The UFC will make its first venture into South Korea this Saturday with UFC Fight Night 79. Live exclusively on Fight Pass, the card is headlined by former lightweight champion Benson Henderson, who takes on exciting fellow former lightweight Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal fills in for Thiago Alves on late notice, who was injured late in camp, but was training to fight Dong Hyun Kim in the co-main event.
The card lacks what most people would call “star power,” but makes up for it by having some great prospects on the card. Further than that, they also have guys looking to earn prospect status, especially at the bottom of the card.
Many of the fighters on the card are Korean, placed strategically on this card to please the home crowd, per usual. However, there are a lot of Pacific-based, non-Korean fighters also on the card such as Hong Kong-based Alberto Mina, as well as Chinese fighters Zhikui Yao and Guangyou Ning. With that, let’s take a look at the prelims and give you a heads up on three fighters to watch come Saturday morning.
It’s hard to call a 36-year-old fighter a “prospect,” but Fredy Serrano still might be just that. Serrano, just 2-0 in his pro MMA career, is an Olympic wrestling veteran with great athleticism and explosiveness. He is still not fully developed, but given some time, he could be a very serviceable flyweight.
Wrestling is obviously his biggest strength, but given his last fight, it seems like he wants to try and test his boxing skills more. Serrano has some strong leg kicks, but its the winging punches he throws that, if he lands, will do great damage. It sometimes leaves him open for counters, so he will need to tighten up his defense a little bit.
He takes on Zhikui Yao, who will likely entertain him on the feet. However, this is Serrano’s opportunity to show off his wrestling chops. Yao is not the most skilled fighter on the roster, so Serrano can change levels, plant him on the mat and beat him up with his powerful ground-and-pound.
Again, I am not sure how high Serrano’s ceiling is, but there is no doubt he is an interesting midcard act given his background. I think his bout with Yao should serve as a good showcase fight, so pay attention to the former Olympian come Saturday morning.
Our first glimpse of Cortney Casey in the UFC came on late notice against Joanne Calderwood. Early on she looked strong, but quickly petered out because of the late notice weight cut. That did not stop her from gaining a Fight of the Night bonus check for her effort.
Now, she has a full training camp for this fight in South Korea, so it will be interesting to see what she can do with a proper weight cut and enough prep time. Now we can see the strong kicks, the solid takedowns and the rough-and-tumble ground game that she had displayed in becoming the top Pacific strawweight prospect not long ago.
She meets up with South Korea’s Seo Hee Ham, a former atomweight. Casey is going to have a size advantage in this fight, so if she uses an aggressive, cut-off-the-cage tactic, she will be able to use those takedowns. She will want to avoid an exclusive striking battle, as Ham is quick and precise.
Casey will not be entering the title picture anytime soon, but she can take a step in the right direction this weekend. Her ascent up the divisional ladder could become more rapid with a strong performance and perhaps a finish over the notoriously tough Ham.
Yui Chul Nam
If there is an unheralded fighter in the UFC, especially in the featherweight division, it might be Yui Chul Nam. He is exciting, skilled and rugged, something that will continue to give him fights in the UFC as long as he keeps winning.
In two UFC bouts, Nam has gone to two exciting split decisions, taking his UFC debut in a Fight of the Night over Kazuki Tokudome and dropping a questionable split to Philippe Nover. In both of those fights, Nam has shown great all-around ability and puts it all on the table.
He has a tough bout in front of him against Mike de la Torre, who has shown glimpses of brilliance in the UFC. He is similarly well-rounded and will likely indulge Nam in a potential Fight of the Night barn burner.
Keep your eyes on Nam. This is his chance to get back a win and break out amongst the featherweight division. He has the ability too, which is why he is the prospect you should most watch out for on this prelim card.