The Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan was home to a decent night of fights, with two (T)KOs, two submissions and six decisions, including two split decisions. The crowd may have left disappointed, as Japanese favorites Takanori Gomi and Yushin Okami came up short tonight, both suffering first round defeats.
Performances of the Night: Gokhan Saki and Ovince Saint Preux
Gokhan Saki came into the UFC with one of the most decorated striking records in the promotion’s history. He has held multiple kickboxing titles and has fought practically every major kickboxing star of the last decade. Perhaps due to his age, or due to his previous unsuccessful foray into MMA, there wasn’t as much hype around Saki as you might expect, but he had an explosive UFC debut tonight that suggests he has a place in the UFC’s 205-pound division going forward.
Saki’s striking was on another level from the first bell, as he cut angles and landed hard shots throughout the opening stanza. Then, mid-way through the round, he started to falter. A combination of a two-year layoff and stuffing several takedowns seemed to take their toll on his stamina, and Henrique da Silva started to land his own shots. Saki backed up to the cage and suddenly looked vulnerable. Then, out of nowhere, he fired a crisp right hand-left hook combo that rattled da Silva’s brain and put him on the canvas, leading the referee to call the fight off, and leading the UFC brass to give Saki a $50,000 bonus for his efforts.
Ovince Saint Preux has done it again. Yet another win by the otherwise incredibly rare Von Flue choke, this time against 45-fight veteran Yushin Okami. OSP might struggle against the cream of the division, but fighters who go in and make basic mistakes under his relentless grappling pressure are made to pay for it, and that’s what we saw tonight. His submission victory got him a cool $50K bonus on top of his show and win money.
Fight of the Night: Jessica Andrade vs. Claudia Gadelha
This was the fight many fans and pundits felt should have been the main event and it more than lived up to those expectations. It was an absolute barn-burner of a fight that saw both ladies opened up early, and everything from crisp striking exchanges to huge, elevated slams. Ultimately, it was Andrade’s superior gas tank and ability to dictate the pace of the fight that proved to be the difference maker, and after a strong opening, Gadelha faded under the constant pressure of her Brazilian compatriot Andrade. The back-and-forth action impressed the fans, the crowd and the UFC brass, resulting in both women walking away $50,000 richer for their efforts.