As the UFC embarks on another journey to Japan, a former title challenger gets the opportunity to return to the Octagon as Yushin Okami makes his return to face light heavyweight contender Ovince Saint Preux in the main event.
At one time in his UFC career, Okami was one of the most feared middleweights on the roster, but now he'll get the chance to pull off an upset in his return as he bumps up to 205 pounds to face OSP on Friday night.
Also on the card, two former strawweight title challengers will clash when Claudia Gadelha faces off with Jessica Andrade in a battle with huge implications on the line at 115 pounds. Japanese legend Takanori Gomi will also make his return to action, and fight fans will see the debut of kickboxing terror Gokhan Saki, who makes his first appearance in the UFC after a storied career traveling around the globe as one of the most fearsome strikers in all of combat sports.
In today's fantasy preview, we'll examine these fights and several others to see who has the edge going into the card and if someone might be primed for an upset at UFC Fight Night: Saint Preux vs. Okami.
These are the fights that are just too close to call, but a few minor differences between favorite and underdog could lead one fighter to victory and the other to defeat.
Claudia Gadelha vs. Jessica Andrade
Claudia Gadelha will look to take another step towards a rematch with strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk when she faces fellow contender Jessica Andrade.
In her last fight, Gadelha looked better than ever as she took down Karolina Kowalkiewicz and made her tap out with a quick submission back in June. That marked the second win in a row for Gadelha, who has now relocated full time to the United States, where she works with her new team, and the changes in her approach and execution in the fight were undeniable. Gadelha is a world-class grappler, but she's also added plenty of striking to her arsenal. Gadelha averages just over three and a half strikes landed per minute, but her best weapon remains her Brazilian jiu-jitsu, where she puts opponents on the mat a whopping 4.6 times per 15 minutes in the Octagon.
Gadelha is a force of nature on the ground, not only with her wrestling, but also her slick and dangerous submission game. Gadelha has also learned how to set up her striking with her grappling and vice versa, which makes her such a tough opponent to game plan against.
Andrade will certainly try to find the answer with her heavy-handed striking approach and a nasty submission style of her own.
Andrade came into the strawweight division with a brawling style that annihilated a couple of opponents based purely on her power and aggression. Andrade wasn't able to make any adjustments when facing a technical striker like Jedrzejczyk, but she's had time to fix those problems ahead of this fight. Plus, Andrade has a very good ground game, and while she may not be as highly rated on the mat as Gadelha, don’t sleep on her ability to pull off a submission if the opportunity is open.
When it comes to the fight pick, it's tough to go against Gadelha, especially with the way she's looked recently. Gadelha is powerful, with good punching power on the feet, and her ground game is unmatched in the division. Andrade will certainly look to move forward and potentially clip her opponent with a knockout shot, which is still very possible, but that aggression could lead to a takedown and that's where the fight slips into Gadelha's favor round after round.
Prediction: Claudia Gadelha by unanimous decision
Takanori Gomi vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Legendary former PRIDE champion Takanori Gomi will try to stop the bleeding from four straight losses when he faces off with Dong Hyun Kim.
John Hathaway in their welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at the Venetian Macau on March 1, 2014 in Macau. (Photo by Mitch Viquez/Zuffa LLC)" align="right" />At his peak, Gomi was a fearsome knockout artist with devastating power in his hands - perhaps the most in lightweight history. Gomi hits like a truck and always seems to go for broke, which means he often puts himself into uncompromising positions for the sake of landing the knockout shot. Gomi has pulled off his fair share of work on the ground as well, but it's common knowledge that he'll almost always look to out strike an opponent before dragging them to the mat.
Kim is an interesting prospect at 155 pounds. Kim seemed to struggle slightly with bigger, more powerful opponents at 170 pounds, getting knocked out in two consecutive fights before picking up a win over Brendan O'Reilly in his first lightweight bout in the Octagon. Kim has to be wary of Gomi's power because whether he's off several losses in a row or not, this Japanese icon is still deadly with his hands. If Kim underestimates Gomi's power at any point in this fight, he might be waking up staring at the lights and wondering what just happened.
That being said, Kim has shown a slick ground game in his career, including five submission victories in 14 career wins. Kim has to know his best chance to win this fight is to put Gomi down on the mat, where his power shots are largely negated. Kim has averaged just under two and a half takedowns per fight in the UFC, so expect him to shoot in on Gomi early and often until he gets him to the mat. Once he's there, Kim can apply a more methodical attack to break down Gomi's defense before looking for the submission win.
Prediction: Dong Hyun Kim by submission, Round 2
Related: Fight Night Japan: Rosa Looks To Break A Pattern
Gokhan Saki vs. Henrique da Silva
When it comes to the most ferocious kickboxers of all time, Gokhan Saki's name is near the top of the list after a long career spent fighting the best strikers in all of combat sports. Saki is known for his jaw-dropping power, even when fighting much bigger and taller opponents throughout his career.
While Saki is well known for his kickboxing prowess, he's still a relative novice in his mixed martial arts career, so he will be taking a big step up in competition moving to the UFC's light heavyweight division.
Welcoming Saki to the Octagon will be Henrique da Silva, who has a 2-3 record thus far in his UFC career while facing a string of very tough opponents. That experience will come in huge for da Silva, as he'll look to make things as uncomfortable as possible for Saki in his debut. Da Silva is best known for his striking, but it's safe to assume he'll look to take this fight to the ground as quickly as possible while facing someone as dangerous as Saki. On the mat, da Silva has wrapped up an armbar submission since joining the UFC roster, so he's got ground skills that could give Saki problems.
On the flipside, Saki's striking is so deadly that the mere threat of being hit by him may make da Silva a little apprehensive about shooting in for takedowns. Saki is devastating with his hands and feet and he's been preparing for this UFC debut for several months, so he's undoubtedly worked on his takedown defense knowing that virtually every opponent will try to put him on the canvas. If Saki has figured out a way to stop da Silva's wrestling, he could make a big impact in his debut with a big knockout.
Prediction: Gokhan Saki by knockout, Round 2
These are the fights that appear to be a little more one-sided, but remember that this is MMA, where anything can - and usually does - happen.
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Yushin Okami
It's never easy to accept a fight on short notice, much less when it requires a move to a bigger division, but Yushin Okami is doing exactly that when he steps into the main event this Friday against Ovince Saint Preux.
Marcos Rogerio De Lima of Brazil in their light heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Bridgestone Arena on April 22, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)" align="left" />Now what will surely help Okami is that he's a veteran with as much experience as anyone competing in the UFC today, so he's seen the best and worst the sport has to offer over his many years in competition. Okami is a very strong grappler with great wrestling, and that will more than likely be his plan, to ground Saint Preux as early and often as possible. Okami may be undersized just slightly at light heavyweight, but his grappling is still top notch and that's one area where Saint Preux has struggled slightly in the past.
That being said, Saint Preux's power and athleticism should be too much for Okami in this fight, especially given how quickly this fight came together with less than a week to go until the event. Saint Preux got past a tough part of his career where he suffered a few losses in a row and returned with a submission victory over Marcos Rogerio de Lima in his last fight. Saint Preux will likely look to put the pressure on Okami early and often to find out just how ready the veteran middleweight competitor was when he accepted this matchup.
OSP will have a strength and reach advantage, so look for him to exploit both of those in the fight as well. If Saint Preux can put Okami on the defensive early, it could provide the perfect opening for the former University of Tennessee football player to secure another highlight reel finish either by knockout or even submission.
Prediction: Ovince Saint Preux by TKO, Round 1
Teruto Ishihara vs. Rolando Dy
Team Alpha Male fighter Teruto Ishihara has experienced a slump in his career recently after dropping his last two fights to Artem Lobov and Gray Maynard. In the latter fight, Ishihara was outwrestled for the better part of 15 minutes, which was utterly frustrating, as he just couldn't get up from the bottom to apply his striking game. This time around, Ishihara will look to overwhelm Rolando Dy while attempting to bounce back from those recent losses.
Dy made his debut earlier this year and lost by TKO due to an eye injury, which stopped his four-fight unbeaten streak. Dy is best known for his strong striking on the feet, although he has two career wins by submission as well. Dy may attempt to show off those grappling skills in this fight following Ishihara's struggles with a superior wrestler in his last trip to the Octagon. Unfortunately, Dy's grappling isn't quite on the same level as Maynard, who is a former Division I college wrestler and a true powerhouse on the ground.
Ishihara is well known for an unorthodox standup style that throws off a lot of his opponents. As long as he doesn't push too hard trying to get the knockout after his recent frustrations over two losses, Ishihara has a great chance to pull off the finish as time ticks away in this fight. Ishihara is more active on the feet and lands with better accuracy and volume while also showcasing much stronger defense in return. If Ishihara can start to put together his combinations in succession, he should be able to put Dy into trouble and that could ultimately lead to victory for him in the end.
Prediction: Teruto Ishihara by unanimous decision
Jussier Formiga vs. Ulka Sasaki
Dustin Ortiz of the United States in their bantamweight UFC bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Nilson Nelson gymnasium on September 24, 2016 in Brasilia, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC)" align="right" />Ulka Sasaki pulled off the biggest win of his UFC career in his last fight when he submitted perennial contender Justin Scoggins with an impressive rear naked choke in June that earned him a Performance of the Night award. This time, Sasaki will attempt to pull off another upset when he takes on a top five opponent in Formiga, who has remained one of the best flyweights on the roster ever since the division was created.
Unfortunately for Sasaki, he may have a tougher time this time around because Formiga is as good as advertised and an absolute beast on the mat.
Formiga is well versed in all facets of the mixed martial arts game, but there's no denying his ground game is world class. Formiga is not only a submission specialist, but he has a strong wrestling background as well. You can also add in incredible takedown defense, where he's blocked over 85 percent of his opponents' attempts to get him to the mat. Now Sasaki will enjoy a height and reach advantage in this fight, so he could attempt to out strike Formiga, but that may give the Brazilian just the opportunity he needs to take this fight to the ground.
Sasaki has a good grappling game of his own, but he may struggle with someone as strong and versatile as Formiga over three rounds. If Formiga can maintain control over where this fight takes place, he should be able to earn the decision victory in this flyweight matchup.
Prediction: Jussier Formiga by unanimous decision
Charles Rosa vs. Mizuto Hirota
Mizuto Hirota will look to thrill his home country crowd this weekend as he faces American Charles Rosa in an interesting featherweight matchup on the main card.
Sean Soriano during the UFC Fight Night event at the TD Garden on January 18, 2015 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)" align="left" />Hirota has a ton of experience coming into this fight, and he has a powerful striking game at his disposal, as evidenced in his win over Cole Miller in 2016. Hirota is a very strong fighter for the featherweight division and he'll look to muscle Rosa around the Octagon while applying a well-rounded arsenal throughout the fight. Hirota will undoubtedly look to finish the fight by strikes, but whether that happens on the feet or on the ground is anybody's guess. Hirota is averaging 3.42 strikes per minute landed on the feet while also taking his opponents to the ground just under two times per fight. In other words, Hirota is tough to predict and that's what makes him a favorite going into the fight.
That's also why Rosa is an interesting upset pick as he looks to travel into enemy territory and pick up a win. Rosa suffered a knockout in his last fight, which is the first time in his career he's ever been finished by strikes, so he has to be wary of Hirota's power. That being said, Rosa is a slick and crafty grappler who averages nearly three takedowns per fight, and he'll likely attempt to put Hirota on the ground while applying his submission arsenal. Rosa is best in scrambles and that's where he can excel in this fight as well, because Hirota will undoubtedly attempt to put the pressure on him in this fight.
It will be Rosa's ability to create counters while capitalizing on Hirota's mistakes to pull off the win in this fight. If Rosa can keep Hirota from simply overpowering him from the start of this fight, he could begin to threaten with submissions on the ground or even land some solid strikes on the feet using his reach advantage. Rosa will also have to showcase great conditioning to outwork Hirota over three rounds, but if he can keep a steady pace, that could result in a victory for him in Japan.
Prediction: Charles Rosa by unanimous decision