Preceding the pay-per-view portion of UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson
Twenty-eight year old Japanese bantamweight Takeya Mizugaki introduced himself to American fans in style. He made his WEC and stateside debut against then-champ Miguel Torres at WEC 40. Torres was on his obscene seventeen-fight roll at the time and dominating all comers, and Mizugaki came in as unknown and traded haymakers for all five rounds in an fan-friendly decision loss.
He would see-saw in a win-loss pattern throughout his remaining tour through the 135-pound division, which consisted of Jeff Curran (split-decision win), Scott Jorgensen (decision loss; Fight of the Night), Rani Yahya (decision win), Urijah Faber (rear-naked choke loss), Reuben Duran (split-decision win), Brian Bowles (decision loss) and Cole Escovedo (TKO win). Coming up in Japan, Mizugaki was a regular in Shooto where he started hot with six in a row, but finished cold with two losses (Kenji Osawa, Atsushi Yamamoto) and two draws (#10 bantamweight Masakatsu Ueda, Ryota Masune). He then notched five straight under the Greatest Common Multiple (GCM) banner and won their Cage Force bantamweight tournament in the process.
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Of the three losses on Chris "Kamikaze" Cariaso's résumé, one is perfectly understandable -- a submission loss to surging Brazilian Renan Barao -- and another might be just as promising as any of his wins. Cariaso tackled Michael McDonald, an ultra-talented prospect, and was edged out in an evenly contested split decision. While the outcome was not a controversial hotbed, two of the three writers on Sherdog scored the match for Cariaso who, at the very least, demonstrated his top-shelf potential in defeat.
Since he signed with the WEC in 2010, Cariaso's path on the big stage has been congruent to Mizugaki's in that he's alternated sequential wins and losses. He debuted at WEC 49 with a unanimous decision over Rafael Rebello and tacked on decision wins over Will Campuzano (unanimous) and Vaughan Lee (split) after his unsuccessful turns against Barao and McDonald.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Most frenetically paced and aggressive brawlers are plagued with sloppy tactics that leave gaping defensive holes, but Mizugaki is an exception.
He maintains good balance with his elbows tight to his ribs and morphs into a blender of incessantly whirring leather. While not much of a finesse striker from outside, Mizugaki excels with high-volume blitzing at phone-booth range. He's a terror in close quarters and with dirty boxing in the clinch, where he prefers to grab the single collar tie and hammer a volley of short hooks and uppercuts.
His stability, strength, stiff boxing and raw toughness makes him a beast in the clinch. He rarely throws kicks; the vast majority of his offense boils down to tight, rapid-fire punches in the pocket and he's unafraid to go downstairs.
Mizugaki is a competent wrestler with solid takedown and submission defense, as evinced in his matches with BJJ specialists Rani Yahya and Jeff Curran. His beard is strong as well, as he regularly engages in slug-fests yet has only been finished twice in his six career defeats -- once by TKO (Osawa) and once by submission (Faber).
Chris Cariaso took up Muay Thai at age eleven and has been either training in or running a Thai gym since age sixteen.
Cariaso is a former Golden Gloves, International Sport Karate Association (ISKA) and SanShou champion so, like Mizugaki, he's a striker at heart but his method of winning has been a little decision-heavy (8 of 12).
His standing arsenal is more polished and diverse than Mizugaki's and he's equally dangerous from all distances.
Still, while effective on the fringe, Cariaso aggressively shrinks space and likes to let 'em fly in the pocket or lock horns in the clinch.
These visual aids are from his fight with Vaughan Lee, where Cariaso established another dimension of his game by pursuing takedowns to thwart Lee's forward pressure. He spent a good amount of time on the floor with McDonald and displayed adequate capabilities with position and submission defense.
Overall, Cariaso and Mizugaki have a fairly similar set of skills.
In addition to Mizugaki's advantage within the clout of his past opposition, he'll have a substantial four-inch height (5'7" vs. 5'3") and five-inch reach (69.5" vs. 64.5") advantage. That should pan out as a rather significant edge in a match up that's pretty competitive on paper. I expect an entertaining, action-packed and back-and-forth decision in which Mizugaki is just a little bit bigger, stronger and quicker to the punch.
My Prediction: Takeya Mizugaki by decision.
All gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com