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UFC Japan preview and quick picks for ‘Saint Preux vs Okami’

UFC Fight Night: Saint Preux v Cummins Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

Ovince Saint Preux returns to action against late replacement Yushin Okami at the UFC Fight Night 117 mixed martial arts (MMA) event on FXX (not FOX Sports 1) later tonight (Sept. 22, 2017) inside Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

Blame “Shogun” for that.

In the strawweight co-main event, former division title challengers Claudia Gadelha and Jessica Andrade will battle for the top spot in the 115-pound title chase, while former kickboxing deity Gokhan Saki makes his UFC debut against the venerable Henrique da Silva.

If you want a closer look at the UFC Fight Night 117 preliminary bouts, check out Patrick Stumberg’s analysis and predictions here and here. Odds and best bets for tonight’s FXX extravaganza can be found here.

As for the six-fight main card? I’m glad you asked.

205 lbs.: Ovince “OSP” Saint Preux (20-10) vs. Yushin “Thunder” Okami (34-10)

Ovince Saint Preux crossed over from Strikeforce and quickly established himself as a top contender at 205 pounds, putting together a 6-1 record with five finishes, including his stunning, first-round knockout over Mauricio Rua at UFC Fight Night 56.

Then the competition got stiffer and “OSP” got stiffened by Glover Teixeira, part of a dreadful 2-4 streak that included a knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa. Add to that a decision defeat to Volkan Oezdemir and it’s clear that Saint Preux is not able to hang with the top five of the division.

A place Yushin Okami has not seen for many years.

“Thunder” is taking this fight on short notice because Rua’s knees are held together with popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue. His last fight was in July, so it’s not like he’s been riding the pine for the entire year and jumped off the couch to play the part of “warm body.”

Even at the age of 36, Okami is the same bruiser he always was. Few middleweights can match his strength and his ground-and-pound would make JAX proud. In addition, he’s fought a who’s who of 185-pound greats, including Anderson Silva, so there is nothing Saint Preux can show him that he hasn't already seen.

Except the fact that “OSP” is a natural light heavyweight.

Okami comes into this bout with consecutive wins against the cream of the crap, but beating nobodies always trumps losing to anybodies. Under ideal conditions, I would expect this to be a close, competitive fight. But Saint Preux, despite training for a different style, had a full camp, possesses ridiculous athleticism, and simply has more tools to win.

Final prediction: Saint Preux def. Okami by submission

115 lbs.: Claudia “Claudinha” Gadelha (15-2) vs. Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade (15-6)

This is probably my favorite fight on the card, simply because it features two wild banshees who like to charge out of the gate and throw bombs until someone goes out. Thankfully, this is only a three-round fight, so they can get away with that kind of bloodlust and spare us the ugliness of a 25-minute affair.

But trying to decide which Brazilian will prevail is not so easy.

Claudia Gadelha has just two losses on her professional record and both came against undefeated strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, the greatest female fighter currently competing under the UFC banner.

And they were both by close decision.

“Claudinha” averages 4.5 takedowns per fight and proved that she’s still at the top of the 115-pound heap by submitting former title contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz, her second straight win after rematching Jedrzejczyk.

She may not be a superior technical striker, but she’s a jiu-jitsu black belt and has established herself as one of the hardest punchers in the division.

Jessica Andrade is no slouch herself.

“Bate Estaca” was bounced from the 135-pound division, which is not surprising when you consider she’s 5’1” with a 62” reach. Even with those shortcomings, she performed admirably and captured three straight wins at 115 pounds.

She also went five rounds against Jedrzejczyk, though it was not competitive, she did prove how tough she can be when the fists start flying. That matters for this bout because it’s going to be another firefight.

Unfortunately for Andrade, everything that she is good at, Gadelha is just a little bit better. I think it’s only a matter of time before this fight gets dragged to the floor and Gadelha’s size, strength, and technical ability eventually seal the deal.

Final prediction: Gadelha def. Andrade by submission

155 lbs.: Takanori “The Fireball Kid” Gomi (35-13, 1 NC) vs. Dong Hyun “Maestro” Kim (14-8-3)

It’s been hard to witness the rapid (and violent) decline of former PRIDE lightweight champion Takanori Gomi, and not just because “PRIDE never die” and all that crap. It’s unsettling to watch a combatant who gets finished in four straight fights get trotted back out to the cage for another beating.

Gomi is 39 years old and has not finished a fight in over five years.

“The Fireball Kid” was just that, a fireball on the Japanese circuit. Unfortunately, his last PRIDE fight was over a decade ago and while he’s still a draw in “The Land of the Rising Sun,” his UFC record is a dreadful 4-8.

Has Gomi ever looked comfortable inside the cage?

Dong Hyun Kim has looked equally dreadful under the UFC banner, getting knocked out in his first two appearances before securing a decision win last December. The former welterweight will have a size advantage but their reach is even, an important factor when considering his opponent’s punching power.

The aggressive and oft-wild Kim has a more balanced offense and though he may not have the talent to break into the division top 10, I haven’t seen anything from the increasingly laissez-faire Gomi in recent years to suggest he’s getting better instead of worse.

Puncher’s chance.

Final prediction: Kim def. Gomi by technical knockout

205 lbs.: Henrique “Frankenstein” da Silva (12-3) vs. Gokhan “The Rebel” Saki (0-1)

Gokhan Saki is making his Octagon debut to little fanfare, simply because kickboxing is no longer the “thing” it used to be. The mystique of the K-1 level striker has been exposed by the reality of the UFC level wrestler.

It’s hard to kickbox from your back.

Fortunately for “The Rebel,” his opponent does not have the wrestling credentials to cause any sort of anxiety, though I can’t help but wonder how eager Saki will be to throw leg kicks with the threat of the floor still looming.

He may not need to.

As we saw in his last fight, Henrique da Silva is not going to dazzle you with his hands and relies more on his rock ‘em-sock ‘em approach to cage fighting. It served him well on the Brazilian circuit, but in UFC that left him 2-3 with a knockout loss to Ion Cutelaba.

The path to victory for “Frankenstein” is an ugly one, which will undoubtedly require him to close the distance and spam takedown attempts. Wall-and-stall, mug-and-slug, whatever cutesy name you have for it, it’s called “not getting hit” by a faster and more technical striker.

And pray for Octagon jitters.

If Saki is the calm, calculated savage he advertises himself to be, then this fight is a first-rounder. If Da Silva had done anything of merit I might pick “The Rebel” with less confidence, but let’s be honest, there was nothing random about the matchmaking here.

Final prediction: Saki def. Da Silva by knockout

145 lbs.: Rolando “The Incredible” Dy (8-5-1, 1 NC) vs. Teruto “Yashabo” Ishihara (9-4-2)

Final prediction: Rolando Dy comes into his UFC sophomore effort after two unsatisfying conclusions in consecutive fights. His final appearance on the regional circuit ended by way of accidental headbutt, then his Octagon debut was marred by an exploding eye.

Forget about winning, I’d be happy with a clear-cut finish.

Teruto Ishihara was slowly making a name for himself at 145 pounds, thanks to an entertaining blend of MMA and personality. But his back-to-back knockout wins are no longer the talk of the featherweight town, thanks to a pair of decision losses in follow up fights.

Now “Yashabo” is back to the land of mediocrity.

Fortunately for Ishihara, his missteps against Gray Maynard and Artem Lobov appear to be more about discipline than talent, as winning — and winning big — can turn good fighters into lazy fighters.

Not every bout is going to end by knockout.

Assuming he’s been slapped around at Team Alpha Male, there is no reason to think the Japanese standout won’t right the ship. Dy has promise and presents a well-rounded threat, but his toolbox is not as deep as it is wide.

Expect a decision loss in a less than “Incredible” performance.

Final prediction: Ishihara def. Dy by unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Jussier “Formiga” Da Silva (19-5) vs. Yuta “Ulka” Sasaki (20-4-2)

(Prediction courtesy of Patrick Stumberg): Once the king of the flyweight division, Jussier Formiga suffered losses in two of his first three UFC appearances before putting together a three-fight win streak. He has recently fallen into another 1-2 slump, most recently dropping a controversial decision to Ray Borg in March.

He will give up five inches of height and four inches of reach to Yuta Sasaki.

Following consecutive one-sided losses to Leandro Issa and Taylor Lapilus, “Ulka” made the drop to Flyweight and found new life with two wins in three appearances. His last time out, he submitted Justin Scoggins as a +400 underdog and earned a “Performance of the Night” bonus in the process.

Eleven of his professional victories have come by submission.

Well, if nothing else, at least this is another opportunity for Sasaki to surprise people. Formiga’s got the best back control in the division and among the best in the entire sport. “Ulka” simply won’t find the openings he needs to employ his opportunistic submission game — once Formiga has the hooks in, he’s staying there until the bell rings or you tap.

Sasaki can’t be counted out, but I see a repeat of his loss to Issa as Formiga dominates position before wrapping up a rear-naked choke.

Final Prediction: Formiga by submission

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 117 fight card tonight (CLICK HERE), starting with the FXX "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET, followed by the main card start time of 10 p.m. ET, also on FXX.

For much more on UFC Fight Night 117 click here.

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