Mark Hunt vs. Roy Nelson
Well, here we are again. Fantasy Fights nemesis Roy Nelson is back, and he’s in the main event of UFC Fight Night Japan, taking on Mark Hunt in the main event. To tell you the truth, I’m already mad. I’m mad because I know exactly what’s going to happen:
- I’m going to break down this fight, see that Hunt is the far better kickboxer and has a good chin, and claim that Nelson isn’t going to win by knockout this time.
- Roy Nelson is going to win by knockout.
Nelson is a terrible technical striker with zero defense. He’s an ineffective offensive wrestler. His ground game is decent but he never gets to showcase it because he can’t land takedowns. His conditioning is poor and sometimes a disaster. If you packaged Nelson’s skill set in a featherweight fighter, that fighter would be the worst fighter in the UFC.
Fortunately for Nelson, he’s a heavyweight, and heavyweight fights usually end up not going the distance. Nelson is only a viable heavyweight fighter because he has exceptional knockout power and a tremendous ability to absorb punishment. In a division defined by fights being finished, Roy Nelson is a finisher who doesn’t get finished – an enormous advantage that goes a long way towards making up for Nelson’s technical deficiencies.
Of course, some of Nelson’s knockout wins have come against opponents who are known for being knocked out relatively easily: Brendan Schaub, Stefan Struve, Dave Herman, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (sad that I’m putting Nogueira in this basket now). Mark Hunt is known for NOT being knocked out easily. Hunt’s reputation is one of having an iron chin, a reputation earned from absorbing strikes like Mirko Cro Cop’s head kick without being knocked down, let alone knocked out.
Stipe Miocic was able to batter Nelson and win a lopsided decision based on striking volume. Miocic is also known for having a good chin – so why can’t Hunt win the same way?
There are a number of factors that leave me very scared that Nelson will, in fact, knock Hunt out. Those factors are:
- Hunt is not hard to hit. He’s had a high level of success in kickboxing but strike avoidance has never been his strong suit.
- Hunt is now 40.5 years old. As he ages, his resistance to being knocked out is going to decline rapidly. Already Hunt has been knocked out by Melvin Manhoef and Junior Dos Santos.
- Hunt was knocked down by Bigfoot Silva in his last fight… making that twice he’s been knocked down in his last two fights.
- And now, per Kevin Iole, we find out that Hunt weighs 284 pounds as of today and began his training camp at 340 pounds. Having to cut an extreme amount of weight only increases a fighter’s risk of being knocked out. Not a good sign from a fighter whose motivation has been questioned in the past.
Nelson isn’t exactly a spring chicken either at 38 years old, but he hasn’t shown the same signs of a declining chin as Hunt. Nelson is definitely more likely to win by knockout, even with Hunt’s massive advantage in strikes landed.
So am I actually going to pick Nelson to win a fight for once? While there are some people I greatly respect who are doing just that… I can’t bring myself to do it just yet. I think there’s a pretty good chance Hunt wins by knockout here himself. As good as Nelson’s chin has been in his career, he has been knocked out before (by Andrei Arlovski) and he was knocked down by Dos Santos. Not only does Hunt hit hard, Hunt is going to land many more strikes than Nelson in this fight. That means more chances to get the knockout, even if Hunt’s probability of knocking Nelson out with each strike is a lot lower than Nelson’s chance.
And if the fight somehow goes the distance, it should be with Hunt as the winner almost 100 times out of 100. It’s easy to think that won’t happen, but I thought the same thing of Hunt’s fight against Bigfoot, and we saw how that turned out.
So I’m picking against Roy Nelson again. I fully expect to now see Nelson knock Hunt out in the first round, climb on top of the cage wall, and rub his belly in victory as I seethe in fury and frustration. Hopefully you enjoy it more than I do.
Pick: Mark Hunt by TKO
Takanori Gomi vs. Myles Jury
I’m going to warn you right now – I’m the conductor of the Myles Jury hype train. What I have to say here might not be the most unbiased package of thoughts.
With that caveat out of the way, what a terrible fight this is for the former PRIDE champion Takanori Gomi. Here he gets an opponent in Jury who is extremely difficult to hit and a very good wrestler with good top control and a good ground game. It’s like the UFC set out to find the single opponent who was the worst possible style matchup for Gomi.
In Gomi’s early career, he was known for having dynamite in his fists and one of the better overall boxing games in the lightweight division. In recent years, Gomi’s boxing has fallen apart. Gomi has adjusted by taking some heat off his strikes and becoming more of a volume striker. The problem is that Gomi’s defense remains below-average at best, meaning that he’s been going to close decisions against opponents like Mac Danzig and Isaac Vallie-Flagg.
Now Gomi faces Jury, an opponent who simply is not going to allow Gomi to step into the pocket and exchange. Jury is going to do one of two things: stay outside of Gomi’s punching range or shoot a very quick double-leg takedown. Jury has landed 70% of his takedown attempts in the UFC so far and there’s no reason to think Gomi is going to shut him down. It seems inevitable that Jury will eventually take Gomi down, land some hard strikes on the ground, and finish Gomi with a submission hold. Submission defense has been a problem for Gomi as well – he lost three of his first four UFC fights by submission.
The only thing that worries me is that Jury has had a couple of head-scratching performances. One was against Al Iaquinta on TUF and the other was against Mike Ricci. Sometimes Jury is a little too hesitant to engage… so I do wonder if the betting public is a little too quick to put Jury in parlays, as he is now up to -600. Then again, I have zero interest in betting on Gomi as the +450 underdog. This is a fight Jury really should win the vast majority of the time.
Pick: Myles Jury by submission
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Amir Sadollah
Akiyama… now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time.
The same goes for Sadollah. Both fighters have been on the shelf for two years now, recovering from a variety of injuries. They’re both back, and they’re fighting each other on the main card of this show. It must be a welcome change for Akiyama, who previously was set to face absurd opponents like Vitor Belfort and Michael Bisping.
If you told me going in that Akiyama was going to grapple Sadollah, I would happily pick him and place a bet on him at -165. Akiyama is the far more talented fighter and the much better overall grappler. The problem is that Akiyama’s tendency in the UFC has been to stand and strike, even though that’s easily the worst part of his game. The result: decision losses to Bisping and Shields, and a very quick KO loss to Belfort.
If Akiyama chooses to stand and strike with Sadollah, he’s asking for another decision loss. Sadollah’s striking isn’t on par with any of Akiyama’s recent opponents, but he lands strikes at high volume and Akiyama doesn’t. Akiyama would probably make it a close and competitive fight as Sadollah also eats a lot of strikes, but the fight would very likely end with Sadollah being the more effective striker overall.
I have to pick Akiyama to win this because he really should be smart enough to look for the clinch, take Sadollah down, and either grind out a decision or finish Sadollah by submission. However, I fear Akiyama’s lack of fight IQ enough to avoid any sort of degenerate gambling.
Pick: Yoshihiro Akiyama by decision
Rin Nakai vs. Miesha Tate
It’s obvious that fans aren’t taking Nakai seriously as a fighter. There are two reasons for this:
- Nakai’s 16-0-1 record has been boosted by a series of fights against vastly inferior opponents.
- Nakai has become infamous for appearing in videos that qualify as softcore porn.
And now Nakai is making her debut in the UFC against Miesha Tate? Easy loss!
Not so fast. Nakai does bring some actual skills with her into the UFC. For one, Nakai is a very physically strong fighter who is good at forcing her way into the clinch and slamming her opponents to the ground. Nakai is very good at maintaining top position and looking for submission opportunities. She is quick at taking her opponent’s back and has good transitions. She is very quick to go for armbars in particular.
The problem is this: if you’re looking for ways to beat Tate, takedowns and submissions are probably the most difficult. Even Ronda Rousey needed the third round to submit Tate in their rematch. Rousey has world-class Judo and amazing submission abilities. Nakai… doesn’t.
The best way to beat Tate is with striking, and Nakai doesn’t really have a polished striking game. She throws a lot of leg kicks and jabs, but doesn’t defend herself well and doesn’t throw strikes with significant power. Tate’s striking is a mess and she’s very easy to hit, but Nakai doesn’t have the skill set to take advantage of this.
I can’t shake the feeling that the UFC put this fight together because they know something we don’t. In other words, that Nakai will prove to be a tougher opponent than expected. Even so, I have yet to see Nakai forced to defend a single takedown, and her overall game is completely unproven at a high level. Nakai is the creative and adventurous pick… but Tate is the disciplined pick.
Pick: Miesha Tate by decision
Kiichi Kunimoto vs. Richard Walsh
Kunimoto is 2-0 in the UFC and coming off a surprising first-round submission win over Daniel Sarafian. Submissions are Kunimoto’s strong suit and he has a respectable overall grappling game. Kunimoto needs that grappling skill because his striking consists of jabs, leg kicks, and that’s about it.
Walsh is a grinder with a punishing striking game, and he’ll have the advantage as long as this fight is standing. The problem is that Walsh’s submission defense is a borderline disaster. Walsh will give up his back and try to escape the position without paying any attention to defending his neck. Hopefully Walsh can learn how to defend submissions, because he has the talent to be a quality UFC figher. Until he proves he has that submission defense, I have to pick him to lose against grappling types like Kunimoto.
Pick: Kiichi Kunimoto by submission
Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Jon Delos Reyes
The MMA universe seems aligned in a belief that this is a showcase fight for Horiguchi. I’m not so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Horiguchi’s karate style and his excellent hand speed and timing. I think Horiguchi has the potential to become a title contender in the flyweight division if he can improve his grappling abilities.
Here’s the problem: Reyes is a brawler who hits very hard for a flyweight. Horiguchi’s open stance leaves plenty of opportunities for opponents to hit him. Trust me when I say Reyes is a bigger threat to knock Horiguchi out than Darrell Montague or Dustin Pague were. Reyes’s fatal flaw as a fighter is his submission defense, but Horiguchi doesn’t really do submissions. I certainly think Horiguchi should be favored, because he is the more talented and technical fighter, but Reyes is a “live” underdog whose knockout power should not be dismissed.
Pick: Kyoji Horiguchi by decision
Alex Caceres vs. Masanori Kanehara
This fight was originally Urijah Faber vs. Kanehara, which would have been a mismatch of epic proportions. As it is, “Bruce Leeroy” should be able to win this fight without too much difficulty. Kanehara is a journeyman fighter who likes to stand and strike with his opponents. He packs decent power behind his punches but has borderline awful striking defense (a theme throughout this card and seemingly a theme with Japanese fighters in general). Kanehara doesn’t move his head and now his chin is a huge concern as he’s been stopped by strikes four times.
Caceres is unlikely to finish Kanehara with strikes – he’s simply not a power puncher. What Caceres will do is score points rapidly with his arsenal of straight punches at distance and knees in close. Kanehara is an easy target to hit and Caceres is well suited to take advantage. If the fight goes to the ground, it’s conceivable that Kanehara can take advantage of the wildness of Bruce Leeroy’s grappling, but it’s more likely that the hyperactive guard of Caceres will compel Kanehara to just stand and make it a striking match again. This is Bruce Leeroy’s fight to lose.
Pick: Alex Caceres by decision
Katsunori Kikuno vs. Sam Sicilia
Kikuno is a Kyokushin karate fighter whose striking skills go far beyond anything Sam Sicilia is capable of. Kikuno has an excellent sense of distance control, sharp and technical kicks, accurate strikes, and a good sense of how to “create collisions,” as Jack Slack would say.
And yet, Kikuno gives it all away because he believes in the “way of the warrior,” and his interpretation of that is to get hit in the face on purpose. Somebody needs to tell Kikuno that he can show his warrior spirit without putting his hands by his knees. Tony Ferguson blasted Kikuno into oblivion and there’s no reason to think Sicilia won’t do the same if Kikuno fights the same way. Sicilia is a brawler, but he’s a brawler with knockout power, and that’s good enough if Kikuno fights like a moron again. I’m hoping Kikuno will have come to his senses… but how can I know for sure?
Pick: Katsunori Kikuno by TKO
Hyun Gyu Lim vs. Takenori Sato
I was very harsh about Sato leading into his short-notice fight against Erick Silva (in which Sato got steamrolled). After reviewing the tape again… you have to be kidding me. Sato does not belong in the UFC – not even close. Against Pancrase-level competition, Sato was a non-striker who struggled to land takedowns, and then had difficulty holding top position. Sato had to work to grind out wins in Pancrase. How is he supposed to win fights in the UFC?
There’s a reason Sato enters with 17 wins in 33 fights. He doesn’t belong here. Hyun Gyu Lim is going to stuff the takedowns and batter Sato standing, probably winning by knockout.
Pick: Hyun Gyu Lim by KO
Kyung Ho Kang vs. Michinori Tanaka
Kang is a fighter who dominates the takedown game, and loses anyway because he doesn’t produce much in the way of effective offense outside of takedowns. He has to be considered a threat to beat Michinori Tanaka though. I like Tanaka’s potential a lot – he’s a very well-rounded fighter – but what worries me is his tendency to give up bad positions. I could easily see Kang taking Tanaka’s back in a scramble and winning by submission. Overall, I think Tanaka is the more talented fighter and should win, but this is a tough fight for him.
Pick: Michinori Tanaka by decision
Johnny Case vs. Kazuki Tokudome
Case makes his UFC debut with an 18-4 record and 11 wins by KO/TKO. He has good hand speed and packs good power behind his punches but his takedown defense is a liability. That could be a problem against Tokudome, a fighter whose offense is mostly centered around takedowns. Tokudome has active hands but poor striking defense and isn’t very offensive on the ground at all. Tokudome has to be the pick to win this fight because of his ability to land takedowns, but Case isn’t going to make it easy to grind out a decision here.
Pick: Kazuki Tokudome by decision
Maximo Blanco vs. Daniel Hooker
Blanco is his own worst enemy. He’s a talented fighter with terrific athleticism and the ability to string together punches, kicks, and flying knees. He’s also a fighter who seems to either have no knowledge of the rules or a flagrant disregard of them. Hooker is a nasty striker with sharp elbows but he can’t match Blanco’s athleticism or talent. This is Blanco’s fight to lose… but Blanco has a way of losing fights that are his to lose.
Pick: Maximo Blanco by decision