Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight scrappers Tom Breese and Keita Nakamura will throw down this Saturday afternoon (Feb. 27, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 84 inside The 02 Arena in London, United Kingdom.
Just 24 years old and nine fights into his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) career, Breese has established himself as one of the division's top prospects. In his third fight in the Octagon, Breese will be looking to score his third straight first round finish.
On the other hand, Nakamura is 40 fights and over a decade into his career. This is his second UFC stint, and he's already been more successful than in his first try. However, the Japanese veteran will have to overcome a very tough challenge to continue that success.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory here:
Key Wins: Cathal Pendred (UFC Fight Night 76), Luiz Dutra (UFC Fight Night 67)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Breese is the biggest favorite on the entire card ... and that isn't by accident. The Tristar-trained product strikes rather similarly to his team mate Rory MacDonald -- though in the Southpaw stance -- and has finished each of his past opponents before the final bell.
In his last two fights, Breese has really showed off some fantastic striking. He fights very long, controls the center of the Octagon, and spears his opponents with precise, vicious strikes. His striking in those bouts resulted in a pair of first round knockout wins, including a finish of Pendred, who is durable if nothing else.
That should be the game plan here, too.
Breese is obviously a skilled grappler, but his opponent is an ADCC veteran and excels at capitalizing on his opponent's grappling mistakes. There's simply no reason for Breese to grapple with Nakamura, as maintaining the distance and brutalizing his opponent shouldn't be that difficult for the Englishman.
Breese may not be as experienced, but he's bigger, younger, and hits far harder. This fight was setup to make him look good, and he should do just by showing off his excellent kickboxing.
Record: 31-6-2 (1)
Key Wins: Li Jiangling (UFC Fight Night 75), Adriano Martins (Dream 6)
Key Losses: Frank Camacho (PXC 46), Rob Emerson (UFC 88)
Keys to Victory: Nakamura has been in the game for a very long time, fighting a majority of Japan's top talent over the years. While "K-Taro" does have some serviceable hands, his strength is obviously his grappling, which has allowed him to score 17 submission wins.
There's no doubt that Nakamura is deservedly a large underdog in this bout. In his last bout, he managed to gut out a win over a tough prospect, but he definitely took some abuse en route to that win and struggled with his opponent's physicality.
Regardless of the odds, Nakamura needs to do what he does best and find a way to get this to the ground. Standing with Breese really is not an option for him, so it's time to pull out all the stops and rely on whatever tricks he's picked up in his lengthy career.
Whenever a fight is booked and the style match up clearly favors one man, it's up to the other fighter to surprise his opponent and make something happen. That holds especially true here, as Nakamura has to do something out of the ordinary to win this fight.
Bottom Line: This bout was made as a showcase for Tom Breese.
In what will likely be the most-watched Fight Pass card yet -- it is headlined by Anderson Silva after all -- UFC purposefully placed a top prospect against a well-traveled veteran. That's not by accident, as Breese is being groomed to be a future contender.
A win here simply takes him further down that path.
On the other hand, a loss would be shocking and definitely slow his rise. It wouldn't be devastating or prevent Breese from ever climbing the ranks, but it like could reveal some hole in his game we have yet to see.
Nakamura faced off with a solid prospect in his last bout and overcame the odds to win. It may be unlikely, but for him to do it a second time would be extremely impressive. I don't know that he really has the ability to handle a further step up in competition, but the veteran would have earned it.
In the more likely situation that Nakamura comes up short, he doesn't really lose any ground. Nakamura is not looked at as a potential contender, so he simply needs to win often enough to remain inside the Octagon.
At UFC Fight Night 84, Tom Breese and Keita Nakamura will battle. Which fighter will have his hand raised?