UFC

UFC Fight Night 34: A Complete Guide to Fight Night in Singapore

Scott HarrisFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2013

UFC Fight Night 34: A Complete Guide to Fight Night in Singapore

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    Tarec Saffiedine
    Tarec SaffiedineUSA TODAY Sports

    Ready or not, we're in the future now. Preparation time is over. The thing is at hand.

    It might take a while to see the full effect of what UFC 168 set in motion. The smart money says Anderson Silva's fight career is finished after a gruesome leg fracture suffered in the main event, marked down as a TKO loss to very good, very vanilla champion Chris Weidman. This followed a main event in which women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey—maybe the biggest star now in the UFC—was virtually booed out of the cage after defeating Miesha Tate.

    The key headline, though, was definitely Silva. And that little bit of tragedy happened just a handful of days after welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre took an indefinite leave from the sport, for reasons that were, are and will likely remain a mystery.

    So if you're scoring at home, that's the two best fighters of this and maybe any era making abrupt exits one after the other. Sure, there is more talent and other stars. But don't kid yourself; there's a gaping hole at the top now, as sure as if a bolt of lightning had knocked the belfry off a tower.

    But you know what? Life goes on. It finds a way. And maybe the UFC will, too. Personally, I believe that prospects are our future. Teach them well is what I say. And then you let them lead the way.

    International expansion is also a key piece of the puzzle, as are new ways of bringing the product to the public. 

    With all this in mind, UFC Fight Night 34, going down this Saturday from Marina Bay in Singapore, could not come at a more important time.

    It's the first UFC event to take place in Singapore and one of a select few to take place in Asia, a historical hotbed for MMA fandom and also home to a pretty good amount of people. It also features a lot of interesting fighters, young and old, who are going to be new to the UFC and its eyeball base. It is also the first UFC event offered to North American fans on UFC Fight Pass, the UFC's spanking new digital subscription network. 

    Only time will reveal the direction of these various trend lines. But there's no time like the present—as in, right now, right this second—to get them started in earnest. 

    In the meantime, here's a primer on Saturday's Fight Night 34 card, including predictions, viewing information and information capsules on the fights and the fighters, many of whom will be anonymous to most MMA fans.

Leandro Issa vs. Russell Doane

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    Leandro Issa
    Leandro IssaSuhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

    Division: Bantamweight
    Records: Leandro Issa (11-3), Russell Doane (12-3)
    See it on: Begins 9 a.m. Eastern. UFC Fight Pass (subscription required; free trial lasts through Feb. 28)

    Issa, 30, hails from Brazil but boasts a strong Asian pedigree. Before signing with the UFC in November, the Singapore-based bantamweight had a home with ONE FC, easily the top promotion in the Far East these days. A jiu-jitsu specialist with seven tapouts to his name, Issa also is aligned with Evolve MMA, home to the great Shinya Aoki and other standouts.

    Doane, 27, is more well-rounded than Issa and has faced bigger names, most recently knocking out UFC veteran Jared Papazian in November. He also has more momentum coming into the fight, having gone 3-1 in 2013 while the more idle Issa finished 1-0.

    The head says Doane, who is a much better striker than Issa and on more of a general roll. But the gut says Issa, who should be able to dominate if the fight hits the mat and will enjoy the comforts of a home-cage advantage.

    Prediction: Issa, submission, Round 2

Dustin Kimura vs. Jon Delos Reyes

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    Dustin Kimura
    Dustin KimuraTom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

    Division: Bantamweight
    Records: Dustin Kimura (10-1), Jon Delos Reyes (7-2)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required; free trial lasts through Feb. 28)

    Things have been spotty for Kimura since he joined the UFC. He missed weight in his debut and was probably on his way to a decision loss before submitting Chico Camus in the final round. Then Mitch Gagnon choked him out in the first round of their bout at UFC 165.

    But he's downright impregnable compared with Reyes. First of all, Reyes' nickname is "The Heat." But that's Karo Parisyan's nickname. Until we have collectively established a formal structure for recycling and reusing nicknames, I simply can't condone this activity. Second of all, Reyes appears to be making his UFC debut here because of his demographics (he's the second UFC fighter from Guam) more so than his ability. He's not the only one in this boat, and he's a fine fighter, but he doesn't appear to be objectively UFC caliber.

    Reyes is aggressive and could pull off something crazy, but most likely it will be an easy tap for the younger and better Kimura.

    Prediction: Kimura, submission, Round 1

Mairbek Taisumov vs. Tae Hyun Bang

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    Mairbek Taisumov
    Mairbek TaisumovDave Mandel/Sherdog

    Division: Lightweight
    RecordsMairbek Taisumov (20-4), Tae Hyun Bang (16-7)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required; free trial lasts through Feb. 28)

    Neither one of these guys appears ready to challenge for the title. But hey, that's part of what these types of cards are for. Shake the jar and see who fights.

    Both are recent UFC signees, and both make their Octagon debuts in Singapore. You may remember South Korean Tae Hyun Bang by his former name, Seung Hwan Bang. Either way, his nickname, "Macho," fits him nicely. He likes to keep it standing and get the ol' radar lock on the ol' cranium.

    You may remember Taisumov, an Austrian, from the M-1 promotion, where his only defeat in the past three years came to undefeated prospect Marat Gafurov.

    Taisumov has some thunder in his right hand and should be able to outgrapple the Macho man at will. Bang has a puncher's chance in a punching contest, but here's guessing Taisumov is too smart to get into one of those.

    Prediction: Taisumov, unanimous decision

Royston Wee vs. Dave Galera

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    Royston Wee
    Royston WeeSherdog

    Division: Bantamweight
    RecordsRoyston Wee (2-0), Dave Galera (5-0)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required; free trial lasts through Feb. 28)

    There are plenty of regional fighters on the Fight Night 34 card, but Wee is truly the hometown hero. He's the first native Singaporean to fight for the UFC.

    Galera is not on quite such familiar turf but is still in similar circumstances. He's the first Filipino national to sign on the UFC line, and he's also debuting Saturday.

    Both of these men have some nice wins on their respective regional circuits, but as you can see by their records, neither is what you'd call seasoned. Both men prefer grappling, and I'll go with Galera, a huge bantamweight at 5'11" and one who should be able to use his length to overcome Wee and a (possibly) hostile crowd.

    Prediction: Galera, unanimous decision

Katsunori Kikuno vs. Quinn Mulhern

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    Katsunori Kikuno
    Katsunori KikunoDean Marchand, Sherdog

    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Quinn Mulhern (18-3), Katsunori Kikuno (21-5-2)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required; free trial lasts through Feb. 28)

    Odd that this one's on the undercard. Then again, it all airs on UFC Fight Pass anyway, so it's probably a false distinction to begin with.

    I guess I just have to suck it up and move on. The first step on that journey is giving full love to Kikuno, a veteran of Japanese MMA whom hardcore fans will remember from long stints with the Dream and DEEP promotions.

    It's encouraging to see him on a five-fight win streak entering Fight Night; it's discouraging to remember that he has lost to just about every formidable opponent he's ever faced, from Eddie Alvarez to Mizuto Hirota.

    But is Mulhern a formidable opponent? That is the question. And the answer to the question is no. Yes, he's a UFC veteran, but that doesn't magically make you awesome. No disrespect to Mulhern, but he did lose his only UFC bout in three minutes.

    Against a skilled fighter and heavy hitter in Kikuno—who the UFC surely wants to solidify as a mainstay at its Asian vanguard—the Greg Jackson student may be in over his head.

    Prediction: Kikuno, TKO, Round 1

Max Holloway vs. Will Chope

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    Max Holloway
    Max HollowayWinslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Division: Featherweight
    Records: Max Holloway (7-3), Will Chope (19-5)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required; free trial lasts through Feb. 28)

    Warning: underrated scrap right here

    Most serious fans will know Holloway, a dynamic striker who started his UFC career hot before dropping two straight in 2013. The 22-year-old is also billed as the youngest fighter in the UFC.

    Chope, meanwhile, has his own billing. He and his camp have dubbed him the world's tallest featherweight. Given that he's 6'4", I'm inclined to believe them. (Guess which one he is in this photo.) Honestly, though, weighing in at 145 pounds and standing that tall, I'm not sure how he has the musculature to, what's the term I want here, fight.

    But fight he does. Though he's American born, he has made a name for himself on the Filipino circuits, using a spidery submission game to wrap up opponents in his spindly twine and forcing them to tap.

    Holloway is a likable guy in the cage, but Chope may be too much for him. It's a striker-grappler matchup, and I'm going to go with the world's tallest over the world's youngest. But hey, maybe I'm just a sucker for a good carnival.

    Prediction: Chope, submission, Round 2 

Kyung Ho Kang vs. Shunichi Shimizu

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    Shunichi Shimizu
    Shunichi ShimizuDaniel Herbertson/Sherdog

    Division: Bantamweight
    RecordsKyung Ho Kang (11-7), Shunichi Shimizu (28-8-10)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required; free trial lasts through Feb. 28)

    The first main-card bout features two guys with very long resumes.

    Kang has acquitted himself admirably in two UFC contests but came up short in each (a loss to Alex Caceres was later overturned to a No Contest). He has decent striking and grappling and does a good job of blending it all together. He's not a dynamo in any one area, but his game is seamless.

    Shimizu was a good get for the UFC when they landed him in October. He's a longtime veteran of Japan's hybridized MMA/pro-wrestling scene, fighting regularly for years in organizations like Pancrase and, most often, ZST. The fans know him and the fans like him.

    But where Kang's game is polished, Shimizu's is, well, also polished, but not in an MMA context. He likes to try for all manner of submission attempts, all the time. You don't even need to be on the ground. Everything's on the table. Shimizu is undoubtedly a fan favorite, and I don't think he'll go anywhere regardless of Saturday's outcome. And that's good news for him.

    Prediction: Kang, TKO, Round 2

Kiichi Kunimoto vs. Luiz Dutra

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    Luiz Dutra
    Luiz DutraMarcelo Alonso, Sherdog

    Division: Welterweight
    RecordsKiichi Kunimoto (15-5-2), Luiz Dutra (11-2-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required; free trial lasts through Feb. 28)

    Kunimoto was originally set to face Hyun Gyu Lim, but when Jake Ellenberger pulled out of the main event because of injury, Lim got the call to fill the void.

    Next man up on the carousel was Dutra, who will make his proper promotional debut Saturday after competing on and injury-withdrawing from the second season of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil. He's also not a complete stranger to UFC talent, having defeated Fabricio Camoes and Luis Ramos in recent years (he also lost to Paulo Thiago but only because of a knee injury).

    Kunimoto is 5'10", so not exactly a monster welterweight, and brings that Pancrase hybrid game with him, which doesn't always translate to the big leagues.

    I'm going with Dutra, whom the UFC liked enough to keep despite his reality-show loss. He's more rounded and appears to simply have more gears than the Japanese fave.

    Prediction: Dutra, unanimous decision

Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Sean Soriano

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    Tatsuya Kawajiri
    Tatsuya KawajiriTaro Irei, Sherdog

    Division: Featherweight
    Records: Tatsuya Kawajiri (32-7-2), Sean Soriano (8-0)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required; free trial lasts through Feb. 28)

    Are you sensing a pattern here? Because I'm sensing a pattern. Well-loved veteran of Japan's hybrid-MMA scene thrown into the breach against little-known but promising UFC signee.

    Here we go again. Well, not really. Kawajiri is a popular Japanese fighter, but he's MMA through and through, making his bones in Shooto and Pride and beating guys like Joachim Hansen, Yves Edwards, JZ Cavalcante and Josh Thomson. He's a very, very serious fighter.

    He's 35 now but still plenty spry and ranked on some lists as one of the world's best featherweights. He pushed for inclusion on this card ever since signing with the UFC in October.

    He got his wish. Originally, it was a much tougher test in Hacran Dias, but Dias pulled out. In his place is Blackzilian Soriano, a very promising prospect with heavy power and a strong wrestling base. He could have a legitimate UFC career, but this is a tough debut for anyone. Kawajiri should cruise.

    Prediction: Kawajiri, unanimous decision

Tarec Saffiedine vs. Hyun Gyu Lim

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    Tarec Saffiedine
    Tarec SaffiedineJayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Tarec Saffiedine (14-3), Hyun Gyu Lim (12-3-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required; free trial lasts through Feb. 28)

    Saffiedine lit up the MMA world a year ago when he took the Strikeforce strap from Nate Marquardt in the promotion's final event. He battered the former UFC contender with brutal leg kicks and controlled the action throughout; it was his fourth consecutive win.

    Hyun Gyu Lim is no motherfreakin joke, though. The Korean is 2-0 in the UFC, with both wins by knockout. He handed Pascal Krauss his second professional defeat. He's 6'2" with a monstrous 82" reach, which he clearly knows how to leverage, particularly when he's in boxing mode. His grappling is pretty slick, too.

    As you might expect, Lim is eager to capitalize on this gift of a main-event appearance on regional soil. He has the tools to make this fight, and a great many other fights, very competitive.

    But Saffiedine takes this one. Against Marquardt, he had the look of someone ready to challenge the top fighters. One year and a few false starts later, he's fighting for the first time in the UFC. So some of the heat from his Marquardt fight has dissipated, but all the tools should still be there. He's only 27, and he has the Muay Thai attack, the wrestling base and the sharp submissions to make a real run.

    The UFC could use fresh faces now more than ever. One of those faces could very well be Saffiedine.

    Prediction: Saffiedine, unanimous decision
     

    Scott Harris is a writer for Bleacher Report MMA. For more MMA predictions, prospects and baseless speculation, find Scott on Twitter

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