UFC 174: Johnson vs. Bagautinov - Preliminary Card 'Just Bleed' Q & A Breakdown

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Lots of fighters making their debut in various divisions litter the undercard for UFC 174: Johnson vs. Bagautinov. What names are worth paying attention to and what names will be forgotten? Read on to find out.

I know this is a preview for the prelims, but we can talk about Chael Sonnen instead?

Why? Brent Brookhouse said everything that needed to be said. If MMA has a great big script in the sky, it's author is undoubtedly George R.R. Martin. We don't get nice things, brother.

Sucks that Dustin Brown and the Kings will end up winning the Cup.

As much as I agree, I can't blame the Rangers. They were the inferior team from the get-go. They had no excuse. San Jose, and Chicago on the other hand...

On a scale of Renzo vs. Ohara to the Battle of Castle Black, how good are these scraps?

There's some good action, but very few names. It's the weakest prelim card in a very long time, at least on paper, but I think it promises some solid action, and several finishes.

Like Daniel Sarafian vs. this dude?

Yea, he gets submitted pretty quick. Even at +305 there's simply no reason to bet on him. Kunimoto is like a lot of guys out of Pancrase: dynamic, but not fluid. A good portion of his wins are by submission, but he doesn't have anything in common with a high-wire act of guys like Kitaoka, Imanari, and Aoki. He's meat and potatoes all the way through: a set of lungs, and a willingness to throw his fists.

Meanwhile, Sarafian is actually a solid fighter. Though a small WW, he'll be bigger than Kunimoto, and won't be stopped in top control where his hands get heavier.

And the women? They've got a pretty even line. Is that because they're gonna ignore any semblance of safety whatsoever?

Yes, and no. Elizabeth Phillips has a pretty wide open style, according the limited footage of her out there. She seems to have a pretty strong right hand and a willingness to exchange in close, specifically inside the clinch. This is a pretty stark contrast to the style of Valerie Letourneau. Valerie, as she showed on TUF, strikes with an almost detrimental patience. She's clearly got technique, and I particularly like the left kick she chambers. But inertia could be a problem against a fighter who loves to come forward, so expect Phillips to either look good in victory, or look awful in defeat.

In other news, Paul Daley may finally work his way back into the UFC.

And if he does, Jason High will quietly weep from afar. I don't condone High's actions, but the transparency is more than a little ridiculous. Baroni and Daley actually threw punches at the officials. High was barely awake (though awake enough to direct his hostility at the ref), and gave the ref a shove. Again, I don't condone it, but I also can't help but feel bad for High. His window on the big stage was closing as is, and now the most personable UFC athlete is gone from the UFC spotlight forever.

Yves Jaboiun at +160 against Mike Easton. Tae Hyun Bang at +150 against Kajan Johnson. Roland Delorme and Michinori Tanaka are both even, and Josh Shockley at +120 against Jason Saggo. Thoughts?

Mike Easton should comfortably take that fight. Jaboiun is a solid scrapper who will wow you at times on the feet with his speed and unorthodoxiness, but the lack of a gas tank and size really dooms him in the division. He's like a young Yves Edwards: dynamic enough to be a fixture in the division, but not strong enough to move beyond the level of exciting gatekeeper.

I'm really digging the line on Bang. What's unfortunate about Bang's career is that just when he was getting brilliant experience against the elite with names like Gomi, and Masvidal, he took a ton of time off, only fighting 4 times since 2008. I hope he finds his groove, because he's a rough and tumble striker from South Korea with a scintillating right hand when he's on. I kind of like the stylistic matchup against Kajan Johnson, who while possessing the better ground game, doesn't have enough power to threaten Bang for three rounds. Then again he's fighting out of Tristar Gym, and smart money is never on them losing a decision in the judges' eyes.

I'm really fascinated by Tanaka's Bantamweight debut. On the one hand, he suffers from the same problem so many Shooto fighters suffer from when making the transition to North America: jet lag and wrestle boxers. On the other hand his style is suited to deal with wrestle boxers. His career trajectory so far is like a lot of former Shooto prospects: very conservative style early, only to find his identity later on.

First thing to note about him is that he has a quick, lightning ball shot into a single. He's got incredible balance as well, especially when defending the takedown. He's able to keep himself upright simply by swiveling his hips into the right place. Unfortunately his striking is pretty primitive, and he's fighting a quietly solid stablemate in Roland Delorme. Unfortunately for Delorme this is not a fight he can simply take to the ground, and quickly position for a submission. It's probably why he's not a favorite even though he's only lost once in the UFC (a misleading stat, granted) and is fighting a Japanese fighter making his NA debut. I can absolutely see Tanaka scoring takedowns all three rounds, but Shooto prospects are just so damn hard to predict.

Saggo, who looks like a mix between Erik Morales and Matt Dillon on his Sherdog profile, is correctly the favorite against Shockley. Probably because Shockley is prone to wardrobe malfunctions, although nothing serious, or "vulgar". Saggo has some pretty tight jabs, which he likes to double up on that are critical to his ability to get the fight to the ground. The Wulfrun MMA product is more of the ground specialist, and has the superior boxing, which is why I don't like Shockley to score the upset, but he has have the superior kicks and his height will be difficult to deal with. If the number were higher, take the chance, but they're not, so don't.

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