The one thing that is genuinely worth looking at on the Fight Pass prelims is Michinori Tanaka, who is one of the best prospects (if not the best prospect) from Japan in many years. This marks his UFC debut and he is worth keeping an eye on. I'll admit though, he hasn't always been exciting in his bouts... just warning you.
Story Thus Far: Delorme was a part of the massive talent infusion known as TUF season 14, though he would be one of the least known members who has managed to stick around. Nonetheless, he has had a fair amount of success with a 3-1, 1 NC thus far in the UFC. But those victories have come against fighters no longer with the organization and that no contest was originally a vicious KO loss. A loss here would be two in a row. He needs to step it up.
Tanaka has been considered the top Japanese prospect by many for a while now and was the bantamweight champion in the PXC organization where he also picked up a victory over current UFC fighter Russell Doane. Making his UFC debut at 23, he has plenty of time to improve and work his way up a division that continues to get deeper with young prospects.
Fighting Style: Delorme is a bit of a puzzle as he holds a black belt in judo, but doesn't seem to know how to properly transition his knowledge of the sport into the Octagon. His takedowns are very clingy, not what you'd expect. He is as scrappy as they come though with a bulldog mentality that even if his technique isn't that great (and it usually isn't), he is going to get you down even if it takes multiple attempts. A big reason why he does that is his striking defense is horrible. Not that he is a bad striker himself... but when your opponents outland you almost 2 to 1 you're asking for trouble.
Tanaka is another judo black belt, but his abilities shine through much better than what Delorme's do, though he'll utilize single legs as well. His submission grappling is outstanding and he has a knack of getting his opponent's back. Being an undersized bantamweight, he isn't very top heavy which has led to some reversals. As for his standup, it is nothing special at this point (no KO/TKO victories yet), but is developing with sound boxing.
What to Expect: Tanaka is very quick, but hasn't exhibited a lot of power. Considering he has shown some slick and aggressive submissions though, look for Delorme to be happier than usual to see the fight standing. Delorme isn't a KO artist by any means, but he has shown more pop in his fists than the youngster. It'll be interesting to see how well Tanaka uses his speed here. Look for him to be heavy with leg kicks.
Delorme has proven himself to be a sound grappler to the tune of two of his UFC victories by submission and 6 takedowns in his other victory. Translation: even though he'll be happy to test Tanaka's standup, he isn't going to abandon the ground game. As soon as Tanaka finds a rhythm in his strikes, Delorme is going to shoot or try to clinch up with his smaller opponent.
This should be a fight filled with scrambles. Tanaka's lack of size allows his opponents to escape, but also contributes to his escapability. Delorme isn't a slouch in this department though and I'd expect it to be about 50-50 here. If nothing else I would think that it will make for a fun grappling affair.
X-Factors: Tanaka has only been fighting professionally for less than 4 years and is still at the point where his growth should be quite rapid. He hasn't fought since October... so how much better is he? And will he get Octagon debut jitters? And though I admit I'm not positive where he is training (he was looking for a new camp last I heard and never saw an announcement), will the flight to North America affect him (if he is in Japan)?
Who Will Win: Delorme was an excellent choice for Tanaka's first opponent as he is beatable, but also capable of winning it himself. So will he pull it off? I'm going to go with no. Tanaka still has holes in his game, but he has great poise and I expect improvement out of him. I expect he'll get Delorme's back in one of the scrambles and end it from there. Tanaka by Submission 2nd Round
Story Thus Far: This is one of those fights where the UFC is throwing these two against the wall to see what sticks. Maybe both, maybe neither.
Shockley trains with former title challenger Eddie Wineland and fought for Bellator as recently as two years ago, including a victory over UFC washout Shamar Bailey. It has been over a year since his last fight (a victory over Micah Miller, Cole's brother) which at 24 is a long time... how much has the kid improved in that time?
Saggo may not have as many fights or as impressive of a list of opponents (Stephen Beaumont is his most impressive victory) as Shockley, but he has yet to win by decision as he has finished every one of his victories. The Canadian is likely to be a favorite of the ladies (all 4 of them that watch) and his lone loss comes to UFC vet Jesse Ronson. Certainly worth a look.
Fighting Style: Did I mention that Shockley also trains with Darren Elkins? You can see a bit of Elkins in his style as he prefers to take the fight to the ground and is a grinder looking to be top heavy and wear his opponents out. He's a lanky 155er at 6'1 and is adept at using his long limbs to slap a submission on his opponents. I've seen very little of his striking, but what I did see was a tentative fighter who doesn't want to be on his feet. But some of that footage is also about 5 years old and he could be worlds better by now.
Starting in Muay Thai (and even competed in some Muay Thai fights in Thailand), Saggo throws a lot of good kicks along with a weak jab. But his strength would be on the ground as 8 submission victories indicate. He is extremely aggressive on the ground and transitions smoothly from one submission to the next. He does telegraph his shots at times, usually when he feels desperate to get the fight to the ground. Otherwise, he uses trips in addition to single and double legs.
What to Expect: This will either be a fun grapplers exchange or a tentative kickboxing affair. Its hard to say who the favorite is if its the former, but the advantage has to go to Saggo if its that latter. If Shockley doesn't want to engage on the ground Saggo would likely pick him apart with kicks all day. His Muay Thai would make the difference in close quarters too. Shockley's boxing looks like it has potential (especially working with Wineland), but Saggo is more well-rounded.
I would expect Shockley to be the one to initiate more takedowns between the two as Saggo is comfortable with defending takedowns against the cage and patiently waiting for an opening to develop so that he can take his opponent's back. Shockley could end up avoiding the need for the fence, but Saggo's good balance should prevent that from happening.
Once it hits the ground, Saggo is again the more all-around fighter. His aggressiveness and willingness to give up position could get him in trouble though and offer Shockley the top position, something that he doesn't give up easily. Look for Saggo to have confidence in his transitions which will also give Shockley the advantage a time or two.
X-Factors: Shockley hasn't fought in over a year and its almost been a year for Saggo as well. Both could be improved significantly since then, particualarly Shockley. Saggo will be performing in his home country of Canada which could play in his favor or up the jitters for his first time in the Octagon. Shockley's Bellator experience should help him adjust to the bigger stage.
Who Will Win: Most pundits feel that Saggo is the more polished fighter and while I agree with that, I also feel Shockley has a higher ceiling than they are giving him credit for. But when talking polish and ceiling on a current fight, you'd be stupid not to go with the more polished fighter. Saggo by Decision
Record for last Card: 8-3
Record for Year: 131-78-1