UFC Fight Night 52: Hunt vs Nelson- Prelim Predictions
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135lbs- #10 Alex Caceres (10-6-0 1NC) vs Masanori Kanehara (23-11-5)
145lbs-Katsunori Kikuno (22-6-2) vs Sam Sicilia (13-4-0)
In the Bantamweight division, Sam Sicilia makes his 7th UFC appearance when he takes on Katsunori Kikuno who will be making his divisional debut. Sicilia is coming off a decision win over Aaron Phillips that evened his UFC record at 3-3. Kikuno is coming off the first knockout loss of his career at the hands of Tony Ferguson, ending his 6 fight winning streak.
Kikuno has fought his entire career at Lightweight, but will be cutting down to 145 pounds for the first time in his career.
Sicilia is coming off a decision win where his wrestling proved to be the deciding factor. He landed 5 takedowns and controlled the majority of the action from top position. He may be hard-pressed to find similar success against Kikuno who is a Judo Black belt and demoed solid TDD in his promotional debut against former Welterweight Quinn Mulhern.
While we could see some ground action, their combined 19 knockout wins suggest this fight will most likely be decided on the feet.
170lbs- Hyun Gyu Lim (12-4-1) vs Takenori Sato (17-9-7)
In the Welterweight division, Hyun Gyu Lim enters the Octagon for the fourth time when he battles UFC sophomore Takenori Sato. Lim fell to 2-1 in the promotion after a spirited but unsuccessful decision loss against Tarec Saffiedine. Sato took his debut on short notice and was quickly dispatched by Erik Silva in just 52 seconds.
Lim has been on the sidelines since early January and Sato’s debut took place on Feburary 15th so both men could be dealing with a little ring rust.
Physically, Lim will be the much larger fighter compared to Sato. Standing 6’2″, ’Ace’ will be 4″ taller then his opponent and also have a massive 7″ reach advantage. Unfortunately, with Lim being so massive he cuts a lot of weight to make Welterweight. He pulled out of his original debut due to the cut being too hard and has shown signs of conditioning issues as well.
Sato comes from a Judo background and has a solid submission arsenal with 6 wins by tapout. Lim has had trouble with grapplers, with submissions accounting for 2 of his 4 career losses. He has an 81% TDD over his 3 UFC bouts, but was taken down twice by Marcelo Guimaraes and once by Saffiedine. If Sato can take him down with regularity that will both mitigate his Lim’s striking capabilities further diminish his questionable cardio.
On the feet, the advantage shifts significantly in the favour of the Korean. He has scored knockouts in 9 of his 12 wins, including each of his first 2 UFC bouts. He is incredibly aggressive, which can create some defensive lapses which were exploited by Saffiedine. Unfortunately for Sato, while his striking is serviceable he is going to struggle to handle Lim on the feet. Lim packs significant power in his strikes and can deliver it in a wide array of methods. He leads with a stiff jab, throws a hard left hook, and will work an upper cut. He a decent array of kicks and brutal knee strikes which he used to put down by Pascal Krauss and Guimaraes.
Lim continually pushes the pace, walking his opponents down and has an excellent chin which allows him to take a punch to land one. Conversely, Sato has been knocked out in 6 of his 9 losses and his debut stoppage against Silva certainly brings into question his durability.
Lim still has some significant holes in his game, but his size, power, aggression, and striking capabilities make him a tough opponent to deal with. Sato didn’t have a good showing in his debut and Lim should be able to recreate the defensive striking issues that have plagued him throughout his career, so my prediction is Hyun-Gyu Lim to defeat Takenori Sato by knockout.
135lbs- Michinori Tanaka (10-0-0) vs Kyung Ho Kang (12-7-0 1NC)
In the Bantamweight division, Michinori Tanaka makes his second appearance inside the Octagon when he battles slightly more experience Octagon warrior Kyung Ho Kang. Tanaka won his debut over Roland Delorme in a dominant decision and has yet to face defeat in his pro career. Kang finally earned his first UFC win submitting Shunichi Shimizu, he had previously been on the wrong end of two close and controversial bouts.
This bout will pit a pair of champions head to head as Tanaka was the PXC Bantamweight champion when he left the organization and Kang captured the inaugural Road FC 135 pound title.
On the feet both fighters are talented and can more then hold their own. Kang has a decent kicking arsenal and has a pretty solid uppercut, but for the most part his striking is centered on setting up his grappling game. Tanaka operates in a pretty similar fashion. He uses lots of lateral movement, integrating hard low kicks and a heavy right hand, but doesn’t throw a tonne of volume.
The deciding action of this battle will take place on the ground.
Both fighters come from grappling backgrounds- Tanaka is a 2nd degree Judo Black belt and Kang also comes from a Judo background, along with carrying a BJJ Blue belt. The Korean has collected 9 of his 12 wins by submission, while his Japanese counterpart has evenly split his 10 wins between decisions and submissions.
As expected Michinori has a solid clinch game and will use his Judo throws to take the fight horizontal. He was mounted early by Delorme but quickly reversed the position. On top, he uses tight body on body control, works in some GnP, and can do damage with minimal space. He has solid transitions and effectively rolls with his opponent to avoid losing position. If he does give up some form of positional control he quickly counters his way back to the superior position.
Kang uses a variety of takedowns techniques; changing levels to shoot for a double or single leg, suplexs, and judo throws from the clinch. On the ground he maintains heavy top controls and constantly works to advances his position, slicing through his opponent’s guard and moving either to mount or cross side position. He will drop some ground and pound to create openings, but his main focus is on setting up submission opportunities. Kang showed an improved focus on landing strikes and busting up his last opponent, which eventually broke him down and lead to the submission finish.
Physically, Kang is the much larger man, but he has had cardio issues that appeared to cost him in each of his first 2 UFC fights. He slowed down in his fight with Alex Caceres which was full of transitional battles and also tired against Chico Camus who forced him to work hard to maintain top control. Tanaka should be able to recreate some of those issues if he is forced to work off his back, along with scoring his own top position control. Kang is a dismal 1-4 in decisions, while Tanaka is 5-0 when going the distance suggesting that the later is more capable of outworking an opponent he can’t finish, so my prediction is Michinori Tanaka to defeat Kyung Ho Kang by decision.
155lbs- Kazuki Tokudome (12-5-1) vs Johnny Case (18-4-0)
In the Lightweight division Johnny Case takes his first step onto the biggest fight stage on the planet when he battles Kazuki Tokudome. Case is currently riding an 8 fight winning streak, while Tokudome’s 3 fight winning streak turned into a 2 fight slump with back to back decision defeats.
Case was one of many opponents schedules to face Joe Ellenburger in his debut, but was forced to withdraw. Subsequently, he hasn’t see action for the better part of 11 months.
The American comes from an solid amateur wrestling background, but really struggled with the takedown game of his most recent opponent, EJ Brooks. He was routinely taken down and offered very little off his back. He is 5-2 in fights ended by submission, but his difficulty with a less accomplished MMA ground fighters suggest he will struggle against opponents at the next level.
Tokudome is a BJJ Purple belt and Judo Black belt. He has secured just 3 of his wins by submission, focusing his ground attack on position control. In his debut, he effectively nullified the grappling game of BJJ Black belt Cristiano Marcello landing just a pair of takedowns, but following it up with prolong periods of solid top control. If Tokudome can posture up, he will drop some solid ground and pound, but he needs to focus on remaining active to avoid a ref stand up costing him position.
Through his first 3 UFC performances, Kazuki has landed a combined 6 takedowns while giving up only 4 on 18 tries.
The biggest area of concern for Tokudome is his striking defense and subsequent chin issues. He is willing to trade, but has a tendency to back straight up when under attack and raises his chin in the process creating a very vulnerable target. As a result, he has been KOed twice prior to signing with ZUFFA and has endured some tense moments against both Marcello and Yui Chul Nam in his last bout.
Case does have 11 wins by knockout, which would suggest he is more then capable of exploiting this defensive lapse from his opponent. He has done the majority of his damage against lower level competition and against Brooks he showcased a solid kicking game from range but seemed tentative to close the distance or let his hands go for fear of getting taken down.
Tokudome’s defensive striking issues always create an area of concern, but his willingness to implement a grappling first attack based on his strong Judo skills will give him the advantage over Case, so my prediction is Kazuki Tokudome to defeat Johnny Case by decision.
145lbs- Maximo Blanco (10-6-1 1NC) vs Dan Hooker (12-4-0)
To raise the curtain on UFN 52, Featherweights Maximo Blanco and promotional debutant Dan Hooker collide. Blanco snapped a 2 fight losing skid with his win over Andy Ogle, he is 2-3 in the UFC. Hooker made a successful start to his UFC run with a first round stoppage of Ian Entwistle, he has won 6 in a row.
The New Zealand native will have a significant length advantage over Blanco, standing 4″ taller and holding a 4.5″ reach advantage. Maximo did formerly compete at Lightweight so facing larger opponents isn’t that out of the ordinary.
Hooker has finished 10 of his 11 victories, with an even split between submission and knockouts. While his record would suggest otherwise, he is primarily a striking based fighter. He has shown some ability on the mat, but it came against lower level competition. He uses his reach well, keeping his opponent on the outside. He posses a quick left jab and accompanies it with some workable kicking techniques.
In his debut, he fended off an early leg log attempt from his adversary and capitalized on his opponent’s unwillingness to abandon the hold, eventually ending the fight with a series of vicious undefended elbows strikes.
With 7 wins by knockout, Blanco is a dangerous striker. He has averaged 3.07 SLpM while limiting his opposition to just 2.25. He should hold a marked speed advantage over his adversary and will attempt some unorthodox techniques that can be difficult to defend. Case in point, he opened his bout against Ogle by nearly knocking him out by launching himself across the cage at the Brit. Blanco, hits incredibly hard, attacking in overwhelming barrages, but he tends to get a little wild which can create openings and cost him in the cardio department.
As mentioned Hooker does have 5 submission wins and 2 of Maximo’s defeats have come by the same method. That being said, Maximo’s wrestling should give him a significant edge on the mat. He has landed 7 takedowns over his last 4 bouts, and can do some significant damage from top position if he is allowed to posture up. In previous fights, Hooker has been taken down by less accomplished wrestlers that will cost him against Blanco.
With Maxi there is always the threat of a major mental lapse costing him a point or two on the scorecards or even the entire bout via DQ. Unfortunately, we can’t really anticipate that. Blanco will present the more well rounded attack, and his power and wrestling skills will be the driving force of the fight, so my prediction is Maximo Blanco to defeat Dan Hooker by TKO.