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The UFC is returning to Japan for the first time since 1997. In honor of this (and Lavender and Kid being massive dorks who watch too much Anime) we’ve given the fighters Japan themed nicknames.
"Ultraman" Frankie Edgar (c) vs. Ben Henderson aka "Luffy, King of the Pirates"
Kid Presentable: The earth's forces try their best to survive when under attack, but in dire times must summon Ultraman. Frankie is the reigning and ever resilient champion of the LW division, turning on Ultraman mode twice in close calls against nemesis Gray Maynard. Bendo is the rubber man himself. He challenges Edgar with a complete game, and most notably an insane amount of flexibility and technical savvy to escape any danger. Having followed Bendo for some time now, it's is awesome to see him on the cusp of greatness, and if you watched the countdown show and don't like this dude? Well then you are the one with the problem. Frankie has proven time and again to not be counted out though, but two things in this MMA world are certain, I will always pick Anderson Silva to win, and I will always pick Frankie Edgar to be upset. Bendo by decision.
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Doctor Law: Click on Ben Henderson’s name above and it’ll take you to his Wikipedia page. On the right side of the page it has “Bendo” listed as one of his “Other names.” That is there because of Kid Presentable and myself. That little factoid isn’t really related to anything, but I wanted to show my clear bias here. I’m a big fan of Bendo. He fights with tenacity and is very well rounded. Frankie Edgar, on the other hand, is incredibly tough and is great at scoring points with his standup. I think (actually I just hope) Bendo is the one to take the belt from Edgar. Henderson will take Edgar down and beat him up for 25 minutes. Bendo by decision.
DJ Mark with a "K": Frankie has defended his belt three times, and yet he still doesn't feel like a champion for some reason. All the other champions in the UFC have that thing about them that says "I'm the best in the world" (except for Dominick Cruz who suffers the same), but Frankie just seems to squeak by winning decisions via very impressive footwork (except being sending Maynard to another dimension in his last fight). I think this win will change that. While I love Benderson's style, in and out of the ring, I'm giving Frankie the edge here. Frankie's going to be coming in fast and confident, and he'll get hit, but he'll fight back. If he's smart he'll throw in some takedowns to get Benderson off his trail and tag Benderson when he's in wrestling mode. If Benderson is smart he’ll capitalize on Frankie being a punching bag the first round and finish what Maynard started. I don’t see him doing that. Frankie via decision.
Lavender Gooms: I find Frankie to be an oddity. He’s a man who pretty much fights at his natural weight. The man looks like he cuts no weight. It seems like he eats some yakiniku, then goes to the weigh-ins. He waltzes into the octagon against guys who normally weigh a lot more than him and has been able to pull out the victories. Both fighters have excellent gas tanks, but Edgar is on another level with the pace he sets in his fights. I see this fight being a 25 minute battle with a crazy tempo. Edgar will use his speed and boxing to dart in and out, while Henderson will use his black belt in Taekwondo, along with his range to neutralize some of Edgar’s boxing. Edgar is hard to take down and Grey Maynard couldn’t knock him out, and I don’t think Henderson has that type of power. Edgar by Unanimous Decision.
Quinton "Fist of the Northstar" Jackson vs. Ryan "Godzilla" Bader
Kid Presentable: The prodigal son returns home. If you follow Ariel Helwani or any number of reporters who have spoken to Rampage, you can see how happy he is about fighting in Japan once more. For a guy whose heart for the sport is repeatedly questioned, what better place to rekindle the flame in the land of the fighting spirit. Ryan "Darth, even though I probably secretly hate Star Wars" Bader will come in all his muscular glory to take the glory away, but there's nothing really in his game that Rampage hasn't seen and defeated better of before. Rampage by KO for Japan round 1.
Doctor Law: Quinton Jackson competes in Japan for the first time in six years. Rampage basically forced himself onto the card by calling out the UFC on Twitter when it seemed like he wouldn’t be part of the event. Ryan Bader got the call to fight Rampage after he made quick work of Jason Brilz at UFC 139. I think Bader’s only path to victory in this fight is to lay ‘n’ pray and that is very hard to do to Rampage. Rampage is going to come out on a mission and he’s going to try to put on a show for the Japanese fans. Bader is going to suffer the consequences. Rampage by 2nd round KO (don’t rule out bodyslam).
DJ Mark with a "K": It's easy to think that Quinton's heart just isn't in MMA anymore. He's had an up and down career since losing his belt to Forrest all those years ago, and with his recent lost being what maybe was his last chance at gold, it's easy to think he's only in this till someone makes that Luke Cage movie. However, he seems game for this one. Quinton has had a long love affair with Japan and he has the passion to put on an entertaining fight in his eyes again, which I hadn't seen since the third fight with Wanderlei. Bader's got a tougher fight then he thinks on his hands and he's not ready. Quinton via 2nd round TKO.
Lavender Gooms: This is Jackson-senshu’s first fight back in Japan since Pride. This is where Rampage made name for himself and is in many ways a homecoming for him. The Japanese people want to see Rampage beat someone down mercilessly and will get their wish with Ryan Bader. Bader and Rampage both wrestle and have KO power…..Rampage just does everything BETTER than Bader. No shot Bader wins, Rampage howls to the moon and the Japanese people yell “sugoi!”. Jackson by TKO 1st round.
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Kid Presentable: Mr. Shields looks to rebound from his losing streak against Sexyama.I had been tempted all week to take Akiyama in this one. The thinking was that maybe in his home country he would be able to summon enough energy and spirit bomb Shields. Or go Super Saiyan with his blond hair and final flash his way to a KO. But this style of fight seems right up Shields alley, and if Leben could get the sub, Jake sure as hell should be able to as well. Shields 3rd round submission.
Doctor Law: Can Jake Shields handle all of the sexiness? Yeah…probably. Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama is so beloved in Asia that he managed to be on the cover of the Korean version of Maxim. Let’s put it this way, if the US version of Maxim secured an interview with Barack Obama, he still would lose out on the cover to some girl from MTV in a bikini. Jake Shields, on the other hand, is incredibly boring…both in fighting style and personality. That doesn’t matter…Asian girls love Jake Shields. Seriously, absolutely love him. Shields won’t want to ruin his post-fight sex party by losing to Akiyama. Jake Shields by decision.
DJ Mark with a "K": Both these guys came into the UFC looking to make some noise, and both have failed for the most part so far. After they both got close decisions in their UFC debuts both went on losing streaks. Shields losses though were to champions and top contenders while Akiyama lost to some mid-level fighters. I’m giving the edge to Shields here; I think some x factors like a first time cut to 170 may affect Akiyama’s performance. Shields by decision.
Lavender Gooms: Sexyama will be debuting at welterweight in this fight. How will his body hold up? Will he be cut if he loses again? Can Shields get him down AND keep him down? Will he come out to boring opera music again? All riveting questions which will be answered on Sunday I’m sure. I think Shields won’t be able to keep the fight on the ground and Akiyama uses his “guts” to prevail and gets off the skid. Akiyama by decision.
Cheick “Koshien” Kongo vs. Mark “Tentacle Porn” Hunt
Kid Presentable: Now I'm not sure how Mr. Gooms landed on Tentacle Porn for the Super Samoan... but if you like Japan at all, lets be honest, you are familiar with the topic. Anyways, I am going to take the upset here. I see Kongo wall and stalling his way around for a bit, but at some point he will stand, and at some point he will get hit by a big a Samoan fist and drop as Mark Hunt walks away like a boss. Hunt by KO round 1
Doctor Law: The “Super Samoan” vs. the man you loves giving nut shots. This could be very exciting, but I think Kongo (whose nickname should just be “Dirty”) will make this an ugly fight. Kongo by decision after at least 2 nut shots.
DJ Mark with a "K": Logic would pick Cheick here, but I just love Mark Hunt. As much as I would love to see Hunt and Kongo just stand and let their hands (and feet... Kongo is more of a kicker) go I think Kongo is going to clinch, trip, grind for three rounds. Here's hoping we see the Hunt that fought Silva and Cro Cop. Mark Hunt by KO 1st round.
Lavender Gooms: Hunt has come on strong in his last two fights but faces a marked bump in competition in Kongo. Kongo gets all the dap and props in the world from me for knocking out Barry while he was pretty much on another plane of existence. Hunt has fought numerous times in Japan and gotten his ass handed to him numerous times in Japan. So he’ll feel right at home when Kongo blesses him with a massive fist in his ear. Kongo by Super-Mega-Ultimate-Atomic Punch in 2nd round.
Tim “Nintendo” Boetsch vs. Yushin “The Gyro Ball” Okami
Kid Presentable: Boetsch has experienced a career resurgence at MW where he can apply his Redneck Judo strength with better effect. However, everything Tim does, Okami does a little bit better. This match should certainly give the home crowd a local winner. Okami by decision.
Doctor Law: This fight will almost certainly be boring. Okami has a boring style and Boetsch is somehow less interesting. Okami takes this. THUNDER!!! Okami by decision.
DJ Mark with a "K": For some fighters dropping to a lower weight class breaths new life into their career, this is the case for Tim Boetsch. He’s made a decent run in middleweight since dropping from light heavyweight, however he faces his toughest test in Okami. I think this is a tough fight for both guys since they both have similar styles. I think though that Okami is the more tactical fighter of the two and has more technical stand up. Okami by decision.
Lavender Gooms: These dudes are similar fighters in that they are both good grapplers but Boetsch
isn’t ready for someone on Okami’s level. Boetsch has some power in his hands, but
Okami is the better striker. Okami will grind out this fight using his wrestling and judo. Okami is just the better fighter in this match-up. Throw in he’s fighting in front of his homeland for the first time while in the UFC, he’ll be ready to go. Okami by unanimous decision.
Hatsu “Voltron” Hioki vs. Bart “Harujuku” Palaszewki
Kid Presentable: It looks like Hioki might earn himself a shot at Aldo with a victory here. Bart looked good taking out a broken Tyson Griffin, but Hioki has taken on many a great striker in his day like Sandro and Hominick twice. Bart has been out grappled before, and is likely to be again. Prepare for some cheered top control. Hioki by decision.
Doctor Law: Seriously UFC. Hioki and Bartimus both last fought at UFC 137, an event attended by the It’s MMAzing staff. Hioki won a very lackluster decision over George Roop while Bart obliterated an overweight Tyson Griffin in less than 1 round. I think Bart finds a way to keep the fight standing long enough to knockout Hioki. Either that or Hioki will hold him down for 15 minutes. I’m going with the former. Palaszewski by 2nd round TKO.
DJ Mark with a "K": Hioki is Japan’s best chance at having a Japanese champion in the UFC. That being said I don’t personally think it’s a very good chance. That’s due to more of my personal taste in fighters than to say Hioki doesn’t have the skills to get the gold strapped around his waist. I think Hioki wins this one in his classic, yet kinda boring style, of standing for a minute, clinching, trip takedown to snoozefest to get the decision. Bart looked awesome against a bloated and mentally defeated Tyson Griffin but I think he’ll have a hard time fighting this mini version of Jon Fitch. Hioki via decision.
Lavender Gooms: There are rumors abound that if Hioki wins he’ll be the next to get a shot at Aldo.
He wasn’t very impressive at all in his split decision win against George Roop and now
faces a guy that doesn’t stop coming. Hioki wins this fight but Palaszewki makes it hard
on him. Hioki by split decision.
Joe “Fatal Fury” Lauzon vs. Anthony Pettis aka "Rock Lee/Might Guy, the Green Beast of Konoha"
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Showtime by decision
Doctor Law: Now this should be a good fight. Both of these guys always bring it. Well, except for the time Pettis had a wrestling match with Jeremy Stephens. By “the time,” I mean the last fight Pettis had. I don’t think Pettis has any interest in that type of fight with a guy as dangerous on the ground as Lauzon. All of my fellow colleagues are taking Pettis and while Pettis is a better all-around fighter, I don’t think this is a one sided enough fight for us all to be on one side. If Lauzon beats you, it’s in the first round and it’s by submission. Seriously…the man isn’t dangerous after 5 minutes. Lauzon by 1st round submission.
DJ Mark with a "K": This has Fight of the Night written all over it. Both guys always put on amazing, exciting fights and this one, on paper, seems no different. The thing with Lauzon is that he’s most dangerous in the first 3 minutes of the fight then any other time. If Pettis can make it out of the first couple rushes Lauzon puts on him, I think he wins here. History has shown that Pettis doesn’t roll over and I think in the second or maybe the third Lauzon will run out of juice and get caught. Pettis via TKO 3rd round.
Lavender Gooms: I don’t see any way this isn’t going to be a great fight. Pettis is a dynamic striker
and both Pettis and Lauzon are good at submissions, so each will have to be really careful with what they try to do while on the ground. Pettis can’t take Lauzon lightly. “Simon Phoenix” Melvin Guillard did so and got his ass knocked out. However, Pettis showed in his last fight the ability to fight strategically and intelligently. Lauzon has shown he can be dangerous but I’ll take the guy who does a Konoha Senpu. Pettis by submission 2nd round.