In our second straight week of Octagon action the UFC returns to the Saitama Super Arena to showcase UFC Fight Night: Saint Preux vs Okami. Before we get into the card itself lets go over some background in terms of the matchmaking and current status of it.This card was originally supposed to showcase a rematch between St. Preux and Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua, but about a week ago, 'Shogun' pulled out of the match, citing a knee injury. To replace him, the UFC brought in 34-10 MMA veteran Yushin Okami, who has been out of the UFC since 2014 and is currently on a 4-fight win streak in other MMA organizations. He won his last fight by decision in the Pro Fighters League (formerly WSOF) in July of this year. In another last minute change to the card, Featherweight Mizuo Hirota came in to weigh ins at 150 lbs, 4 lbs over the featherweight limit of 146. He required assistance in getting off of the scale, a bad sign. Upon inspection by the UFC doctors, Hirota was pulled from the event due to health reasons and the undercard bout between Jussier Formiga and Ulka Sasaki will be moved to the main card to replace Hirota vs. Rosa.
The first bout on the undercard will kick off the night, a Welterweight matchup between Japanese MMA up-and-comer Daichi Abe and UFC veteran Hyun Gyu Lim. Abe is making his Octagon debut with 4 of his 5 total wins coming by way of KO, and he will seek to extend his currently undefeated streak to 6-0. Meanwhile, Lim is coming off of TKO losses to Neil Magny and most recently Mike Perry at UFC 202, and is seeking to get back into the Win column with a good showing against his young Japanese opponent. This fight could be a great display of striking.
In the next fight, another 170 bout will take place between Shinsho 'Animal' Anzai and Luke 'The Jedi' Jumeau. This is Anzai's third UFC fight as he stands at 1-1 inside the octagon, and he will seek to win his return to the top of MMA competition with this being his first fight in almost two years. New Zealand's Jumeau is 1-0 in the Octagon brining home a decision win in his debut in June. He's looking to extend his current 7 fight win streak against Anzai, in what should be a great prelim scrap.
After that, a pair of female straweights will square off, as undefeated Japanese fighter and pro wrestler Syuri Kondo will make her UFC debut against a South Korean prodigy, 20 year old Chanmi 'Ottogi Girl' Jeon. Kondo has had her first 5 fights in the Japanese organization Pancrase. She shows great potential but as does her opponent, Chanmi Jeon. She has 4 KO/TKO wins out of her total 5 wins, and although she lost her UFC debut, she has excellent striking and it will be interesting to see how this fight plays out.
Next in another welterweight bout, UFC Welterweights square off to seek advancement in the 170 lb. Division. Japanese veteran Keita 'K-Taro' Nakamura will square off against Alex 'The Great White' Morono. Both men are coming off of losses, Nakamura lost a decision in October of last Year and Morono is coming off of a KO loss to Niko Price in February. Both fighters are well rounded and have great skill, and they also both have two UFC wins to show for it. This fight between the veteran Nakamura (32-8) and the seasoned fighter (13-4) is the 3rd welterweight bout on the prelims and it shows how the UFC is trying to sort out this division and decide who to build up with fights and who to let go.
Now to kick off the main card, the promoted bout that replaces the fight between Hirota and Rosa. A flyweight bout, between Jussier Fomiga and Ulka Sasaki. Formiga is a BJJ specialist with all of his 8 finishes coming by way of submission. He's coming off a loss to Ray Borg, who is currently challenging for the 125lb. Belt. Sasaki, the Japanese shooto fighter is 3-3 in the octagon and is coming off of a submission win over Justin Scoggins. This fight is most likely going to be a show of world class grappling and submission skills.
In the next fight we have a Featherweight contest between Team Alpha Male fighter Teruto Ishihara. He's looking to get back on the winning track after two straight losses, however before that he had two KO wins in a row, and he has legitimate power. His opponent, Filipino fighter Rolando Dy, is coming off of a loss against Alex Caceres in his UFC debut, and is looking to get his first octagon win against Teruto. Both of these fighters have great striking power and it should be an exciting fight to watch.
Next we have one of the more exciting fights of the night just in its hype. Kickboxing Great Gokhan Saki will make his UFC debut in Japan. He goes up against 205lb-er Henrique da Silva. Saki is a K-1 champion, former GLORY kickboxing champion, and he brings incredible KO power into the fight against da Silva. He actually has one MMA loss back in 2004, but some would think he's been practicing since then, so what we'll get to see is if he really has worked on the sufficient wrestling and grappling to be able to supplement his striking. Henrique da Silva is coming off of 3 losses, and is most likely hungry to get back on the winning track so this fight will most certainly be interesting!
In the 3rd to last fight we have a Lightweight bout between Japanese MMA veteran Takanori Gomi as he faces off against Dong Hyun Kim. Gomi is in a tough spot in his career, coming off of 4 straight losses. He had the majority of his success in the early days of Pride and Shooto in Japan, but is 4-8 in his UFC career. Dong Hyun Kim is coming off a decision win, yet has also struggled in the UFC with 2 KO losses in his first fights with the promotion. Both of these fighters need a win and one could question if Gomi's career is coming to an end if he loses this fight badly.
In the next fight we have an important Women's strawweight bout to see who will likely next face Women's 115-lb. Champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk. #1 Strawweight contender Claudia Gadelha will face off against #4 Jessica 'Bate Estaca' Andrade. Andrade is a UFC veteran and has showed success at 135lbs as well, but she can make the cut and recently has had 3 wins at 115 lbs. She most recently fought for the strawweight championship losing a decision, and is looking to secure another shot at it. Claudia has had two shots at it herself, coming up short each time by decision. However after a quick submission win over #2 contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz, she makes a case for another shot with a win over Andrade. These are two very skilled strikers but both also possess advanced level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Claudia is a black belt and Andrade is a purple belt. This is an important fight and it will be interesting to see where it ends up.
In the main event, Ovince St. Preux will face off against Yushin Okami. Ovince has had success in the Light Heavyweight division, he's coming off of a win against Marcos Rogerio de Lima by submission, and he showed that he still has good ground work. He lost a decision to Volkan Oezemir, but was also knocked out by the man Oezdemir beat, so he is suspect on the feet. Yushin Okami has been out of the UFC since 2014, and had limited success at Middleweight. However he had TKO losses against the top contention. He's currently on a 4 fight win streak in other promotions and we will see how he does at 205 in his first fight back in the UFC. Both of these fighters rely on wrestling but both have chins that could be suspect so the outcome is up in the air. What the fight with Shogun was going to show was who was more able to keep contending in the UFC Light Heavyweight division. Now, we will see if OSP can keep up momentum with a win against another opponent, or if Okami can pull up an upset in his short-notice UFC return.