One week removed from the UFC’s trip to Monterrey, Zuffa is assembling a different Octagon in the Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul, South Korea.
You’ll have to wake up bright and early if you’re interested in catching this international fight card, which features a five-round welterweight main event between a pair of former 155-pound fighters. Former WEC and UFC lightweight champion Benson “Smooth” Henderson takes a stab at competing at 170 pounds for the second time when he takes on former Strikeforce title contender Jorge Masvidal.
The remaining fights on the card feature some relatively unfamiliar names to the average fan, but should bring all the excitement as the UFC brings some of the more popular South Korean fighters in Dong Hyun Kim (the second one) and Doo Ho Choi into the mix.
Here’s how we see UFC Fight Night 79 going down:
- Dominique Steele def. Dong Hyun Kim via decision
- See Ho Ham def. Cortney Casey via decision
- Yao Zhikui def. Fredy Serrano via decision
- Jake Collier def. Dongi Yang via decision
- Leo Kuntz def. Tae Hyun Bang via submission
- Yui Chul Nam def. Mike De La Torre via TKO
- Marco Beltran def. Ning Guangyou via deision
Doo Ho Choi vs. Sam Sicilia
Just his third fight since June 2015, a lot of Choi’s luster has fizzled a bit since he first made his UFC debut in November 2014. Choi was victorious in that bout, extending his T/KO victory streak to six. Choi, a former top prospect according to many, makes his return to the Octagon just about a year removed from his 18-second KO debut over Juan Manuel Puig.
An elite-level striker with a 75-percent KO rate, Choi poses problems for any sub-elite fighter at 145 pounds. Sicilia, just 5-4 in his UFC career, is not an elite fighter at featherweight. This is where problems begin for the Sikjitsu fighter.
He’ll make for a fun opponent against Choi, as Sicilia rarely shies away from a stand-up fight. If he’s as eager to make what sort of impact he’s been talking about in recent days — by shutting down the fast-rising prospect — we should be in for a treat.
But as tends to be the trend for most young up-and-coming fighters featured on a card on home soil, this is matchup that favors Choi.
Prediction: Choi def. Sicilia via TKO
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Alberto Mina
Few fighters have gotten the sort of push Akiyama got when he first made his Zuffa debut in 2009. A DREAM and K-1 veteran with a litter of submission and KO finishes, the Japanese sensation never really lived up to any of the hype he brought with him as a middleweight. He’d (barely) win his debut against Alan Belcher in a split decision at UFC 100, but went on to lose four consecutive bouts against some of the most popular fighters the middleweight division has ever seen, in Chris Leben, Michael Bisping, Jake Shields and Vitor Belfort.
In short, Akiyama has never been able to put all his skills — highlighted by experience as a decorated judoka — together to provide UFC audiences with a signature win. No, a unanimous decision victory over a 34-year-old Amir Sadollah doesn’t count.
And so Mina comes in, making his sophomore appearance with the UFC. The Kings MMA fighter’s finished all 11 of his opponents, splitting them nearly 50-50 between TKO and submission finishes. Mina has a tendency to wing his punches once the going gets rough, but he should have enough in him to at least take a judges decision here.
Prediction: Mina def. Akiyama via decision
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Dominic Waters
Kim’s a fourth-degree black belt in judo and a black belt in BJJ; he’s not just the average locally recognized name featured on a card on foreign soil. He’s also got dynamite in just about all four of his limbs, as he showed in back-to-back victories against Erick Silva and John Hathaway
Ranked seventh in the UFC’s welterweight division, Kim has only ever lost to Carlos Condit, Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley. Unable to secure his place among the division’s elite, “Stun Gun” is still far and away better than just about any middle-of-the-pack fighter at 170 pounds.
That includes Waters.
“Sho Nuff” failed to showcase what skills brought him to a 9-2 record before making his Octagon debut. Chances are he’ll fail to showcase those same skills once more in Seoul. This is Kim’s fight to win, his time to shine.
Prediction: Kim def. Waters via decision
Benson Henderson vs. Jorge Masvidal
Masvidal is a fighter; he’s shown us that much all throughout his 29-9 career. He may not have an impressive finishing rate (it’s 45 percent), but he comes to fight, no less. A stand-up fighter by trade, Masvidal will likely look to keep it standing if he wants to see his hand raised at fight’s end.
Henderson does much of the same, but his style make for some relatively controversial decisions. He scores points, but not in the take-you-down and hold-you-down sort of way. No, he does a decent job of keeping the fight standing (while it benefits him, anyway), but rarely ever dominates enough on the feet to convince everybody of his dominance. It happened against Frankie Edgar in their rematch, it happened against Gilbert Melendez, it happened against Josh Thomson.
Chances are it’ll happen again Saturday morning.
Prediction: Henderson def. Masvidal via decision