The UFC has been hard-pressed to deliver a card in 2015 without the dreaded, mythological injury-bug sinking it’s teeth in, having lost nearly 50 main or co-main events this year. While I agree this trend is almost as annoying as that one time someone taught Goldberg the word “teep,” this headliner still has the potential to induce head trauma.
The shakeup trickles down the main card with “Stun Gun” looking to recharge against a replacement opponent, a “sexy” superstar returning to Asia and a pair of hard-hitting featherweights will try, for a third time, to do the damn thing.
While there are still plenty of Asian, and even Korean, fighters on the card, the UFC is wisely showcasing some more familiar names to try to draw eyes to the rare, early-morning Fightpass card.
All this, including two (yes, two) fighters named Dong Hyun Kim. Weird, right?
Benson Henderson vs Jorge Masvidal
Benson Henderson (22-5; 10-3) received a late shuffle when his original opponent, Thiago Alves, was injured in training. Alves’ replacement, Jorge Masvidal, lives up to his moniker, as “Gamebred” steps in to headline on the other side of the world.
“Smooth” is coming off of a spectacular welterweight debut, submitting hot prospect Brandon Thatch by rear-naked choke. After a shaky recent run in the lightweight division, ending in back-to-back losses, Bendo was hoping to continue the splash in his new division with a big win over a big name in Alves.
Given the circumstances, Henderson instead gets Jorge Masvidal (29-9; 6-2), another lightweight transplant.
Masvidal is also coming off of his welterweight debut, impressively dispatching Cezar Ferreira by knockout this past July. “Gamebred” looked fierce at lightweight, running up a four-fight win streak before a loss to Al Iaquinta prompted the move to 170.
While the fight with Masvidal is sure to be exciting, it has the illusion of being a lightweight runback. Make no mistake about it, though, Benson is a fairly big welterweight, let alone lightweight, and a fight with Alves would’ve been a closer physical match. That being said, both fighters are extremely well-rounded and will, not can, provide fireworks.
Dong Hyun Kim vs Dominic Waters
If you’re only as good as your last fight, Dong Hyun Kim (20-3-1; 11-3) would be riding high about now. Kim submitted a resurgent Josh Burkman via arm triangle at UFC 187 in May. This was strong redemption for “Stun Gun” after a quick TKO loss to Tyron Woodley snapped a four-fight win streak that included knockouts of John Hathaway and Erick Silva.
Continuing the “South Korean Shuffle” will be Kim’s newly-appointed opponent, Dominic Waters (9-3; 0-1). Waters steps in after Masvidal, Kim’s original opponent, steps into the headliner.>
Waters, a competitor on season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter, came into the show with an impressive record and a three-fight win streak. Coming off the show, “Sho Nuff” dropped a unanimous decision to George Sullivan, though he did take the fight on only a week’s notice.
Waters has shown promise in his young career, but he has proven fairly decision-prone. With a seasoned fighter like Kim who has shown tremendous finishing ability, he may find little success dragging this one into deeper waters…sorry for the pun.
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs Alberto Mina
Yoshihiro Akiyama (14-5; 2-4) notched his first win in over five years last September, defeating Amir Sadollah by decision. That was over a year ago. While Akiyama has always been an exciting fighter, and a megastar in his native Japan, wins and losses do matter. “Sexyama” was on a four-fight losing streak prior to the Sadollah fight and, while those four fights were against a murderer’s row in Jake Shields, Vitor Belfort, Michael Bisping and Chris Leben, a loss is a loss is a loss…is a loss.
Akiyama’s opponent, Alberto Mina (11-0; 1-0), is riding high off a first-round TKO finish of Shinsho Anzai last August at UFN Macau. “The Soldier of God” is undefeated in his MMA career with each and every one of his victories coming by some form of stoppage.
Neither man has fought in more than a year. While both are sure to have some cobwebs to blow off, Mina will bring more of a stable foothold into this one. This is a tough challenge for Akiyama against an unbeaten prospect, and a loss will certainly amount to the executioner’s song for the Japanese fighter, which may very well be the UFC’s design.
Doo Ho Choi vs Sam Sicilia
South Korea’s own Doo Ho Choi (12-1;1-0) will no noubt elicit the lion’s share of adulation on Saturday in his sophomore appearance in the UFC. The reception will be merited, following the “Korean Superboy’s” blistering 18-second knockout of Juan Manuel Puig a year ago. Prior to his memorable UFC debut, Choi was a longtime staple in the DEEP organization, amassing an impressive record and a fight-ending reputation.
Standing across from him on Saturday will be hard-slugging Sam Sicilia (15-5; 5-4). Sicilia is a UFC veteran with nine fights inside the Octagon. He is currently riding a two-fight win streak, having defeated Yaotzin Meza and knocking out Akira Corasanni at featherweight. Sicilia is a finisher in his own right, having only gone to decision three times in his fifteen career victories.
This one should be an exciting scrap. Don’t count on the judges being needed for this main-card opener.
Preliminary Card (UFC Fightpass)
Jake Collier (9-2; 1-1) vs Dongi Yang (12-3; 1-3)
Yui Chul Nam (18-5; 1-1) vs Mike de la Torre (13-5-1; 1-2-1)
Tae Hyun Bang (17-9; 1-2) vs Leo Kuntz (17-2; 0-1)
Seo Hee Ham (15-6; 0-1) vs Cortney Casey (4-2; 0-1)
Freddy Serrano (2-0; 1;0) vs Zhikui Yao (2-2; 1-1)
Guangyou Ning (5-2; 2-0) vs Marco Beltran (6-3; 1-0)
Dong Hyun Kim (13-6; 0-0) vs Dominique Steele (13-6; 0-1)