Riki Fukuda and Steve Cantwell square off at the UFC 144 weigh-ins on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
In a prelim fight as part of UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson, Japan's Riki Fukuda (17-5; 0-1 UFC) faces Steve Cantwell (7-5; 1-4 UFC). This fight is in the Middleweight division and is the second of four fights on the prelims live on FX. Prelims begin this Saturday, February 25 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT, with the PPV card beginning at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT. Neither Fukuda nor Cantwell are currently ranked in the USA TODAY / MMA Nation Consensus MMA Rankings.
As is the theme with much of this card, this fight fits into the mold of Japanese fighter vs. foreigner. That's a set-up that has long been of interest to Japanese fans, and UFC 144 will look to capitalize on it. One thing that makes this fight a bit different is that Fukuda is not a big name in Japan, as he never reached the level of most of his Japanese counterparts on the rest of the show. It will be interesting to see what kind of response he gets from the crowd.
How do these two stack up?
Fukuda: 31 years old | 6'0" | 73" reach
Cantwell: 25 years old | 6'2" | 75" reach
What have these two done recently?
How did these two get here?
Riki Fukuda is a veteran of the Japanese independent scene, where he competed for organizations such as DEEP, Shooto, and Pancrase. His biggest win came at Dream.8 when he stepped in as a late replacement and defeated Ninja Rua. He signed with the UFC and met Nick Ring at UFC 127. Fukuda controlled the fight, but lost a very controversial decision. Most people, including Dana White, still consider that bout a win for Fukuda. He's been on the shelf since that fight, partly due to injury. Fukuda looked good against Ring and, despite the loss, seemed ready for a promising UFC career - can he get back on track after a year away?
Cantwell is a WEC veteran and was the last ever WEC Light Heavyweight champion, having won the belt from Brian Stann in 2008. When Zuffa closed that division, Cantwell was brought into the UFC. With his 6-1 record and his belt, he was an exciting prospect. He won his UFC debut, but has really struggled ever since. Cantwell has lost his last 4 fights, all via decision. Last time out, he dropped down to Middleweight, and this will be his second fight at 185. I'm tempted to say he's fighting for his job here - surely he can't drop 5 straight and stay in the UFC, right? But I said that last time too. Still, he clearly needs a win, and badly.
Why should you care?
Despite his losing streak, Cantwell is an entertaining fighter as he uses nice striking to engage his opponents. There also remain high hopes for Fukuda's future in the division. I expect this one won't be the best fight of the night, but it will be a solid affair.
For a more in-depth look at Fukuda vs. Cantwell, be sure to read Dallas Winston's always excellent Dissection.
More UFC 144 preview coverage from Bloody Elbow after the jump.