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UFC Fight Night: Hunt vs. Nelson - Idiot's Guide and Preview to the Fight Pass Prelims

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Twelve fighters permeate a preliminary card that should be even better in practice than on paper. Though light on rank, these Fight Pass prelims for UFN 52 should be heavy on action.

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

The Line Up

Bantamweight Alex Caceres vs. Masanori Kanehara
Featherweight Katsunori Kikuno vs. Sam Sicilia
Welterweight Hyun Gyu Lim vs. Takenori Sato
Bantamweight Michinori Tanaka vs. Kyung Ho Kang
Lightweight Kazuki Tokudome vs. Johnny Case
Featherweight Maximo Blanco vs. Dan Hooker

The Odds

Alex Caceres -280 
Masanori Kanehara +220
Katsunori Kikuno -155 
Sam Sicilia +125
Hyun Gyu Lim -550 
Takenori Sato +400
Kyung Ho Kang +145
Michinori Tanaka -175 
Johnny Case +130
Kazuki Tokudome -160 
Daniel Hooker +150
Maximo Blanco -180

Analysis

The introduction for Alex Caceres is always the same: fighter who seemed to get publicity more for his persona than his in cage ability suddenly develops a legitimate reputation. Caceres fighting a product of ZST (I'll write a ZST entry for my Not for the Ages series I swear, whether you give a damn or not) feels fitting. Alex is precisely the kind of fighter who would have looked at home fighting tag team matches with inexplicable rules. He has that kind of improvised style that hearkens back to the days of Shooto (not really: Shooto could just as boring as pre-Zuffa, post-Royce UFC). While he's coming off a loss to Urijah Faber, I think most observers figured such an outcome to be predictable. Outside of that he's on a nice run that includes a win over Sergio Pettis.

23-11-5 Masanori Kanehara is Japan's Darren Elkins. A guy who doesn't look all that impressive on paper, or in practice but generally gets the job done with a blue collar attitude. Elkins has an excellent record, so as lazy as the comparison seems, I find it fitting for a fighter who has faced elite competition and rarely looks completely outmatched. Yes I saw the Sandro fight too, where he planks after taking an uppercut, but with wins over the Korean Zombie (didn't like the decision either, but I've seen worse), Kid, and Omigawa, I'd call him legitimate.

This fight is a pretty good matchup for Caceres insofar as it allows him to be creative. Kanehara is pretty basic on the feet. He's not fast nor is he powerful (not a pillow puncher by any means, however), but he can handle himself in the exchanges. He's at his best in top control, and Caceres has the agility to not only keep it on the feet, but to threaten with his own dynamic attack.

Ahh, 21-6-2 Kikuno. Here's a guy who was once so feared that even Eddie Alvarez didn't even look all that comfortable standing with him. You would have never known it watching him get decimated by Tony Ferguson. I've long suspected there are scientific reasons for why Japanese fighters sometimes look so suspiciously different making thier NA debut, but that's neither here nor there. Ferguson is legit. And Kikuno can't expect to maintain such a reckless style in this sport.

Opposite the Kyokushin expert is 13-4 TUF product out of Sikjitsu, Sam Sicilia. Sicilia has always interested me because he never struck me as menacing enough to stay in the UFC, yet he has some pretty solid wins, beating Godofredo Pepey not too long ago. With a hard right hand and some workman like wrestling, I wouldn't be surprised to see Kikuno once again in trouble from trying some Koji Oishi level defensive crap and get knocked out in his homeland. He simply can't afford to make these mistakes. But I think he's still an elite opponent. He'll never contend, but his ability to stay upright and keep it weird like Austin on the feet will be enough to take a decision.

12-4-1 and with finishes in his last 7 victories, Hyun Gyu Lim is suddenly handed a gimmie with this Sato bout. This matchup makes zero sense if we're being honest. Lim is coming off a tough loss to Tarec Saffiedine. Sato is coming off a blisteringly quick defeat to Erick Silva. Sato is a small grapple centric veteran of Pancrase. Lim is a massive kickboxer already three fights into his UFC career. Sato will be just another victim.

23 year old and 10-0 Michinori Tanaka has always impressed me. Shooto has a rich history of producing solid, if not division defining prospects, but that was years ago. Tanaka hearkens back to those days. I wasn't sure how he'd do against Delorme, but I knew he could get by on his lightning quick shot if he stuck with it. He is simply one of the faster grapplers in the division, and a reminder of athleticism as the great equalizer. Speaking of the revenge fantasy genre, I unironically want to see the new Keanu Reeves flick...John Wick*.

Anyway, his opponent at 12-7 is the mostly nondescript Kyung Ho Kang. 'Nondescript' can sound like a complete dismissal, but it's not. Kang is well rounded, and your standard issue jack of all trades type with was some slick trip takedowns and the kind of boxing that can make this bout interesting since I feel like Tanaka still needs some seasoning on the feet. That line on Kang isn't crazy enough to go with, and though I could see this being competitive, it's Tanaka's bout to lose; especially on the ground, where it will be contested.

12-5-1 Tokudome s one of those fighters you'll never hear about much, but who is quietly alright. Well, actually everyone should know his name if you watched his Rocky like performance against Yui Chul Nam. We can save the discussion about what should qualify for a 10-7 round (murder death kill?) for later, but for now, Tokudome has probably earned himself another UFC shot even he loses his 3rd bout in a row for his previous performance. His opponent, the impossible to google without hitting a Johnny Cash filter, Case is an interesting young striker who has been getting training experience with guys like Jeremy Stephens, Michael Chandler, and Dominick Cruz at Alliance. It'll be interesting to see how he develops. Tough fight to predict. I favor Tokudome's top control, but it's not crazy to think Case could replicate what Nam did to him in that first round. I feel like Case has just enough scramble ability to land something vicious and keep it on the feet long enough to land the final blow. So Case by TKO, round 2.

It's hard to imagine the Blanco we watched terrorizing Sengoku would end up a mediocre 10-6-1. But here we are, still foolishly hoping that Blanco "unlocks his potential". The politically incorrect implication of that phrase is that perhaps he never had much potential to begin with. After all, flashy knockouts do not a great mixed martial artist make. Although usually it's a good start. I'd argue that it's less about Blanco being secretly mediocre and more about Blanco being the kind of fighter who simply needs the right matchups to look good. He's athletic, and a nightmare on the feet when in kill mode with a legitimate wrestling background to compliment his preferred method of violence. As for Hooker, he also has a striking background. His kickboxing is better suited for the square ring though, as he fights primarily inside with bodywork, knees, and hooks. He's fairly well rounded, but he hasn't faced the kind of competition that could really test how well the rest of his game compliments his kickboxing. Expect Blanco to take over with his lunging punches, occasional flying attack, and takedowns.

*If only they dropped the line about the wife. His cute little dog getting murdered should have been justification enough to go on a lengthy psychopathic killing spree.