The land of the rising sun was once the land of the beating drum when Pride Fighting Championships was the premier MMA promotion in the world.
Everything about PRIDE FC from the lenient rule set to the opening show intro was magnificent,
for 10 years from 1997 to 2007 Pride held tournaments and events with a stacked roster of elite talent. Fast forward another 10 years, Japan is no longer a hotbed of MMA but there is still a huge MMA fan base within the country and Martial Arts remains an integral part of Japanese culture.
The UFC Fight Night 117 main card brings back two fighters who fought under the Pride organisation (Yushin Okami & Takanori Gomi) which will surely give loyal fans a nostalgic moment. Gokhan Saki is also making his UFC debut on the card, the legendary Kickboxer is no stranger to Japanese fight fans having fought many times in K1 at the Saitama Super Arena, where UFC Fight Night 117 will be held this weekend.
Main Event: Saint Preux vs Okami
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was a sensation in Pride winning the Middleweight Grand Prix by the age of 23, he defeated Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Antonio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem, & Ricardo Arona throughout the tournament. Shogun was scheduled to take on Ovince Saint Preux in the Main event of this card only to withdraw with a knee injury suffered during training camp.
Yushin Okami replaces Shogun in the main event on less than a week’s notice, the former middleweight contender’s last UFC appearance was a TKO loss to Jacare Souza four years ago. This is Okami’s first fight at 205lbs during his collective time in the UFC, Okami may not seem like the most obvious substitute for Shogun Rua but he is of Japanese descent so in the context of the card you can understand why he was picked. Okami has been fighting in various different organisations since being cut from the UFC, this fight gives him a chance to get back into the big leagues.
Many fighters have turned down a last minute change of opponent, Ovince Saint Preux however, was happy to accept Okami’s challenge. OSP had been stuck in a rut starting with a loss to Jon Jones in which coincidentally Saint Preux was a late replacement filling in for Daniel Cormier. Following the loss to Jones, Saint Preux dropped a TKO loss to Jimi Manuwa & a split decision loss to Volkan Oezdemir.
Earlier this year Saint Preux finally got one back beating Marcos De Lima with his signature Von Flue Choke.
Claudia Gadelha vs Jessica Andrade
Gadelha’s only professional losses have both come against Joanna Jedrzejczyk. During Joanna’s run, nobody has given her more trouble than Claudia Gadelha. The first fight was a split decision which could have easily gone either way. The second fight for the title was easier to score but still a tight affair, Gadelha winning the first two rounds before dropping the last three.
After the second fight, Gadelha decided she needed a change & moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in an attempt to evolve her game. Since Gadelha made the move to America we’ve seen her focus more on her grappling which is an area she has and can further exploit in a potential third fight with Joanna. If Gadelha beats Andrade convincingly and Joanna is successful in her fight with Rose Namajunas, I’m certain we’ll see Joanna vs Gadelha 3.
Jessica Andrade’s fight with Joanna was not close, it was a one-sided beating. Credit to Andrade’s toughness she was able to see the final bell but she was never at any point close to winning. Andrade managed to get to the title shot by relying on her physical strength, toughness, & punching power. Against a technical striker like Joanna, however, she found out it isn’t enough. I’m intrigued to see if Andrade has made any improvements to her own skills in order to compete with the best in the division, or if she hasn’t will those components that served her so well in the past be enough to beat Gadelha.
The light heavyweight division is currently the weakest it’s been for a long time, Gokhan Saki could be the new blood which the division so desperately needs.
Saki, of course, is coming from a kickboxing background so it won’t be an easy task transitioning to MMA. If he comes in with a competent level of takedown defence or the grappling ability to keep getting up after being taken down, we will see him in some great fights against the top level guys in the division.
Ovince Saint Preux vs Yushin Okami (Saint Preaux)
Claudia Gadelha vs Jessica Andrade (Gadelha)
Takanori Gomi vs Dong Hyun Kim (Gomi)
Gokhan Saki vs Henrique da Silva (Saki)
Teruto Ishihara vs Rolando Dy (Ishihara)
Jussier Formiga vs Ulka Sasaki (Sasaki)