Get some coffee and shake off that hangover, Manics, because this weekend (Sat., March 2, 2014) brings some early-morning mixed martial arts (MMA) violence.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is headed back to Cotai Arena at The Venetian in Macau, China, for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "China," which will feature the Welterweight tournament final between Zhang Lipeng and Wang Sai.
Headlining the international event, however, is a different -- much more recognizable -- 170-pound bout between Dong Hyun "Stun Gun" Kim, who fresh off a stunning knockout of Erick Silva, against England's John Hathaway, who is back in action for the first time since 2012.
The entire TUF: "China" card can be seen on Fight Pass, with the four "Prelims" under card bouts, which we preview and predict below, kicking off at 6:15 a.m. ET.
Let's take a look:
155 lbs.: Kazuki Tokudome vs. Yui Chul Nam
Kazuki Tokudome (12-4-1), a heavy-handed Judo specialist, earned his way to UFC with a 6-1 run in Pancrase, the sole loss to eventual champion Isao Kobayashi. After out-dueling Cristiano Marcello in his home country, Tokudome came up short against Norman Parke despite a late rally against TUF: "The Smashes" winner.
He has ended eight fights inside the distance, five by form of knockout.
The first time around may have been controversial, but Yui Chul Nam (17-4-1) proved his superiority in the rematch, defeating Japanese powerhouse Takasuke Kume to retain his Road FC title. The win marked Nam’s seventh in his last eight, the lone blemish a loss to Mongolian standout Jadamba Narantungalag.
"The Korean Bulldozer" was the first man to defeat Nova Uniao’s Hacran Dias, winning a decision in 2009.
I’m quite fond of Tokudome and he is a solid fighter, but Nam is just all wrong for him. Though Tokudome packs some decent power and Judo, it’s unlikely he has the pop to put a dent in The Bulldozer, whether in an attempt to finish him or to simply slow his charge. Nam is also such a physical powerhouse that the chances of Tokudome dictating position look slim.
Technical Nam ain’t, but he is very strong, very resilient and very hard to slow down. Tokudome folds under the power late in the first round.
Prediction: Nam via first-round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Zak Cummings vs. Alberto Mina
After a quick knockout of former prospect Nik Fekete, Zak Cummings (16-3) sufficiently impressed Chael Sonnen to be his third pick on TUF 17. That would be as far as he went, however, as he lost to Dylan Andrews soon after.
He bounced back in his Octagon debut, submitting Benny Alloway for his ninth career tapout win.
Following a two-year hiatus from the sport, Alberto Mina (10-0) returned to the cage in December, knocking out Finland’s Glenn Sparv in Singapore. The win marked his eighth first-round stoppage, the remaining two fights ending in the third.
He possesses black belts in both Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Mina is slick as hell on the mat, but even against a mediocre veteran like Cummings, I have my doubts. His stand up is quite poor and, while he seems to be a terrific opportunist in scrambles, I’m not terribly impressed by his takedowns and he has an uncomfortable willingness to pull guard.
Though Mina is skilled, his current fight style just doesn’t strike me as tenable at the top level. If the fight hits the ground, he takes it, but Cummings -- who is nowhere near the top level -- should be able to at least edge out a boring kickboxing match.
Prediction: Cummings via split decision
170 lbs.: Albert Cheng vs. Wang Anying
The Canadian-raised Albert Cheng (2-2) competed on TUF: "China" under Tiequan Zhang, Zhang’s second pick in the welterweight division. After falling by knockout to Dong Xin in the first round, Cheng earned his way into the semifinals following an injury to Xin, only to be submitted by teammate Zhang Lipeng.
He has not competed professionally since a Dec. 2012 submission loss.
Hailin Ao’s second welterweight pick, Wang Anying (1-0) advanced directly to the finals after late replacement Fu Ziyi failed to make weight. Teammate Wang Sai stopped him there, tapping him via rear-naked choke in the second round.
The 22-year-old Mongolian ended his sole professional fight via strikes.
I will readily admit to not having seen any of TUF: "China" and can’t find any of Cheng’s professional fights. Wang looked good in his fight, though, showcasing decent power and nice work from the inside, so I’ll go with him.
Albert seems to prefer the ground game, meaning this is probably one of those fights where it comes down to takedown defense. Wang looked adept in that area and Cheng was stopped by Xin on strikes following a failed takedown; therefore, in my hideously ill-informed opinion, history repeats itself in the first round.
Prediction: Anying via first-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Jumabieke Tuerxun vs. Mark Eddiva
Jumabieke Tuerxun (14-0) proved himself China’s top bantamweight in Feb. 2012, defeating wrestling specialist Honggang Yao by split decision to earn the Legend FC bantamweight title. Three subsequent wins under the RUFF banner earned him a call-up to UFC, only for contract issues to keep him out of action since two Novembers ago.
Half of his wins have come by stoppage, four of them submissions.
Mark Eddiva (5-0), 28, was last seen in action in Jan. 2011, bouncing back from early knockdowns to submit debuting Alex Lee. The win was his fifth stoppage and fourth in a row to come in the first round.
Eddiva fights out of Team Lakay alongside ONE FC standouts Honorio Banario and Kevin Belingon.
There are a handful of constants in Asian MMA, but one of the most reliable is this: Team Lakay can’t stop takedowns. Dave Galera’s debut was a perfect example, as were Eduard Folayang’s manhandling by Kamal Shalorus and Geje Estaquiao’s one-sided defeat to Andrew Leone. Though Jumabieke is fighting 10 pounds north of his normal weight, he should have zero trouble bringing the fight south.
Lee’s been out of the game for two years, almost got stopped by a debuting fighter and hasn’t faced someone with a win since his debut. Jumabieke chokes him out early.
Prediction: Jumabieke via first round submission
There are worse ways to spend a Saturday morning.
See you there, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire TUF: "China" Finale fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. ET, right on through the main card bouts -- also on Fight Pass -- which are slated to begin at 8 a.m. ET.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2014: 25-14