Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back (again) with its latest and greatest FUEL TV fight card, this time from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, featuring a few familiar faces for the fight fans in "The Land of the Rising Sun."
One of them happens to be Wanderlei Silva, who headlines UFC on FUEL TV 8 against American war hero Brian Stann. "The Axe Murderer" became a legend in Japan with his gratuitous displays of violence under the PRIDE FC banner.
Will Wandy return to form, or go out on his shield?
Also returning "home" is Takanori Gomi. The former lightweight champion will welcome Diego Sanchez back to the 155-pound division while Mark Hunt will try to prove to his overseas fans he's still a "Super" Samoan by razing Dutch "Skyscraper," Stefan Struve.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire card on fight night (Sat., March 2, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, as well as the main card, which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on FUEL TV.
Now that we know the where and the when, let's talk about the why and the how.
Nostradumbass predicts: When I first heard that Wanderlei Silva was going to fight Brian Stann in Japan, I thought it was a great idea. That way, they can use his stiff body as a mold for the statue they create at the entrance of the Saitama Super Arena in his honor of his many memorable PRIDE fights.
But that's not to suggest he can't win.
By contesting this fight at 205 pounds, Silva doesn't have to sacrifice any of the power in his punches. In addition, Stann loses some of the speed that helped him reach new heights as a 185-pounder. Whether or not one or both of those factors is enough to tip the scales in the Brazilian's favor remains to be seen.
I will say one thing, I have yet to see a fighter more uncomfortable in a firefight than the "All American."
That could give "The Axe Murderer" the opening he needs to land the kill shot; however, comparing this version of Stann to the Rock-em-Sock-em robot we saw debut at UFC 97 would be a mistake. All four of his wins at middleweight have been finishes and three of them were by fisticuffs.
See Leben, Chris.
The key to victory for Stann will be to not play Silva's game. The arena will be deafening (which in Japan is somewhere just below muffled conversation), but I doubt a man who was shot at by insurgents will be rattled by the presence of a few hostiles. Look for the Greg Jackson-trained fighter to weather a few flurries and sleep Silva with a flush counter-punch late in the opening frame.
Final prediction: Stann def. Silva via knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: Mark Hunt is one of those fighters who somehow manages to wrangle an emotional investment from you, and we all know the heart will easily cloud the mind when it comes to good judgement. Fortunately, you've come to the right place, because Nostrahomie don't play dat.
The Samoan is hardly "Super" on the ground.
Hey, it's a feel-good moment, Hunt has three wins in a row. You know what else he has? Six out of seven defeats by way of submission. The New Zealander has more submission losses than he does wins by way of knockout or technical knockout and those wins haven't come over anyone in the top 10 of his division.
This is Struve's fight to lose.
Sure, he's talking tough, but he was also flapping his gums prior to his fight against Lavar Johnson. You kinda have to, because no one wants to hear, "He sucks on the ground, so I'm getting it there ASAP so I can win." It may be the truth, but we don't want to hear.
We still have to accept it.
"Skyscraper" has 16 submission wins to his name and unless he gets sloppy and allows his opponent to bully him into the fence, the height disparity will be too much to overcome. Struve will tangle him up in the center of the cage, trip him to the floor and make this a first-rounder.
With the way the UFC has been cutting people lately, he'd be foolish not to.
Final prediction: Struve def. Hunt via submission
Nostradumbass predicts: Wow, ZUFFA must be in a big hurry to unload Takanori Gomi because this is a terrible match up for him. Yes, "The Fireball Kid" has 34 wins, but I can't find a single one that builds a case for a potential victory tomorrow night.
Sure, he'll be fired up in front of his hometown fans, but is that what we're using now to pick fights?
Diego Sanchez, much like B.J. Penn, is a fighter who should have never left the lightweight division. I'm not suggesting he's the next top title contender, but he's damn near impossible to finish (see Jake Ellenberger and Martin Kampmann) and an absolute animal when it comes to offense.
Gomi has been tapped in six of eight losses and when I look at this fight, I think back to his troubles against Clay Guida, whose footwork and wrestling baffled the Japanese striker, eventually leading to a submission loss at UFC 125.
I anticipate a similar outcome here as "The Dream," who was still dangerous at welterweight, makes this fight a nightmare. Sanchez may get tagged on the way in, but I doubt he'll even bat an eyelash prior to locking up a first-round submission win.
Final prediction: Sanchez def. Gomi via submission
Nostradumbass predicts: Hector Lombard looked like a Cuban Oompa Loompa standing next to Yushin Okami at the recent FUEL TV press conference and there was a time in the not-too-distant past when I might have picked "Thunder" to stave off the "Lightning" strike.
After all, Lombard is a natural welterweight, but prefers to have a physique like Atlas and fight heavier.
Regrettably, I don't have the same confidence I used to have in the Japanese mugger, who is pretty good at neutralizing most fighters with his size, strength and wrestling. Wins over past opponents like Mark Munoz and Nate Marquardt come to mind.
Too bad Lombard is not "most fighters."
That crap Okami pulled on Alan Belcher ain't gonna fly against an Olympic judoka and seeing him go limp against Tim Boetsch worries me about his ability to withstand the onslaught of his heavy-handed attacker. That's assuming we get the Lombard who pasted Rousimar Palhares and not the zombie who phoned it in against "The Barbarian."
On the expectation of the latter, I have Lombard by fatality.
Final prediction: Lombard def. Okami via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: To give you an idea of how good Mizuto Hirota's ground game is, know that in 19 professional fights, he has been unable to score a single win by way of submission. That's kind of a big deal when you're facing an Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) gold medalist.
You need to have top shelf wrestling or top shelf striking to beat the Brazilian and "Pugnus" has neither.
Hirota does have decent stand up, but hasn't finished anyone in almost four years. That doesn't give Yahya the freedom to stand and bang, as he'll still get pasted, but the disparity in striking compared to the gap in their jiu-jitsu is not comparable and all the former WEC standout needs to do is get this thing to the floor.
Can he do it without getting tagged?
Without any kind of momentum or a recent big-time performance for which to build a case upon, there's nothing to suggest the former Shooto fighter will make his Octagon debut a memorable one. It's possible he makes it to the judges' scorecards but if I had to pick (and I do), I believe Yahya seals the deal in the second stanza.
Final prediction: Yahya def. Hirota via submission
Nostradumbass predicts: It's easy to be seduced by the offense of Siyar Bahadurzada, especially after he clowned Paulo Thiago in his UFC debut. His violent finish over the Brazilian marked his seventh straight win and sixth by way of knockout or technical knockout.
But let's pump the brakes here, folks.
He may be a "Killer" overseas, but knocking around regional talent like Tommy Depret is not a conduit to Octagon success. As impressive as he was against Thiago, he was equally unimpressive against Jorge Santiago and Kazuo Misaki, both of whom submitted him in Sengoku.
Ancient history? We'll see.
Kim gets a lot of heat for being a Korean Jon Fitch, which is an even more unflattering comparison now that the latter is unemployed. I don't think it's a secret that his stand up can't hold up when the heat is on, but there is also a reason he's 16-2.
And his opponent hasn't fought in nearly a year.
Fans hoping for a knockout are going to be disappointed, as "Stun Gun" uses his high-level judo and suffocating ground game to stifle the Afghan assassin and ride out a judges' decision. If it's any consolation, never have I wanted to be more wrong.
Final prediction: Kim def. Bahadurzada via unanimous decision
That's a wrap, folks.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC on FUEL TV 8 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Silva vs. Stann."
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 night's event.