The Netherlands: Come for the pot, stay for the fights!
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hits Ahoy Rotterdam Convention Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, this Sunday afternoon (May 8, 2016) with plenty of violence in store. Knockout artists Alistair Overeem and Andrei Arlovski duke it out in FOX Sports 1's Heavyweight main event, while "Bigfoot" Silva and Stefan Struve look for much-needed wins in the co-featured fight of the night.
UFC Fight Night 87 will also see Albert Tumenov face Gunnar Nelson in a clash of top Welterweight prospects and local favorite Germaine de Randamie returns to action against debuting Anna Elmose.
Seven "Prelims" undercard matches will set the main card stage, three on Fight Pass and four more on FOX Sports 1. Here's what the early risers will get for their troubles this weekend:
125 lbs.: Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Neil Seery
Four straight UFC wins put Kyoji Horiguchi (16-2) in line to face champion Demetrious Johnson, who tapped the Japanese wunderkind at the very last second of the fight. He returned to his winning ways in Sept. 2015 with a decision over the very tough Chico Camus.
He’s knocked out nine of his professional opponents.
"2 Tap," rather appropriately, went 2-2 in his first four UFC bouts, one of the losses a very competitive one against Brad Pickett. The other part of his nickname showed up in his most recent bout, where he submitted Jon delos Reyes in his native Dublin.
Neil Seery (16-11) owns 12 stoppage wins, split evenly between knockouts and submissions.
Seery is -- to use a massive cliche -- scrappy. He’s durable, skilled in all areas, and capable of exploiting any small opening he’s given. I just don’t think that’s enough against Horiguchi, who has a considerable edge in speed and power.
His Karate stylings also seem well-equipped to overwhelm Seery’s gritty boxing.
Horiguchi is still young and constantly improving. Now under the tutelage of American Top Team, I expect great things out of him in the near future. He batters the ever-sturdy Seery for a wide decision win.
Prediction: Horiguchi via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Leon Edwards vs. Dom Waters
Leon Edwards (10-3) dropped a narrow decision in his Octagon debut against Claudio Henrique da Silva, but proved his chops in subsequent victories over Seth Baczynski and Pawel Pawlak. He couldn’t maintain his momentum against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21 winner Kamaru Usman, who steadily overpowered the English banger for a unanimous decision.
He replaces the injured Peter Sobotta on little more than one month’s notice.
As Team Nelson’s first pick, Dom Waters (9-4) lost to Mike Ricci in TUF 16's round of 16. He made his first official UFC appearance in July 2015 and has fought twice as a late replacement, losing to George Sullivan and Dong Hyun Kim. He stands three inches taller than Edwards at 6’1."
Another day, another Waters showdown where he demonstrates that he’s not UFC caliber. Edwards is a quality prospect who had the misfortune of facing an elite wrestler in Usman, but he’s still worth watching. His power striking and takedown defense ought to be more than enough to hand Waters his third-straight loss.
The real question here is whether the durable Waters can withstand Edwards’ heavy hands and kicks. I say no -- Edwards lays him out sometime in the second.
Prediction Edwards by second-round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Yuta Sasaki vs. Willie Gates
Yuta Sasaki (18-3-2) roared out of the gate in his UFC career with a 66-second submission of Roland Delorme, extending his unbeaten streak to 12 straight. His recent efforts haven’t been quite as successful, suffering consecutive stoppage losses to Leandro Issa and Taylor Lapilus.
"Ulka" replaces Paddy Holohan, who was forced to retire because of a blood issue.
The towering Willie Gates (12-6) rebounded from his debut loss to John Moraga with a brutal first-round beating of Darrell Montague. He fought again just a month later, replacing Ian McCall against Dustin Ortiz and taking a frightful thrashing in the process.
He has stopped nine opponents overall, five of them via knockout.
"Perhaps this is just me very well-documented bias toward Japanese mixed martial arts (MMA) talking, but I’m leaning toward Sasaki here. Gates relies extensively on being ludicrously tall for the Flyweight division. Sasaki’s even taller at 5’10" and lethal on the mat, a bad sign considering Gates’ struggles with wrestling.
Issa is a world-class grappler, while Lapilus proved significantly better than expected in his subsequent fight with Erik Perez. Sasaki overwhelms Gates in the clinch and eventually chokes him out.
Prediction: Sasaki def. Gates via first-round submission
Four more UFC Fight Night 87 "Prelims" fights tomorrow, headlined by a clash between powerhouse Lightweight wrestlers. See you there!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 87 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 12 p.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 2 p.m. ET.