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UFC Japan: Saint Preux vs Okami - Winners and Losers

Another event that demonstrates how random this sport can be.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Okami vs Saint Preux Susumu Nagao-USA TODAY Sports

The one truly consistent thing that the UFC has done this year is rearrange and firmly establish the the hierarchy of their events. FS1 is clearly not where you’re going to find the absolute best cards. This event had some fun stylistic matchups and suffered from a weak main event, then was further hamstrung when Mauricio Rua had to pull out.

The result? We end up with a card that didn’t land on FS1 nor FS2. I didn’t check, but what was so important on FS2 that the card couldn’t be there on a Friday night? Backgammon? Was FX’s advertising space already sold for the 9,000th run of one of those godawful Fantastic Four movies? Doesn’t matter. We got some fighters shuffling up and down, but at least a strong performance by a kickboxing dynamo and a whirlwind of violence in the co-main. The only truly nice things I can say is that the main card fights were short, the co-main was a phenomenal treat with a pretty shocking upset and at least the weekend feels a little longer.

Winners

Ovince Saint Preux - Light work. Ovince wins fights in a way that seem strangely easy. The last time he seemed to struggle in a fight he won was his UFC debut against Gian Villante. Since then, it’s either relatively smooth sailing or a loss. Most people seemed to think he’d win, but being this dominant and making it look so simple is a testament to his talent. Sure, Okami may have taken a flawed approach to the fight (and of course, we’ll get to him later). That doesn’t take away from Saint Preux’s ability to maximize his opportunities. Will he be next in line for a title shot? Probably not, since Alexander Gustafsson (1) and Volkan Oezdemir (2) are ahead of him. After them, it’s Glover Teixeira (3), and Jimi Manuwa (4) (both coming off losses to Gustafsson and Oezdemir, respectively) and Shogun Rua, who OSP was scheduled to fight. He should be bumped up to replace either Glover or Jimi with his second straight win, but you never know with how unpredictable some of these rankings can be. If the next challenger to Daniel Cormier’s title slips on a banana peel, this guy’s on the short list for replacements.

Jessica Andrade - I would have never thought a year ago that I’d think Andrade would get her game together to beat Claudia Gadelha, but here we are. She used relentless pressure, big throws and lots of close quarters shots with excellent top control to absolutely brutalize one of the best (if not the best) athletes and well-rounded fighters in her division. With Joanna Jedrzejczyk facing Rose Namajunas (ranked #3) next, the only two women ahead of Andrade are Karolina Kowalkiewicz (ranked at #2 and just lost to Gadelha in June) and Gadelha herself. It stands to reason she’s set to fight for a title against the winner of the upcoming title fight. That fact makes her a winner, but her stock really shot up with the impressive nature of her performance. This is the kind of fight you never forget, and it’s a massive feather in her cap.

Gokhan Saki - Seems like all the training with the Turkish national wrestling team paid off. It also helps when your opponent openly states that he’s willing to stand and trade with a world-class kickboxer. Saki looked like he was on his way to brutalizing da Silva until he appeared to gas out. Then I had the slow and agonizing realization that this fight could go on for three rounds, because Frankenstein didn’t look like he had any plans to lose consciousness. After being pressed against the cage and getting his body beat up a bit, Saki put him down with the right hand of doom. This evens out his record at 1-1 and made for a few moments to add to his highlight reel. I’d personally have loved to see more leg kicks to slow da Silva down, but it is what it is. There was some hay made about the fact that he came into the UFC at 0-1, but you have to remember Gokhan wasn’t training in MMA seriously and allegedly took that fight on a day’s notice. He’s acquitted himself quite well here despite the cardio hiccup. Even with that in mind, any plans for skyrocketing up the division should absolutely be slowed down.

Jussier Formiga - Formiga bounces back from his loss to Ray Borg in a big way, submitting the fighter perceived to be a stronger grappler. Formiga’s had a rough go of it at flyweight, but it’s a tougher division than most fans realize. This was a good win to get him back on track.

Syuri Kondo - Kondo put on the pressure with her movement and strikes, then slowly turned up the heat, as she usually does. This was a good win for a UFC debut, although it worries me to know she’ll be facing fighters that aren’t slow starters moving forward. Still, this was a great addition to the strawweight ranks.

Teruto Ishihara looked like his game was a lot more put together this time, opting for smarter shots and not exploding at inopportune moments. Ishihara’s two-fight losing skid is snapped, and perhaps this more cautious approach could be where he finds his footing at featherweight. Keita Nakamura used forward pressure and some good striking to edge out a decision against Alex Morono. He bounces back from a loss to Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos as he continues to alternate wins and losses in his current UFC run. Pancrase veteran Shinsho Anzai made it an ugly fight, but he got the job done against Luke Jumeau. After losing his UFC debut, he’s now at 2-1 under the UFC banner. Fellow Pancrase vet Daichi Abe had a slow start, but managed to figure out the timing and land some good shots on Hyun Gyu Lim and manages to remain undefeated overall at 6-0 with his UFC debut.

Losers

Yushin Okami - After being released by the UFC, Okami went 5-2 with three finishes. The organization was in a pinch after Shogun couldn’t make it, and signed the career middleweight and welterweight to a light heavyweight fight. Perhaps opting to not get into a situation where he’d have a range disadvantage striking, he shot right away for the takedown and... that kind of sealed it. Unable to work out of half guard is one thing, being unwilling to let go of the headlock was another. It’s a mistake that a veteran of his caliber shouldn’t be making at this point. He helped save the main event, at least. That should get him in the UFC’s good graces and should also give him at least another fight or two, minimum. Either way, it’s a rough way to start a UFC run, especially when you’ve been there before. Perhaps he’ll drop down again in weight.

Claudia Gadelha - This is more a question of how you lose than who you lose to. While Gadelha did well in the first half of the first round, Andrade started figuring her out. After that, Jessica put even more forward pressure, negated Claudia’s striking and shucked off the takedown attempts. The really surprising part was the fact that Gadelha wasn’t able to work her way out of the bottom positions while on the ground. It was suffocation that did her in, and her stock takes a very considerable hit. It doesn’t drop as much as Andrade’s rises, but it’s pretty bad. Any concerns as to whether or not the two losses to Joanna have relegated to gatekeeper status - even if only temporarily - don’t seem so silly anymore. That’s not to say there aren’t silver linings here. When your only three losses are two to the current champion (one of the most dominant ever, at this point) and a surging powerhouse like Andrade, there’s something of a silver lining. She’s still one of the only fighters in that weight class that can be called elite, since her and Joanna Champion are so far ahead of the pack. She’ll be back, and I already feel bad for whoever it is she faces next.

Takanori Gomi - That’s five losses in a row - each and every one a first round finish. He takes the shot, turtles up, and it’s over. At what point does he retire? What exactly is the deal here? Is this truly a long, tortuous fall from grace or is this a more elaborate Bob Sapp-ian long con? I don’t want to unfairly accuse the man of impropriety here, but it doesn’t seem like he’s putting in the kind of effort that he used to. At the same time, at what point does the UFC release him? They don’t put on Japanese events as often, and one has to wonder what kind of marketing or promotional value he gives them at this point. Are they waiting for him to retire on his own? That doesn’t look like it’s happening. In the new reality of the WME-owned UFC, I doubt they’re keeping him around because they’re worried he’d get beat up worse elsewhere. It’s best for all involved that this entire experiment end already.

Henrique da Silva - Buddy... guy... no. Why try to go toe to toe with a guy that’s faced Tyrone Spong, Daniel Ghita, Peter Aerts, Ray Sefo, Semmy Schilt and Rico Verhoeven? What can you bring to the table that he hasn’t seen already, done better? At least he made it a fight, and much credit for him for keeping it together. Sure, he’s not a great wrestler, and wasn’t going to shoot for a takedown from the outset. He tried to trade with Saki, got beat up. Then he tried to clinch without setting things up with strikes and even went with a tried and true MMA staple: a desperation double leg. While he managed to get a good flurry in late, he ended up getting dropped for the final time. That’s four losses in a row, three of them finishes. Sadly, his time in the UFC is almost guaranteed to be over.

Chan Mi Jeon - The reasoning behind putting Jeon in against Syuri Kondo makes sense since they have comparable professional records, and Jeon has a bright future ahead of her. It was still not a good matchup, and Jeon didn’t really start coming up with answers until way too late. She slides to 0-2 after being previously undefeated at 5-0, and my hopes are that she sticks around to showcase more of her talent.

Rolando Dy - What was up with all of the cup shots? Between that and the fact that he didn’t have too many answers for Ishihara, he fell to 0-2 in the UFC. It’s very possible that he may get cut.

Yuta Sasaki - Totally didn’t see things going like this for Ulka, as I figured he’d be the one to get top control and work from there. As good as his win over Justin Scoggins looked, his UFC record now stands at 3-4.

Hyun Gyu Lim - I was pretty excited when Lim first came to the UFC, but he hasn’t evolved to the point might have hoped. He’s 3-4 in the UFC with three straight losses. Two of those were back to back KO/TKOs vs Neil Magny and Mike Perry. He might also get released.

UFC Production - I rarely complain about pacing, because it’s become an accepted part of watching fights without pay-per-view or being a Fight Pass subscriber. Still, this event stands out for being uniquely dreadful in terms of padding and filler. I woke up at 3:30am to watch the main card and it was a slog to get through despite the benefit of fast-forwarding on the DVR.

Whoever plans UFC events - Hey, I get that some international events won’t be on Fight Pass because you have programming commitments with Fox/Fox Sports, but this card really felt like it could have benefited from better treatment. First off, it’s relegated to FXX, which is Fox’s answer to Comedy Central and hasn’t had UFC programming on in forever. Seriously, this would have been so much better on Fight Pass, and would have had better pacing. If you’re enough of a hardcore fan to care about a strawweight eliminator card and OSP vs Okami, you’re probably already subscribed anyway, right? Second, the card started around 8:00am local time for no good reason other than trying to bilk some more North American viewership. Just because they call it The Land of the Rising Sun doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to have fights that early. It’s tacitly implying that you’ll gladly take the local fans’ money but don’t really care about catering to them. That can’t sit well with the Japanese audience, and the venue didn’t seem like it was that full. That early start time might have played a part in that.

Neither

Alex Morono - Morono takes his first UFC loss, and still has a 2-1 (1 NC) UFC record. He lost to a more experienced fighter that used fight IQ, but it’s not the end or anything. He should be fine.

Luke Jumeau - Another fighter that got caught in the trappings of his opponent’s game. Jumeau lands at 1-1 in the UFC in a loss that wasn’t all that bad in terms of the overall picture. He’ll also be OK.