Big men trade hands and four “Road to UFC” tournament champions get crowned this Saturday (Feb. 4, 2023) inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. UFC Vegas 68’s main event sees Derrick Lewis face Serghei Spivac, while the Road to UFC finals highlight the “Prelims” undercard. Also in store are Da Un Jung vs. Devin Clark, the return of Doo Ho Choi, and the debut of 22-year-old knockout artist, Yusaku Kinoshita.
We’ve got three more “Prelims” undercard bouts to examine (check out the first batch here), so saddle up and get scrollin’ ...
155 lbs.: Jeka Saragih vs. Anshul Jubli
Jeka Saragih (13-2) scored one of Road to UFC’s best quarterfinal finishes, smashing Pawan Maan Singh with a spinning back fist. “Death Kick” entered his semifinal clash with Won Bin Ki as a sizable underdog, but flipped the script with a vicious one-punch finish.
The victory marked his eighth by knockout and 12th inside the distance.
After racking up five wins under Matrix Fight Night banner, Anshul Jubli (6-1) got a pass to Road to UFC’s semifinals when Sho Patrick Usami botched his weight cut. There, he edged out Kyung Pyo Kim by split decision to secure his spot in the big show.
He stands four inches taller than Saragih at 6’0.”
Unpolished aggression versus patient technique is always a fun clash of styles, but I think aggression’s got this one in the bag. Jubli just isn’t a particularly dynamic boxer, lacking the speed and power to make his meat-and-potatoes offense shine. He’s also vulnerable to kicks, which Saragih offers in spades, and tends to linger in the pocket, where Saragih’s cruder but heavier hands can find the mark.
Jubli benefitted from Kim’s lack of aggression in the semifinals, which allowed him to cruise to an early lead and survive when his gas tank started to give out. He’ll have no such luxury against Saragih, who’ll be looking to tear his head off from the opening bell. Once Saragih’s low kicks start finding their mark and Jubli becomes a stationary target, it’s a matter of time before Saragih blows him away.
Prediction: Saragih via second round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Jeong Yeong Lee vs. Yi Zha
Nine months after defeating Mu Gyeom Choi for the Road FC Featherweight belt, Jeong Yeong Lee (9-1) needed just 10 seconds to defend it against undefeated challenger Hae Jin Park. He’s been similarly efficient in Road to UFC, stopping his two opponents in a combined 1:18 minutes.
He’ll enjoy three inches of height and reach on Yi Zha (21-3).
Yi made quick work of Keisuke Sasu in his first Road to UFC bout, putting him away with a rear naked choke less than halfway into the first round. His subsequent clash with Koyomi Matsushima proved a tougher out, but he nonetheless claimed a split decision for his 10th win in his last 11 fights.
His professional finishes are split 10/6 between submissions/knockouts.
I honestly wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see another quick finish here. Though Yi could hypothetically grind out Lee, he’s the sort of linear pressure fighter that Lee’s counter right is built to destroy. Doggedness is an admirable trait, but it can’t make up for being an easy target against a puncher of this caliber.
Yi’s best chance lies in grinding out Lee, and it’s certainly not out of the question. The slick armbar Lee hit on Xie Bin doesn’t necessarily mean his ground game can hold up against a determined grinder. That said, it’s a lot more likely that Lee blasts him with a straight down the pipe for an early knockout.
Prediction: Lee via first round knockout
135 lbs.: Rinya Nakamura vs. Toshiomi Kazama
Rinya Nakamura (6-0) followed his highly successful amateur wrestling career by making his mixed martial arts (MMA) debut in 2021 and racking up four quick wins on the Japanese circuit. The momentum continued in Road to UFC, where he submitted Gugun Gusman and knocked out Shohei Nose in under six minutes combined.
He’s knocked out four professional foes and submitted one other.
Toshiomi Kazama’s (10-2) nine-fight win streak came to an end at the hands of Shoji Saito, who put him away with a vicious flying knee in April 2022. Little more than one month later, he defeated Maimaitituoheti Keremuaili in the Road to UFC quarterfinals, then got a walkover in the semifinal round when Min Woo Kim missed weight.
Six of his eight finishes have come in the first round.
It bums me out that these two have to fight in their debuts. Kazama is a super-fun grappler who I’m eager to see more of, but he’s up against a human bulldozer with a ridiculous wrestling pedigree. While he’s good enough off of his back to potentially flip the script if Nakamura elects to initiate the grappling, there’s not a lot he can do to stop Nakamura from just marching through him on the feet with sheer power and aggression.
I’m hopeful that we do see some ground exchanges just to see how Nakamura’s freestyle and Kazama’s more traditional Brazilian jiu-jitsu clash, odds are we’re in for a brief, but entertaining, slugfest. In short, Nakamura knocks his block off in the first few minutes.
Prediction: Nakamura via first round technical knockout
C’mon, it’s not like you’ve fixed your sleep schedule, right? See you Saturday at 10 p.m. ET, Maniacs.
Current Prediction Record for 2023: 10-5
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 68 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 1 a.m. ET.
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