Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is kicking off its 2014 fight campaign with a 20-man mixed martial arts (MMA) event featuring fighters you've never heard of, in a place you've never been, on a network you don't subscribe to.
Should be a blast!
To be fair, UFC Fight Night 34, which takes place this Saturday (Jan. 4, 2014) at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, does have a couple of recognizable names, like Tarec Saffiedine, Hyun Gyu Lim and Tatsuya Kawajiri, but this is a tough sell for even the most loyal UFC fan.
Excerpts from the promotion's Facebook page, which sports a photo of Saffiedine vs. Lim:
"I can beat those guys, hold my beer."
"Redneck vs. Ching Chong."
"Which one is Ellenberger?"
At the time of this writing, the UFC website was missing profile pictures for 14 of the 20 fighters competing this weekend overseas, so it certainly isn't helping its own cause. In addition, UFC President Dana White has argued that you can't develop new stars without giving them a chance to get out there and fight.
I thought that's why we had Prelims?
Anyway, we have a job to do, Maniacs, so let's suck it up and give these guys a chance to impress us. The main event could turn out to be a helluva scrap and I'm rooting for Kawajiri to do a lot better than he did when he tried to make an impact in Strikeforce.
Let's get to it:
170 lbs.: Tarec "The Sponge" Saffiedine (14-3) vs. Hyun Gyu "The Ace" Lim (12-3-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: On paper, it's hard not to find Tarec Saffiedine at a marked disadvantage against Hyun Gyu Lim. All things being equal (they aren't), Lim is an enormous welterweight, standing nearly 6'3" where he will enjoy an additional six inches in reach.
But all that glitters is not gold.
Being a 170-pound ogre means a miserable weight cut. It wasn't that long ago when he was ruled medically unfit to compete in Macao and even when the cut is done properly, it's still considerably taxing. That means anything past the second round weighs in favor of "The Sponge," and I believe the Belgian is too intelligent to be drawn into a firefight right out of the gate.
Stick and move.
That said, the layoff is a concern for Team Saffiedine, but I still believe he will be able to go all five rounds without pause due largely in part to his cerebral attack, which will work well with his background in kickboxing. He doesn't have the power to stop Lim, but submission attempts may be attempted in the second half of the fight when "The Ace" is too winded to remain upright.
We're going the distance here, folks.
This is a very winnable fight for the South Korean, but he's only got a round-and-a-half to seal the deal. With Saffiedine's lateral movement and ability to stay out of range, I think the cat-and-mouse game will tire Lim out and send him to the judges' scorecards, where he won't like what he hears.
Final prediction: Saffiedine def. Lim via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Tatsuya "Crusher" Kawajiri (32-7-2) vs. Sean Soriano (8-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: I really want to be excited by the fact that Tatsuya Kawajiri is finally in UFC, but it's hard because I was already burned once before. I remember sitting cageside at Strikeforce: "Diaz vs. Daley" with my Goobers and soda pop, only to watch him get annihilated by Gilbert Melendez.
Since then, he's had something of a rebirth at 145 pounds.
I'm not breaking out the party hats just yet, because "Crusher" is quickly approaching his 36th birthday. While he's not over the hill (yet), it's kind of a "now or never" type of scenario if he plans on making a run. I'm not sure beating Sean Soriano is a means to that end, but it's certainly a start.
But it's also a lose-lose fight.
Soriano is undefeated after eight fights, primarily because he's been recycling cans on the regional circuit by way of the Blackzilians camp in South Florida. He's young, strong and probably expecting Kawajiri to take him down and grind him into dust.
Not gonna happen.
The longtime Japanese superstar won't see anything he hasn't already dealt with in a career that spans nearly 15 years, but if we've learned anything in 2013, it's that MMA can have a cruel way of ushering in the new breed at the expense of the old.
Soriano has a rocky first round, but comes back to upset the 145-pound apple cart.
Final prediction: Soriano def. Kawajiri via technical knockout
170 lbs.: Kiichi "Strasser" Kunimoto (15-5) vs. Luiz "Besouro" Dutra (11-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: When in doubt, I usually pick the menacing Brazilian. In this case, it's not so easy, because Dutra has been AWOL since 2009, racking up a whopping one fight -- TUF Brazil notwithstanding -- over the past four years.
And those damn injuries.
When he's healthy, Dutra is the better fighter or at least has the better resume. Despite his inactivity, "Besouro" has experience against -- and wins -- over current UFC fighters. Kiichi Kunimoto has been more active over the last couple of years, but against who?
The Japanese fight scene just ain't what it used to be.
With neither fighter boasting knockout power, it's hard to say definitively who will have the upper hand on fight night. I'm leaning toward Dutra simply because he's faced a higher level of opposition and has rolled with more experienced fighters at Renovacao Fight Team.
Though I'm not sure I wouldn't consider this a confident pick (welcome to Fight Pass).
Final prediction: Dutra def. Kunimoto via technical knockout
145 lbs.: Kyung Ho "Mr. Perfect" Kang (11-7) vs. Shunichi Shimizu (28-8-10)
Nostradumbass predicts: I find it a little unusual that a fighter with seven losses in 18 fights would refer to himself as "Mr. Perfect," especially after failing to get a win in two fights under the UFC banner, but other nicknames coming out of the Busan Team M.A.D. squad are "Hungry" Hae Jun Yang and Wong Sik "Parky" Park, so I guess it makes sense over there in Yeongnam.
Not that I'm picking him.
Kang was a decent prospect on the international circuit but wildly inconsistent. What he does have is a fantastic finishing rate, putting away 10 of 11 wins by way of knockout (2) or submission (8). Still, it's hard not to see this as his last chance to stay employed.
It's an uphill battle against Shunichi Shimizu.
Don't be fooled by the 10 draws. That's one of those dopey rules in ZST that saw almost every fight go to a draw because there were no finishes. Outside of that, he's done fairly well in the second half of his career, particularly under the Pancrase banner, but he's been fighting nobodies.
Well, nobodies by UFC standards.
It's not like he's light years ahead of Kang in terms of talent, but he's done a better job of staying consistent and has three times the experience. I know the threat of the takedown weighs in Kang's favor, which is why I expect him to get a little too aggressive and silver platter an extremity.
Shimizu doesn't have 19 submission wins by accident.
Final prediction: Simizu def. Kang via submission
That's a wrap.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 34 card on Saturday morning (Jan. 4, 2013) right here, starting with the Prelims at 6:30 a.m. ET, right on through the digitally-streamed main card action on the Fight Pass network, which is slated to begin at 9 a.m. ET.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC Fight Night 34 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Saffiedine vs. Lim."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow's event.