UFC Fight Night 34: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

Craig AmosFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2014

UFC Fight Night 34: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    USA TODAY Sports

    UFC Fight Night 34 is set to air Saturday morning in North America, and James "Mainstay" MacDonald, Sean "Still Around" Smith, Riley "Retro" Kontek, Craig "As Always" Amos and Scott "Holdin' On" Harris are back to provide you with Bleacher Report's main card staff picks.

    That's right, folks: It may be a new year, but it's the same old gang here, back to convey our collective (and often contrasting) wisdom.

    We kick off 2014 with a Fight Night card in Singapore that packs very little star power. But hey, dry your eyes. Your expectations basically have to be exceeded, right?

Kyung Ho Kang vs. Shunichi Shimizu

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    Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    James MacDonald

    When half of the main card is made up of fighters without Wikipedia pages, you know the UFC is really extracting the urine. It’s going to keep the Bleacher Report prediction team on its toes. Despite having already competed inside the Octagon a couple of times, Kang won't secure his first win on Saturday. From what we’ve seen, the ceiling is low for the ill-monikered “Mr. Perfect” (who boasts a decidedly imperfect 11-7 record). I’m going with the experience of Shimizu here.

    Shimizu, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    Had Alex Caceres not failed his drug test at UFC on Fuel TV 8, Kang would be 0-2 inside the Octagon and may have already been back to competing against regional competition. Shimizu, on the other hand, has been been hot lately, only losing to UFC veteran Motonobu Tezuka in his eight fights since 2011. It's tough to predict fights that feature a UFC newcomer, but Shimizu has a good chance to bounce his Korean adversary from the UFC roster.

    Shimizu, Unanimous decision

     

    Riley Kontek

    A struggling South Korean bantamweight takes on a debuting Japanese bantamweight. And this made it on the main card over a couple of the other fights? Both are submission specialists, with the most impressive stat between them being that Shimizu has 10 draws in his career. Flip a coin, bank on experience and pretend this is on the prelims. "Mr. Perfect" finally gets a UFC win. 

    Kang, Unanimous decision 

     

    Scott Harris

    Kang's UFC record isn't so great, but he put up a decent showing in his two UFC contests to date. He's more well-rounded than Shimzu, who is a catch wrestler in the old-school mode. Give me the more modern athlete.

    Kang, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Craig Amos

    This fight (probably) represents Kang's last chance to stick with the UFC, and Shimizu's first. It's a tough one to call, given that neither guy has ever grasped a signature win over a highly touted fighter, so we'll have to take a leap of faith on this pick.

    Shimizu, Unanimous decision

Luiz Dutra vs. Kiichi Kunimoto

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    Sherdog.com

    James MacDonald

    Based on his career history, the biggest worry for TUF: Brazil veteran Dutra is whether he can get through the fight uninjured. It’s fair to say that the Brazilian hasn’t had the best of luck. Then again, it would take some cojones to put money on another fight-ending injury after last week’s horror show. Kunimoto should serve as a decent test, but I can’t see anything but a Dutra win.

    Dutra, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    Both fighters may be making their UFC debuts on Saturday, but Kunimoto and Dutra have been at this for years. Kunimoto got his start with Pancrase in 2006 and carries four straight wins into his first trip to the Octagon. Shooto veteran Dutra has also won four straight and owns multiple wins over UFC lightweight Fabricio Camoes. The Brazilian owns the more impressive resume and should take care of Kunimoto on the ground.
     
    Dutra, Unanimous decision
     

     

    Riley Kontek

    Brazil vs. Japan is the storyline in this fight, as Kunimoto takes on TUF: Brazil 2 vet Dutra. The Brazilian is well-rounded and trains with the solid Renovacao Fight Team in Brazil. He was likely a favorite to win his season of TUF before he succumbed to injury. Kunimoto is a grappler who is not going to outwork Dutra on the ground, so expect the Brazilian to be victorious. 

    Dutra, Unanimous decision

     

    Scott Harris

    Kunimoto might have been relieved when Hyun Gyu Lim moved to the main event. But it probably didn't last too long. Dutra is a great veteran and a more dynamic athlete than Kunimoto, who is decidedly old-school in his approach like Shimizu.

    Dutra, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Dutra has the chance to make good on the TUF: Brazil opportunity that previously passed him by because of an injury. He'll get the job done and look good while doing it.

    Dutra, TKO, Rd. 2

Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Sean Soriano

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    sherdog.com

    James MacDonald

    After 13 years in the business, Kawajiri finally gets his shot in the UFC. Whether he still has the chops to remain competitive in one of the sport’s most talent-rich divisions remains to be seen. His opponent Sean Soriano boasts an undefeated record. Unfortunately, this is a hefty step-up in competition for the 24-year-old. I expect Kawajiri to dominate for all three rounds.

    Kawajiri, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    Several Japanese MMA stars have fizzled out inside the Octagon over the years, but Kawajiri is being eased into the UFC fold opposite Soriano. Having beaten the likes of Josh Thomson, Yves Edwards and Michihiro Omigawa over the years, he should be able to hand Soriano his first MMA loss on Saturday. Although Soriano is undefeated in eight MMA bouts, he hasn't met a single fighter on Kawajiri's level.

    Kawajiri, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Riley Kontek

    In the words of Bruce Buffer, "It's time!" It's about time Kawajiri made his way to the UFC, as he had been one of the best guys outside of the company in recent times. Soriano is a good prospect, but he has not fought on the level of Kawajiri. The Japanese star should bully him to the ground and tap him, announcing his arrival to the division.

    Kawajiri, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Scott Harris

    Now here's a Japanese competitor who can swim in the UFC shark tank. Kawajiri is well-rounded and one of the best featherweights in the world who hasn't yet competed in the Octagon. Soriano will have his day, but that day won't be Saturday.

    Kawajiri, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    At age 35, Kawajiri finally makes it to the Octagon. The man has been a star in Japan for years, making a name for himself first under Pride and then Dream. On the other end of the spectrum is Soriano, who remains undefeated but has been relatively untested to this point in his career.

    Kawajiri, Unanimous decision

Tarec Saffiedine vs. Hyun Gyu Lim

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    James MacDonald

    This could be a trickier fight for Saffiedine than most are anticipating. Lim may lack polish, but he makes up for it with his size and strength. Unless the Belgian gets Lim’s respect early, he could be in for a rough night. That being said, Saffiedine should be too technical for the South Korean.

    Saffiedine, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    Along with Chan Sung Jung and Dong Hyun Kim, Lim has the potential to become an MMA star in South Korea. He's being pushed a little too quickly with this matchup, though. Given his knockout power, Lim has a chance to shock everybody, but Saffiedine is tight defensively and has never been stopped. He is also much more proven against elite competition.

    Saffiedine, Unanimous decision

     

    Riley Kontek

    A former Strikeforce champion against an up-and-comer who is outside the Top 20? Do I really have to analyze here? Lim has a puncher's chance because he has good power. However, Saffiedine is a striker by nature who has developed his wrestling. An all-around attack should lead the Belgian to victory.

    Saffiedine, Unanimous decision

     

    Scott Harris

    Saffiedine finally gets to break the UFC ice against a tough opponent in Lim. I expect a repeat of the Belgian's performance against Nate Marquardt. He'll keep the aggressive Lim at bay, slow him down with leg kicks and then start hitting takedowns to cinch it up. Saffiedine is a contender. He'll be on the fast track after this one.

    Saffiedine, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Full disclosure: I’m chickening out here. I was prepared to take Lim for the upset, but I’m writing Saffiedine’s name down now. Despite the layoff, this being his UFC debut and Lim’s impressive work to date, I like Saffiedine to outpoint his foe en route to a closely contested decision win.

    Saffiedine, Unanimous decision