Ready to set your alarm? The main card of this Saturday's UFC on Fuel TV 6 event in Macao will air at 9 a.m. ET. Yes ... 9 a.m. ET; a wretched hour of the day populated only by farmers, paperboys and other do-gooders. It gets worse ...? The preliminary card kicks off at 7:15, which are numbers more befitting of a birthday or credit score than a realistic schedule time. Obviously, I'm a big morning person.
Despite its inconvenient airtime, the show is solid. A fan friendly, striking-centric shootout makes up the headliner, as former middleweight champion Rich Franklin meets electric kickboxer Cung Le. Accenting the featured lineup are bouts pitting Thiago Silva vs. Stanislav Nedkov, Dong Hyun Kim vs. Paulo Thiago and Takanori Gomi vs. Mac Danzig. The following is the undercard billing, which will be covered herein:
UFC Macao Preliminary Card (Facebook, 7:15 a.m. ET)
These 125-pound imports are fresh off unsuccessful Octagon debuts: Urushitani, a Japanese Judoka, former Shooto champion and perennial top-tenner, fell under a hail of Joseph Benavidez meat-hooks in the opening (semifinal) round of the UFC's inaugural Flyweight Tournament and Lineker, a Brazilian banger who'd just won the Jungle Fight strap, tapped to Louis Gaudinot's guillotine choke.
Both are highly experienced and boast a busy fight schedule against legit competition for the overseas market, yet there's a 14-year gap in age, as Lineker is just a wee 22-years-old (the UFC's 3rd youngest fighter) and Urushitani is 36. Both also handle most of their business with a stiff set of boxing hands, the major differences being that Lineker is a wildly aggressive striking specialist who unreels head-hunting combinations whereas Urushitani is more of a methodical tactician who mixes in knees and kicks and prefers close-range combat; a range that affords the option of reverting to his stifling clinch and takedown game.
The highlight reel above features some of Lineker's greatest hits and the gifs that follow show some of Urushitani's striking tendencies.
Despite having good timing and form with his striking, Urushitani is a control-oriented fighter who's won 15 of 19 by decision. He can dart into the clinch and steer his opponent around with underhooks or a body lock, snatch the single collar tie and dirty box or slam knees with the double collar tie and also seek out trips and throws -- all of which force his adversary into a reactive and defensive mode.
Lineker is pure electricity and embodies all the qualities that fan's respect: he's exciting, he fights at a frenetic pace, he's always looking to finish and willing to take risks to do so. In his Octagon debut against Gaudinot, Lineker squeezed off around 40 punches in the opening half-minute of the 1st round. He likes to prod with a few distance shots from the fringe and then shuffle into toe-to-toe range, plant his feet and unwind blistering sequences of alternating rights and lefts, often accumulating as many as 8-12 punches per combination. The loss to Gaudinot snapped Lineker's 13-fight win streak.
From a match-up standpoint, Urushitani should be poised to latch onto Lineker while the Brazilian is amidst a flurry of haymakers. Lineker will have a significant edge on the feet and I expect Urushitani to balance things out by timing his clinch attacks and takedowns while Lineker is unloading leather with his feet stationary. Lineker has the tendency to hurl his consecutive rights and lefts "from his pockets" which could be good or bad: heaving low hooks, uppercuts and shovel punches are wise weapons against an incoming opponent who is likely to change levels, but it'll also leave Lineker more susceptible to eating counter-fire from Urushitani.
Gaudinot found respite from Lineker's blitzing with clinching and takedowns, and eventually finished him with that fall-back strategy. Lineker is quite capable off his back and will attack with a variety of submissions, but Urushitani has excellent submission defense and a strong chin (Benavidez was his first and only career TKO loss). I see this fight as fairly even with a slight edge to Urushitani for his diversity and durability, even though the betting lines reflect the opposite in favoring Lineker (-165) by a hair. Lineker has the fiery and relentless boxing to end the fight or drastically change its shape with one shot, but Urushitani's judicious consistency make him the safer pick.
My Prediction: Yasuhiro Urushitani by decision.
DeBlass is a potent BJJ black belt under Ricardo Almeida who suffered his first career loss in his UFC debut (decision) as a short-notice replacement against Cyrille Diabate. DeBlass won the East Coast ADCC trials and took home the bronze at the 2009 No-gi Worlds -- however, that doesn't do any justice to his virtual phone book of credentials, which spill downward at the beginning of this video.
The appeal with DeBlass is that, in addition to his creative application of Jiu-Jitsu, he's a decent striker and a solid wrestler. Many sport grappling standouts have barely passable skills in other dimensions and are relegated to desperate attempts at enforcing their specialty, but DeBlass can switch back and forth from furious combinations on the feet to well-timed level changes for singles and doubles.
He's also a smart fighter who uses the cage to his advantage: DeBlass will sling big leather to maneuver his opponent into a corner before shooting and, once he gets the takedown, is wise in cramming his opponent's head against the cage, both of which seriously limit the defender's escape routes and movement.
Though it's hard to compare with traditional stateside qualifications, Fukuda had a handful of top-3 finishes in the All-Japan University wrestling circuit from 2001-2004 in both Greco-Roman and Freestyle. He vacated the DEEP middleweight championship belt in order to sign with the UFC and entered the Octagon having won 14 of his last 15, the only flaw being a razor-thin split decision to Joey Villasenor.
As a testament to just how amazing Fukuda's submission defense is, he tangled with former UFCer and volatile submissionist Joe Doerksen in his first MMA fight back in 2004. Doerksen had already accrued 31 fights and 22 wins by submission; he went on to decision Chris Leben and tap out Ed Herman and Patrick Cote in the UFC, and presently flaunts 34 submission wins in 49 turns. Fukuda, despite dropping a decision, hung tough with Doerksen and avoided his sub attempts, which speaks volumes about his grappling prowess.
X factors lie in DeBlass' size -- he's dropping down from light-heavyweight and will be quite a broad-shouldered middleweight -- how that might complement his wrestling and takedowns and, most importantly, how Fukuda deals with DeBlass' slick transitions and scrambles. It's unlikely that DeBlass will be able to take Fukuda down but gaining top position or imposing threatening submissions in scrambles is a legit concern.
Though DeBlass has the better chance of mounting more memorable and significant offense, that will likely come in spurts between Fukuda's steady grinding. Additionally, DeBlass is yet to prove his A-level submission skill in the Octagon.
My Prediction: Riki Fukuda by decision.
Hougland's had a weird journey: he won his MMA debut in 2002 and then was finished four times consecutively. He took two years off and came back with four straight wins, then took four years off. Re-emerging in 2010, Hougland pieced together a 9-fight win streak, the last being a decision over Donny Walker in his UFC debut, but was handily dismantled by Yves Jabouin in his recent turn.
Beginning with his respectable loss against Miguel Torres in his WEC debut, Mizugaki has alternated wins and losses in his last 9 outings. Each of his defeats were delivered by top-caliber competition (Torres, Scott Jorgenson, Urijah Faber, Brian Bowles and Chris Cariaso) and he's steam-rolled mid-level opposition with his harnessed aggression and devastating boxing. Mizugaki is one of the rare few who can turn up the aggression to a pitch without suffering the defensive susceptibilities that usually accompany such offensive-minded fighters.
Mizugaki throws his hands recklessly but still maintains a strong semblance of defense, technique and balance when doing so. His body shots are particularly crippling and his boxing overall is crisp, tight and powerful. Hougland is more of a submission grappler with exceptional willpower and durability, but doesn't have the wrestling to ground Mizugaki nor the firepower to stop him on the feet. Unless Mizugaki gets lured into playing the top game with Hougland on the floor, he should cruise to a fairly one-sided decision with a sprawl-and-brawl strategy.
My Prediction: Takeya Mizugaki by decision.
Originally slated to face Marcelo Guimares, sizzling Korean Top Team debutante will now face Mitchell, a highly resilient submission specialist. Chan Sung Jung (among others) has praising Lim as KTT's best prospect and fans are expecting big things from "Ace," a gangly welterweight at 6'2" with a purported reach length of almost 79".
The clip above is Lim's devastation of former UFCer Lucio Linhares in the M1 promotion. Fully adopting the balls-out aggression that KTT reps Jung and Dongi Yang are known for, Lim is a crushing boxer with one-shot power. Subtle aspects of his game, such as the smooth slip and pivot after his spearing one-two in the gif above, indicate an encouraging combination of polished technique and brutal finishing instincts.
Mitchell jointly set the record for the most attempted submissions against T.J. Waldburger at UFC Fight Night 22 in his debut, but dropped a decision. He returned against Paulo Thiago at UFC 134 and cemented his hard-nosed durability despite being unable to enforce his game and once again incurring another defeat, putting him at 0-2 in the Octagon and now likely fighting for his job.
The big X-factor here is how their wrestling stacks up: Mitchell isn't a stellar wrestler but still capable in that department and Lim's largely unproven in all aspects at the elite level. The betting lines have Lim as a hefty favorite at -265, which is quite surprising for a first-time UFCer. 2 of Lim's 3 losses are submissions, which presents serious concern against Mitchell, who's won 9 of 11 by catch. Mitchell's brick-encrusted chin is another reason he could be an especially challenging match up for him and worth a good look for an underdog bet.
My Prediction: Hyun Gyu Lim by sprawl-and-brawl decision.