UFC Fight Night 34: Ranking the Main Card Fights
The UFC is set to start their 2014 in Singapore, with UFC Fight Night 34 kicking things off for the UFC Fight Pass digital network. It will be one of the many international fight cards that feature top prospects from that area.
The card is headlined by former Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine and Hyun Gyu Lim, two strikers that will look to put on a great show. The winner will be a dark-horse contender in the welterweight division that could potentially challenge for the title down the road.
There are four fights on the main card. Here is a power ranking of each fight based on potential for excitement and importance.
4. Kyung Ho Kang vs. Shunichi Shimizu
Struggling bantamweight Kyung Ho Kang will hope third time's a charm when he welcomes Japanese grappler Shunichi Shimizu to the Octagon.
Kang is 0-1 (1 NC) in his two-fight stint with the UFC, taking losses to both Alex Caceres and Chico Camus. The bout with Caceres was later ruled a no contest after the American tested positive for marijuana.
Despite his struggling ways, Kang finds himself on the main card with the debuting Japanese fighter.
Should this become a ground battle with the wrestling-happy Kang, Shimizu will make this interesting, as he is known for his grappling chops.
I don't know what's more impressive, though; the fact Shimizu has 19 career submission victories or that he has 10 draws on his record.
Either way, this fight will not have huge implications on the bantamweight division, but has the potential to be a chess match on the ground. That's why it kicks off the power rankings.
3. Luiz Dutra vs. Kiichi Kunimoto
Third on the power rankings is an interesting welterweight clash.
Kiichi Kunimoto makes his UFC debut opposite of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 2 veteran Luiz Dutra.
Dutra steps up on late notice, with Hyun Gyu Lim moved up to the main event when an injury scrapped the original bout.
Dutra is an exciting addition to the UFC welterweight division.
He was the guy originally picked to be the favorite to win his season of TUF. He defeated Robson Ferreira by dominant unanimous decision to get into the house before becoming the top pick of Team Nogueira.
After that, he beat fellow top pick Pedro Irie with a first-round rear-naked choke, but he hurt his hand in that bout and had to withdraw from the competition.
Dutra is a well-rounded fighter whose only loss in the last eight years has come at the hands of UFC vet Paulo Thiago.
The fact his opponent is a submission fighter may make Dutra keep this contest on the feet.
Kunimoto is a talented grappler. He will be looking to ground Dutra from the onset. His biggest career win came in his last fight, when the Japanese fighter submitted UFC vet Edward Faaloloto with a slick armbar.
He has lost just once since 2009, showing that this is a much-earned opportunity for "Strasser."
Considering Dutra's fights are usually fun, this bout solidifies itself as one of the most intriguing on the card.
2. Tarec Saffiedine vs. Hyun Gyu Lim
The main event takes the runner-up spot on the power rankings here, with welterweight counterparts Tarec Saffiedine and Hyun Gyu Lim the inaugural headliners in Singapore.
Saffiedine will be making his much-awaited debut, with injuries halting all prior attempts to put him on previous UFC cards. The former Strikeforce champion is considered to be a contender in the division right now, based on the fact he was the final champion with that company.
He is a great striker, but it was his wrestling that showed great improvement in his last fight with Nate Marquardt. His combination of lethal leg kicks and snazzy takedowns could make him a bigger threat than even thought of before.
However, he will need to look out for the powerful striking of Hyun Gyu Lim. In two bouts with the UFC, the South Korean striker has won in devastating fashion both times.
He debuted with a crushing knee knockout of Marcelo Guimaraes, which rendered the Brazilian grappler unconscious upon contact. He followed that up with a Fight of the Night drubbing of Pascal Krauss, whom the South Korean put to sleep with a deadly combination of knees and punches.
It's technique against power in this high-stakes welterweight bout.
Will it be the former champion taking his place in the top 10 of the division, or will the South Korean buzzsaw continue to raise his stock with a trademark violent performance?
1. Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Sean Soriano
It may be a controversial call to go with this at the top of the power rankings, but the featherweight bout between top American prospect Sean Soriano and Japanese legend Tatsuya Kawajiri has the most on the line for this card.
That is because of the mystique that follows Kawajiri and the underrated abilities that Soriano has to score the upset.
Kawajiri is a Pride and Strikeforce veteran that is finally making his UFC debut. The Japanese fighter is well-rounded, holding great power in his fists, good takedowns and a vastly underrated submission game.
A win for him would throw him into the mix for title contention. He is a long-time veteran of the game, who has beaten a number of top stars. Consider also that his only losses in the last five years are to top Japanese fighter Shinya Aoki and lightweight contender Gilbert Melendez.
That's nothing to be ashamed of.
Consider who he has beaten, too. Kawajiri owns wins over UFC vets Michihiro Omigawa, Drew Fickett and Josh Thomson in the last five years, with the Thomson win being the biggest due to his spot as a top contender in the lightweight division right now.
With that being said, everybody is writing off Soriano when they shouldn't be. The Blackzilian is one of the best prospects at 145 pounds, despite the fact that he takes this bout on late notice for Hacran Dias. He is undefeated and well-rounded, which will make it tough for Kawajiri in his anticipated debut.
This fight has big implications for the 145-pound division and has the potential for fireworks. That's why this tops the power rankings.