Two crazy men enter the octagon this September 27, 2015 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
The Match Up
Featherweight Katsunori Kikuno 23-7-2 vs. Diego Brandão 19-10
Featherweight Katsunori Kikuno +190 vs. Diego Brandão -230
3 Things You Should Know
1. Brandão isn't long for this UFC world, but he's still a veritable Suicide Squad of octagon action.
Brandão is coming off a win over faltering prospect, Jimy Hettes. Before that, he had a tough stretch of insanely elite competition, losing to Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.
There's not much to say about Brandão at this point. Every time I profile the guy, I always reference his Tony Montana-like presence, and the world goes on. Brandão is not some pre-packaged thesis of theatre promotion like Chael Sonnen, or Conor McGregor, though. He's genuinely loopy. Unfortunately it means that whatever his talents, they'll always be squandered in favor of his velocity over subtlety method of pugilism.
2. Kikuno is the Miike to Brandão's Bay. Both men are crazy in different ways. Both have won as much as they've lost as a result of their off kilter sensibilities.
Kikuno is one of the finest products out of Deep over the past decade. When he broke through, and got a few fights in Dream, it seemed like a matter of time before he developed more, and polished up his style to become more successful. However, competitive losses to Eddie Alvarez and a then-still-not-quite-obsolete Gesias Cavalcante didn't seem to teach him anything, and his game kind of floundered when it went back to Deep.
His UFC run has been a mixed bag. Beating Sam Sicilia was a solid win, but he's looked putrid in his losses, and I suspect the shadow of octagon senescence is finally catching up to him. Despite reaching Gomi territory, he's still a threat.
3. Great odds on this one for what will be an explosive, and short-lived fight.
What a matchup of complete flakes. I don't mean that to be derogatory even though I doubt there's any other way to interpret it that way. But both men are war vessels of uncertain violence. Brandão is a stereotype of Brazilian bloodlust while Kikuno is a stereotype of Japanese eccentricity. In other words, this is great matchmaking.
Unfortunately, both are also on the decline. Granted, Brandão's prime lasted one night when he bested Dennis Bermudez. But still...
Despite the erratic nature of their careers, the bout itself is pretty predictable. Diego will come out throwing heaters with his head held high, and grapple even if he feels pressured. Kikuno will do his Genki Sudo in I Saw the Devil form, and try to land pinpoint shots from range, hoping to connect with his liver kicks. If I sound down on Kikuno, here's why:
He's lost to a few things that made him more effective earlier in his career. Kikuno displays the problems with these "traditional karate" stances that are so often paraded around like innovation when the efficiency has little to do with the arts in a vacuum. Machida made his style work because he was never attacking from one angle. Same with guys like McGregor.
Kikuno's issue is that he doesn't use movement in any meaningful way. That somewhat comical Tony Ferguson obliteration wasn't an anomaly; it was a feature of Kikuno's deficiency.
Regardless, he's still an effective fighter because his liver kicks are brutal, he's strong as an ox, and hard to prepare for. When I criticize Kikuno, it's because I think he imposes limitations on himself. Brandão is a lot like that as well. Diego would be well served by mucking it up on the ground where Kikuno is not so much vulnerable as he is beatable.
Despite the doom and gloom I don't see Brandão blazing it up on the feet. He'll fight a little more deliberate, which will prolong the eventual exchanges on the feet where Kikuno can draw blood, and eventually, defeat. Katsunori Kikuno by TKO, round 3.