Less than one week removed from UFC Fight Night 116 in Pittsburgh comes UFC Fight Night 117 from Saitama, Japan. The main event is a light heavyweight matchup with #6 ranked Ovince Saint Preux taking on Yushin “Thunder” Okami.
The card features another big matchup, the women’s strawweight contest between #1 ranked Claudia Gadelha facing #4 contender Jessica Andrade. This could prove a tough night of wagering for most bettors as the hometown fighters, with the exception of Okami, are much lesser known.
Japan has had a storied history in MMA when it had the PRIDE and DREAM promotions, with PRIDE being one of the biggest mixed martial arts promotions of all-time. Not only that, but many great fighters made a name for themselves in Japan including Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, Quinton “Rampage’ Jackson, and Alistair Overeem.
So let’s run down the card and take a look at where there is some money to be made…
The main event saw a big change just a few days again when the original main event of Ovince St. Preux(20-10) versus Mauricio “Shogun” Rua had to be nixed when Rua was forced to withdraw with a knee injury. Much to the delight of the fans in Japan, longtime fan favorite Yushin “Thunder” Okami(32-8) got the call to replace him.
Even though the odds look to be pretty far apart here, the two fighters will make for a much better fight than the line tells us. The main reason for the line is the fact that Okami is taking the fight on just a touch over a week’s notice. Regardless of how good a fighter may be, that is difficult for anyone to do.
St. Preux hasn’t had the greatest run as of late. He notched a 2nd round submission victory in his last fight this past April, but that came on the heels of 3 straight losses. Okami, on the other hand, is riding a 4-fight win streak with his last win coming in late July via unanimous decision.
It’s really hard to bet against Okami at home in the Saitama Center, but I just can’t allow myself to pull the trigger on a guy who took the fight only a week ago. It’s not an impossible task, but at 36 years old, that’s just asking a lot of Okami.
In a fight that could potentially put Claudia Gadelha(15-2) in line for another title shot, the second biggest fight pits her against fellow top 5 contender Jessica Andrade(16-6). Gadelha is coming off of a Performance of the Night win after submitting #2 contender at the time Karolina Kowlkiewicz in the first round. That marked two wins in a row after a decision loss to UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the second time in her career.
Andrade, on the other hand, is coming off of a decision loss of her own to Jedrzejczyk where she was dominated with strikes for most of the match. The two fighters match up well in size but Gadelha is a level above when it comes to skills.
While Andrade can throw some bombs, I feel as though most of this fight will take place up against the cage and on the ground where Claudia is an excellent Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist. I see Gadelha taking this one in a not-so-exciting unanimous decision.
The lightweight division will be on display as “The Maestro” Dong Hyun Kim(14-8-3) takes on “The Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi(35-13-0, 1NC). While this fight wins the award for best nicknames, it might be lacking a bit in terms of top-tier talent.
Gomi is currently riding a 4-fight losing streak with all 4 fights being stopped in the first round. Kim, on the other hand, is 2-2 in his last 4, with his two losses being stoppages. So both fighters really need to get something going this time out.
For me, Gomi is just sliding too hard. A submission loss preceded by 3 first round KOs must have his confidence at the basement level. Not that I love a bet on Kim, but if there’s any fight he should be able to win, it’s this one.
Believe it or not, this is one of the most anticipated fights on the card, and for one reason. Gohkan Saki. Saki currently sits at 0-1 in his mixed martial arts career. That loss, however, came way back in 2004. Since that time he’s gone on to amass an 83-12-0, 1NC record in kickboxing, winning numerous titles and scoring 59 knockouts in the process.
As if that wasn’t bad enough for Henrique da Silva(12-3), the Brazilian fighter comes into his bout with Saki on a 3-fight losing streak. Not only does that shake a fighter’s confidence, but most MMA media look at him as an afterthought entering this match.
I, too, am looking at him as an afterthought. I’m riding with Saki to notch the KO/TKO victory and maybe even a Performance of the Night bonus.
Teruto Ishihara(10-4-2) takes on Rolando Dy(8-5-1, 1NC) in a featherweight bout in which both fighters are looking to find their way back into the winner’s circle. There isn’t much to be desired in this one, but I like Dy in what will look like a tired fight.
Dy has a slight size advantage and I feel as though that’s going to come into play a bit here. While Dy tends to absorb more punishment, neither being a defensive wizard, I think he can land a bomb during a sloppy exchange that will flatten Ishihara.
The first fight of the main card pits two veteran featherweights against one another in a fight that should get us off to an exciting start. Charles Rosa(11-3) and Mizuta Hirota(19-8-2) are both looking to gain some traction in their UFC careers.
Rosa pushes the action a bit more and has a better takedown game than Hirota so I’m giving him the nod in this one. Neither fighter is afraid to let their hands fly but being the first fight to kick off the main card I feel like they’re gonna be a bit more reserved coming out of the gate.
I like Rosa in a close decision in this one.
Preliminary bouts tend to get less love and the UFC only has 5 on the docket this time around. Let’s take just a brief look at these bouts and where I’m looking to lay my money.
In a bout that pits a couple of bruisers against one another at 170 pounds, Alex Morono(13-3-0, 1NC) takes on Keita Nakamura(32-8-2, 1NC). The fighters are pretty evenly matched but Nakamura has been too inconsistent towards the latter part of his career.
Even though both fighters have had a mixed bag of success in their most recent bouts, flip-flopping wins and losses in their last 4, you’re still looking at a top 5 fighter against an unranked opponent. This one is a no-brainer.
Both fighters bring a mixed bag of talent into this fight with professional wrestling and Muay Thai kickboxing backgrounds. As you can see by the line, they’re are pretty evenly matched but Chan Mi Jeon is a more aggressive fighter with bigger knockout power.
Both fighters are coming off of a win here and we can expect a wild one. I know Luke Jumeau is a decent favorite here but I like Shinsho Anzai’s knockout power when the fight breaks out.
The night isn’t going to start off well for the hometown crowd as Hyun Gyu Lim will take full advantage of his 4-inch height differential and take Daichi Abe to task. Lim has lost two in a row but I think he spoils Abe’s UFC debut.
*Odds via Westgate Sportsbook*
*Card still subject to change*
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