Dagestan is going for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) gold!
Indeed, the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion's Flyweight title is on the line this Saturday night (June 14, 2014) when it returns to Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada, for UFC 174, a pay-per-view (PPV) event that is headlined by a 125-pound bout between division champion Demetrious Johnson and rising contender Ali Bagautinov.
The card will also feature a clash of elite Welterweight contenders, Rory MacDonald and Tyron Woodley, as well as the Octagon return of former Heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski.
That's not all.
We've got six under card "Prelims" matches this time around, the first two of which will stream on Fight Pass and the rest on FX Network (not FOX Sports 1).
Let's see what's in store early for UFC 174:
155 lbs.: Kajan Johnson vs. Tae Hyun Bang
Kajan Johnson (19-10-1) represented his native Canada on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations," submitting Australia’s Brendan O’Reilly in the opening round. "Ragin'" was unable to best countryman Chad Laprise in the semifinals, however, winding up on the wrong end of a bone-crushing knockout.
Johnson, who has not competed professionally since 2011, has won eight of his last nine.
Tae Hyun Bang (16-8) -- a veteran of Deep and Sengoku -- left MMA in 2010 to fulfill his country’s mandatory two years of military service, returning in 2013 with a knockout win. He made his Octagon debut this past January, losing a decision to Russian standout Mairbek Taisumov.
Exactly half of his wins have come via knockout.
Johnson has done well recently, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that he’s been out of the professional cage for ages and was on the wrong end of one of the gnarlier knockouts in recent memory. Bang -- though overly tentative -- is a skilled striker with solid pop in his hands and I’m not sure Kajan can drag him down.
Again, though, there’s a good chance that Bang lets this one slip out of his grip and allows Johnson to earn the nod via aggression. Bang’s skill and experience at the highest level should carry him to victory, though, as he puts down Johnson midway through the bout.
Prediction: Bang via second-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Roland Delorme vs. Michinori Tanaka
Roland Delorme (9-2) suffered his first official UFC defeat in Sept. 2013, dropping a close decision to Alex Caceres. He had previously won three of four UFC bouts, a knockout loss to Francisco Rivera overturned because of the latter’s failed drug test.
He was scheduled to face TUF 18 finalist Davey Grant in March before Grant suffered a post-weigh-in knee injury.
The 23-year-old Michinori Tanaka (9-0) established himself as the top prospect in Japanese MMA thanks to impressive runs in both Shooto and PXC, winning and defending the latter’s Bantamweight title. Tanaka owns a win over standout Russell Doane, who was last seen choking out Evolve MMA’s Leandro Issa.
Five of his wins have come via submission.
You know me and Japanese fighters, but I have a good feeling about Tanaka. He’s got excellent grappling and -- if I’m not mistaken -- works with Team Alpha Male at times.
Plus, I like the style match up.
Delorme’s top game is excellent and he has power in his strikes. Against Caceres, though, he struggled to consistently impose his takedowns. Against the very strong Tanaka, that’s a bad sign. I believe Tanaka will win the wrestling exchanges and the majority of the scrambles.
This ought to be a fun fight with plenty of entertaining ground work. Expect Tanaka’s physicality to be the deciding factor as he wins a prolonged grappling battle.
Prediction: Tanaka via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Jason Saggo vs. Josh Shockley
Canada’s Jason Saggo (9-1) has never gone the distance in victory, submitting eight opponents and seven by form of choke. He is presently riding a four-fight winning streak, losing only to UFC member Jesse Ronson.
He will give up two inches of height to the towering Josh Shockley (11-2).
Shockley got his first crack at the big time in 2011, taking on the venerable Toby Imada on short notice. Though he lost the fight, he has gone 5-1 since, beating former Ultimate Fighter competitors Shamar Bailey and Micah Miller along the way.
Eight of his victories have come inside the distance.
You know, if I weren’t the only schlub willing to do this job, I might be worried that not finding recent footage of Saggo makes me unfit to write an accurate prediction. Well, as Lord Vetinari says, there’s no better job security than making yourself necessary.
We’ve got a submission specialist taking on a bigger, stronger, more experienced wrestler. I’ve long since learned not to bank on a submission from the back, so let’s go with the big man.
Shockley by grind.
Prediction: Shockley via unanimous decision
Three more UFC 174 "Prelims" fights to preview and predict tomorrow, headlined by the 170-pound debut of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil" finalist Daniel Sarafian.
See you there!
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 174 fight card on fight night (Sat., June 14, 2014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FX Network-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.