Like the unicorn, Japanese MMA prospects have become nearly mythical figures. In recent years, those who have managed to make the leap have done so with records padded by underwhelming competition and have subsequently failed miserably to find consistent success stateside. Given that, it's reasonable to temper expectations for Kyoji Horiguchi, the UFC's newest hot prospect from the Kid Yamamoto's Krazy Bee gym. After all it wasn't too long ago that Krazy Bee produced UFC washout Issei Tamura.
All that said, Horiguchi does appear to be one of the brightest prospects to come out of the former MMA hotbed in some time. Unlike Tamura, Motonobu Tezuka, or Kazuki Tokudome, Horiguchi has already proven himself against decent name fighters. At only 22 years of age he comes into the UFC not only as the current Shooto 132 lb champion (the Shooto featherweight division), but with respectable wins over Pancrase champ Shintaro Ishiwatari, former Shooto Champ Hiromasa Ogikubo, and former UFC prospect Ian Loveland. The only blemish on his 11-1 record comes as a majority decision loss to the streaking ONE FC bantamweight tournament champion Masakatsu Ueda. At 5' 5" his eventual home may be more suited to flyweight, but no matter the division, he won't be entering the UFC untested.
AsianMMA.com reports that his first Zuffa test will come against Dustin Pague at UFC 166. There's no sugarcoating this fight, it's one that Horiguchi should win. So much so in fact that I almost wonder if it's being contested at Flyweight, because I can't see any other reason to give Pague, the owner of a 1-4 UFC record, and loser of three straight fights, another shot in the octagon. At 5' 9" I can't see Pague making the drop to Flyweight, but Marcos Vinicius did. So who knows? It's really a must win situation for both men. Horiguchi has to win if he wants to be considered any sort of prospect going forward and Pague has to win to keep his job. I expect it to be action packed as both men have a lot to prove.
UFC 166 takes place on October 19th in Houston, Texas and will be headlined by the Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos trilogy fight. For a closer look at Horiguchi here's a video of his crazy TKO win in a 5 round war over Shintaro Ishiwatari.
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