Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight veterans Takeya Mizugaki and George Roop will slug it out this Saturday (Sept. 26, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 75 inside Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
After a solid five-fight win streak established him as a Top 10-ranked fighter, Mizugaki fell on tough times. He's been finished in his last two fights and desperately needs this win.
Roop has never been the most consistent fighter, but he has competed against the best in the world for years now. Since his most recent drop to 135 pounds, Roop has been fairly successful, though he certainly would like to get back into the win column here.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Francisco Rivera (UFC 173), Erik Perez (UFC Fight Night 27), Bryan Caraway (UFC on Fuel TV 8)
Key Losses: Aljamain Sterling (UFC on FOX 15), Dominick Cruz (UFC 178), Urijah Faber (WEC 52)
Keys to Victory: Mizugaki is a fairly well-rounded athlete, but he specializes in working over opponents with his boxing. He's not the most powerful puncher -- he's finished just five of his opponents via knockout -- but Mizugaki has some pop in his hands and a stiff chin to back him up.
In this bout, Mizugaki needs to press his boxing advantage. While Roop is similarly well-rounded with a preference for striking, he's an outside kickboxer, which is quite dangerous considering the lengthy Bantamweight's build.
Luckily, the answer to Roop's kickboxing is already known, as he's struggled with punchers getting inside his reach before. Mizugaki has the combination punching and movement to work that game plan, so he absolutely should look to move in close and blast his opponent with power shots.
Even if Mizugaki cannot secure the finish, a few hard shots early will keep Roop on the defensive. Then, Mizugaki can more easily control the center of the Octagon and choose when to engage, two factors that should keep him ahead on the scorecards.
Key Wins: Brian Bowles (UFC 160), Chan Sung Jung (WEC 51), Reuben Duran (UFC 158)
Key Losses: Francisco Rivera (UFC: Fight for the Troops 3), Rob Font (UFC 175), Cub Swanson (UFC on FOX 2)
Keys to Victory: Roop is one of the tallest and longest men to ever fight at Bantamweight or Featherweight. He's an underrated wrestler with a solid clinch game, but Roop excels when he's able to circle, keep his distance and smash his opponent with hard kicks.
Similar to Mizugaki, this fight is all about distance management for Roop. For the most part, the Arizona native will want to work his outside offense, as he can strike from a far greater distance than his opponent and strike safely.
From this range, Roop should look to chip away at his opponent with low and body kicks. His push kick is also pretty great and should help him keep the distance.
When Mizugaki inevitably tries to close in with punches, Roop needs to either get the hell out of dodge or meet Mizugaki with a clinch. Roop is very skilled in that area and uses his length well, so he should be able to control Mizugaki long enough to land some hard knees before breaking away to range.
If Roop keeps his chin tucked and continually damages his opponent, he should be able to wear Mizugaki down. At the very least, he'll make the Japanese athlete hesitate to keep walking into shots. If Mizugaki resigns himself to fighting mostly at range, then Roop is certainly at a large advantage.
Bottom Line: These two bantamweight veterans may not be in the title picture, but they historically have put on some great fights and very tough outs.
If he's to stay even slightly relevant, Mizugaki needs this victory. Despite his position near the top of the division, losing three in a row could leave him without a job inside the Octagon.
On the other hand, Mizugaki has lost to some of the very best the division has to offer. Should he pull through with a strong performance opposite Roop, he's right back in the swing of things as a fringe contender.
While Roop probably isn't at risk of being cut, losing three of four is also a pretty bad look. Considering the fact that both of his recent losses are via knockout, it's important that Roop proves he can hang with a solid striker and still come out on top. Otherwise, fans will question how much longer he can keep competing inside the Octagon.
If Roop pulls off the win here, it'll be a pretty important victory for him. Mizugaki is still ranked inside the Top 10, so Roop could even propel himself into the rankings, which would be a major accomplishment at this point in his career.
At UFC Fight Night 75, Takeya Mizugaki and George Roop will clash. Which man will have his hand raised?