Siyar Bahadurzada looks to argue that his KO win over Paulo Thiago was no fluke this weekend in Japan.
The UFC will begin the Fuel card at Saitama Super Arena with a fight between two unique welterweights hoping to avoid the chopping block.
It's nice to see the words 'Saitama Super Arena' attached to a venue for an MMA event. Like the side scrollers of old, from Final Fight to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that required copious amounts of quarters to play next to the mini golf course, the words have meaning beyond simply the presence of an audience.
Both guys are coming off victories over the same unlucky Brazilian. Kim controlled Paulo Thiago for three rounds in a somewhat tepid affair, while Bahadurzada took the much more impressive route to victory, scoring a knockout just 42 seconds into the first round at the Gustafsson vs. Silva card in Sweden.
Both men are wild cards in the WW division. They haven't had much experience against top competition in the UFC between the two of them, but they pose unique challenges to other fighters in the division.
What both men can do: I've seen plenty of Kim's fights, not just in the UFC, but in DEEP, where his reputation evolved from grappler to striker. Despite this, I still don't feel like I have a grasp on Kim's game. He's functionally a 'wrestle-boxer' type; as in, he scores wins with excellent top control, and avoids damage on the feet by being technically proficient but isn't particularly dynamic in either aspect. This makes Kim sound boring on paper, and even in practice for some, but I enjoy watching him scrap.
For one, it's inaccurate to describe his standup as anything but rote. He incorporates a healthy dose of kicks into his arsenal. Here I should highlight his front kicks in particular, since he nearly cut Sean Pierson's body into perpendicular pieces at UFC 141. Given his length, he can stay at range which makes him a handful for anyone not named Carlos Condit. His grappling is top notch too; leaving aside Condit's miraculous sweep, he's not the type of guy to lose top control once he has it, and his judo is well spoken for.
On the other end, there's Siyar, who is currently on a seven fight winning streak. Nicknamed 'the killer' for reasons I actually fear, since he was born and raised in Kabul Afghanistan for 15 years, Bahadurzada's reputation has been built on being a guy who likes to swing for the fences.
He's a well rounded fighter, but his game centers on getting opponents to exchange with him where he's good at landing amidst the flurries. It's the kind of game that looks sloppy and amateurish until you realize effectiveness is a trait onto itself in MMA, and his striking is effective. The best analogy I can think of when I look at Siyar's striking is hockey and how you have some players who score those ugly goals not by brilliant shots from the point, but from standing in front of the goaltender looking to deflect shots into the net.
Just look at the punch that knocked Thiago out. Yea sure, Thiago did him a favor by making it look like Bahadurzada's fist was a xenomorph taking a detour from the chest to burst out of Paulo's face, but victory doesn't discriminate against technique. It landed, Thiago fell, and the ref called the fight. I don't mean to make Siyar sound like he's not talented, because he is, but his striking, like the terrain of his homeland, is rugged, and I mean that in the best way possible.
What both men can't do: Despite a couple of tough submission losses (Jorge Santiago's transition to the heel hook was just a display of jiu jitsu brilliance), Siyar should be able to avoid the submissions. Despite training with the Blackzillians, I wouldn't expect him to come into this fight half-asleep the way his teammates did at UFC 156. However, he's still a guy that can be taken down, especially against someone like Kim who should be one uchi mata away from getting it to the ground.
Plus, Siyar likes to move forward a lot while throwing combinations which also sets him up for the takedown. He'll be at a disadvantage on paper, but that's because Kim is a unique talent. However, the knock on Kim is that he doesn't have a lot of power, which is true. In addition, Bahadurzada is good at timing his opponents' kicks, often catching them, and then using his straight right to counter, which he's good at chambering.
I'd expect a scare or two for Kim fans, but it's just more likely to see him get takedowns, and "wrestle-box" his way to a decision.
Prediction: Dong Hyun Kim via Decision.