Japan to even Brazil.
Since 2005, Bahadurzada has only lost two of his last 16 fights, both at middleweight to Sengoku stalwarts Jorge Santiago and Kazuo Misaki via submission.
The former Golden Glory fighter has bounced back strongly, however, winning seven straight including the United Glory welterweight tournament title, beating UFC veterans John Alessio and Derrick Noble in the process via first round knockout.
He was set to make his UFC debut last January against Erick Silva but had to back out because of injury. He finally stepped into the Octagon against Paulo Thiago at UFC on Fuel TV 2 in Sweden and he couldn't have made a better first impression, blasting the Brazilian with a big shot on the way in and knocking him out cold. Now, he's out to prove that first victory wasn't a fluke by taking on a legitimate grappler in Kim.
How he gets it done: Bahadurzada is crazy aggressive in the stand-up department. He loves to wade forward and throw heavy hooks with both hands. He's not afraid to eat a shot to give them and when he gives them, they hurt. Expect to see "The Killer" try to overwhelm Kim early with his punches and perhaps if he can close the distance, he'll be showcasing his vastly improving muay thai skills.
If the fight enters the clinch, Bahadurzada has some vicious knees which he can land at will to the body and perhaps the face if he can get both hands firmly behind Kim's head. If he does try to hurt Kim in the clinch, he'll have to be cautious of "Stun Gun's" judo game as he's very dangerous with throws, trips or simply dragging opponents to the ground when he gets up close and personal..
While Bahadurzada has been improving his ground game, he's going to want to use all of those skills defensively to keep the fight standing. There's no way he wants to go to the canvas against Kim, not in a million years. The only way the Imperial Athletics fighter will go to the ground against Kim is if he's dropping hammer fists on him to finish the grappler off after nearly knocking him out.