This Friday (April 11, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweights Clay Guida and Tatsuya Kawajiri will battle in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 39, airing live on Fight Pass from du Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The bout presents a pivotal opportunity for each Top 15-ranked fighter to gain positioning in the tough UFC 145-pound arena.
A gritty veteran of mixed martial arts (MMA), No. 9-ranked Guida has seen better days in his nearly 11-year fight career. Last seen suffering his first-ever TKO loss at the hands of No. 1-ranked Chad Mendes at UFC 164, "Carpenter" has now dropped three out of his past four bouts. He badly needs a win to stay relevant.
Kawajiri, on the other hand, most recently made his first UFC appearance with a submission win over young prospect Sean Soriano at January's UFC Fight Night 34, his sixth straight victory in a row. A longtime staple in Japanese MMA, the No. 12-ranked "Crusher" is looking to establish himself as a new player in the Octagon.
He'll have to beat a fighter who undoubtedly has his back against the wall in Guida, making this fight a potentially exciting war. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Guida vs. Kawajiri:
Record: 30-14 overall, 10-8 UFC
Key Wins: Anthony Pettis (TUF 13 Finale), Nate Diaz (UFC 94), Josh Thomson (Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Gracie)
Key Losses: Chad Mendes (UFC 164), Benson Henderson (UFC on FOX 1), Gray Maynard (UFC on FX 4), Gilbert Melendez (Strikeforce: Revenge)
Record: 33-7-2 overall, 1-0 UFC
Key Wins: Josh Thomson (Dynamite! 2010), Sean Soriano (UFC Fight Night 34)
Key Losses: Gilbert Melendez (Pride Shockwave 2006, Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley), Eddie Alvarez (DREAM 5), Shinya Aoki (DREAM 15)
Both fighters tend to maintain a high pace in their fights, so each and every edge will be crucial to victory here.
When the fight starts out on the feet, Kawajiri holds the edge in power. He has 12 knockouts to Guida's four, but "Carpenter" is notoriously tough to finish with strikes. The speed advantage should go to Guida here, so if he can move in and out of the pocket and nail Kawajiri with a high volume of significant strikes, he'll earn the favor of the judges.
Guida has 15 submission victories on his record, and Kawajiri has tapped out three times. If Guida can use his hard-nosed wrestling style to drag this fight to the mat and gain an advantageous position, he may be able to secure a fight-ending choke.
However, Kawajiri is no slouch in the wrestling department himself, and he also has 10 submissions of his own. Guida has lost six bouts by submission, so "Crusher" will also be looking to win scrambles and find a way to get top position on the ground. That makes this a chess match of sorts if and when the fight hits the mat.
Both Guida and Kawajiri have to make a statement in Abu Dhabi, although it's for completely different reasons. Guida has been faltering recently, and while his past exploits will probably save his job with a loss, that can't be counted upon on today's UFC. Kawajiri, on the other hand, is simply looking to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with in the Octagon.
Those dynamics make this a fight that should come down to the wire.
Clay Guida undoubtedly deserves his reputation for putting on some of the most exciting fights in UFC, but he hasn't exactly lived up to that billing as of late. After losing to Gilbert Melendez in Strikeforce, Tatsuya Kawajiri has looked nigh unstoppable, albeit against lesser competition.
I expect this bout to be a back-and-forth match with each fighter having his moments. It's tough to predict a finish from either side given the talent, toughness, and experience of each competitor. I give Guida the edge in speed, but it may be tough for him to fight his usual all-out style given his recent track record. "Crusher" has momentum on his side; a slight edge that I think will propel him to victory.
Final Prediction: Kawajiri def. Guida via split decision