UFC on FUEL TV 6: Preview and Predictions
By Tom Taylor
In recent years, we’ve seen the UFC hold shows in Brazil, Japan, and Sweden as they continue their global expansion and assert themselves as the one true superpower in the mixed martial arts industry. This weekend, the UFC will continue its world-domination as it touches down on Chinese soil for the first time ever, for UFC on Fuel TV 6, in the special administrative region of Macau. The event will be headlined by a high-stakes middleweight matchup between former champion Rich Franklin and dynamic striker Cung Le. In the co-main event, a man who was once talked about as a legitimate title challenger, Thiago Silva, will look to return to his winning ways as he takes on the undefeated Stanislav Nedkov. Beyond the main and co-main events, the main card of UFC on Fuel TV 6 will showcase four other appealing fights throughout a breadth of weight classes.
This is a card that will answer many questions, and may provide us with some significant upsets. When things get underway in Macau this Saturday, here is what we might expect from the main card.
Jon “Super Saiyan” Tuck (6-0) vs. Zhang “the Mongolian Wolf” Tiequan (15-3-0)
The main card of UFC on Fuel TV 6 will be kicked off by an interesting featherweight matchup between undefeated prospect Jon Tuck, and Zhang Tiequan (often anglicized to Tiequan Zhang), who is in dire need of a win. Zhang has seen only two wins in his five-fight-tenure as a fighter in Zuffa-owned promotions, and it is unlikely that he will still have a job if he loses this fight. Unfortunately for him, his opponent, Tuck, has been on a tear that is impossible to ignore, having finished all six of his opponents, including ONE FC stalwart Eduard Folayang, whom he pummeled into unconsciousness.
Tuck’s recent dominance, coupled with Zhang’s recent skid, undoubtedly equate to a tough night for the Mongolian Wolf. Still, a fight with Zhang is far from a walk in the park. Sure, he was leveled by Issei Tamura in his last fight at UFC 144, but his chin should not yet be compared to glass, and his ground game deserves ample respect. Expect him to give Tuck a tough fight, especially given that this fight will unfold on his home turf.
Tuck, who has shown he is more than capable on the ground by finishing three of his fights via submission, will undoubtedly hold an advantage on the feet, and will likely aim to keep the fight upright. And while he has fallen on hard times lately, Zhang is a wily veteran who has lost only thrice in his 18 fight career. He may find himself on the receiving end of some big punches, but his experience will keep him afloat. Look for Zhang to hang in there on the feet with his young opponent, while he mixes in takedowns and hunts for his 13th career submission win. Tuck is an exciting young prospect, and will likely fend off Zhang’s submission attempts, but his recent streak will hit a road block as Zhang controls the fight over the course of its three rounds.
The Pick: Zhang Tiequan, who will be a valuable tool as the UFC continues its expansion into China, wins the fight by a close decision.
Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres (7-5) vs. Motonobu Tezuka (19-4-4)
Initially, Caceres was expected to face highly regarded Korean bantamweight Kyung Ho Kang, but an injury forced the Road FC champion from his UFC debut, so we’ll have to wait to watch his entrance onto the sport’s biggest stage. It’s not all bad news, however, as UFC matchmaker Joe Silva pulled a rabbit from his hat and provided Caceres with a legitimate opponent less than two weeks before fight night. Now, instead of Kang, Caceres will lock horns with Pancrase veteran, Motonobu Tezuka.
This fight will mark Caceres’s second as a bantamweight, but if his first (a second-round submission of Damacio Page) is any indication, this is the weight class for him. Tezuka, on the other hand, is the more experienced of the two fighters, and will be fighting much closer to home. Still, Tezuka will lack the advantage of having competed in the UFC before, and, with very little time to prepare; he will have his work cut out for him in this fight.
Caceres’s record might not be the most impressive when it comes to his win-loss ratio, but he has finished all but one of the fights he has won. Tezuka, on the other hand, has won the large majority of his fights by decision. We can therefore expect Caceres to be the more aggressive of the two fighters when the fight is waved on. Expect him to put his long reach to good use immediately, as he pumps his jab and looks to chop his opponent down with kicks to the legs and body. Tezuka will look to close the distance and tie Caceres up, but Caceres will prove apt at circling out of danger, and punishing his opponent from a distance.
Eventually, look for this fight to hit the ground, as both men are talented there, and neither will be afraid to engage the other in this area. When this happens, Caceres’s ability to tangle his opponents in his long limbs will give him a crucial advantage. When the two men start scrambling for position at the speed characteristic of the lower weight classes, it will only be a matter of time before Caceres finds his target in Tezuka’s neck or arm.
The Pick: Caceres continues his winning ways as a bantamweight as he locks up another triangle choke in the first round.
Takanori “The Fireball Kid” Gomi (33-8) vs. Mac Danzig (21-9)
Takanori Gomi has not lived up to the hype that followed him into the UFC. Once a force in the now defunct PRIDE, Gomi has lost to Kenny Florian, Clay Guida and Nate Diaz since entering the promotion. While he will enter this fight with a win over Eiji Mitsuoka in his wake, he, like many others on this card, needs a win in order to stay relevant. His opponent, Mac Danzig, is in a similar boat. Danzig’s last three fights have been impressive, as he bested Joe Stevenson and Efrain Escudero, and lost a very close fight to Matt Wiman in between. Still, if Danzig wants to crest the upper echelon of the lightweight division, he needs a win badly, and if he loses, it is unlikely that he will ever break the uppermost ranks of the division.
Danzig’s plan in this fight shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. Sure, he demonstrated some serious power when he knocked out Joe Stevenson at UFC 124, but there are still very few lightweights who would risk standing with Gomi. Given Danzig’s proficiency as a wrestler, and Gomi’s long-time trouble with grappling, it is even more likely that Danzig will attempt to bring this fight to the canvas. And when he tries, he will succeed.
Look for Danzig to establish himself early with repeated takedowns and a stifling top game. Despite the handful of submission losses on Gomi’s record, however, look for the Japanese veteran to defend capably in the face of Danzig’s grappling-based aggression.
While all signs point to a Danzig decision at the end of the second round, as Danzig imposes his will, and Gomi doesn’t do much other than hang on, expect a shakeup. Every round starts on the feet and this fact will be Gomi’s saving grace. When Danzig shoots in on Gomi, look for Gomi to catch him with an uppercut, and send him careening to the floor. From there, Gomi will secure a fairly miraculous win with follow up punches.
The Pick: Takanori Gomi, although he is probably nearing the end of his career, adds another knockout win to his resume and puts Danzig away with a come-from-behind third-round TKO.
“Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim (15-2-1) vs. Paulo Thiago (14-4)
While both Dong Hyun Kim and Paulo Thiago have fallen into the roughest patches of their respective careers, there is no denying that both men are still immensely talented and legitimate threats to most fighters in the welterweight division. While they’re both shadows of the fighter’s they once appeared to be, their talent and respective strengths should make this a very entertaining fight.
Kim will enter this fight with two losses in his last three fights. While one of them (which was due to an unfortunate rib injury he sustained in his fight against Demian Maia at UFC 148) is hard to hold against him, the fact is that Kim has some work to do if he wants to return to the higher-end of the welterweight division. The same can be said for his opponent. Thiago has lost three of his last four fights, falling to Martin Kampann, Diego Sanchez, and Siyar Bahadurzada, and winning only against David Mitchell. He has tumbled some distance from the position he earned himself by knocking out Josh Koscheck in his UFC debut, and needs a win if he ever hopes to see top-level competition again.
Kim, who is one of the most physically imposing fighters at welterweight, will make this difficult for Thiago. Thiago proved he has some nasty power when he turned Koscheck’s lights out with a single punch at UFC 95, and we know his jiu jitsu is extremely sharp, but Kim appears to have more weapons heading into this fight. Aside from the strength advantage he will surely have, Kim will also have a reach advantage, and is an extremely talented Judoka with a stifling top game. Throw in the fact that he has never been submitted, and has been knocked out only once, and things begin to look rough for his Brazilian opponent.
When this fight begins, look for Thiago to press the action early, desperate for a win, as he begins to fling bombs in the direction of Kim’s chin. Provided Kim doesn’t have his bell rung in the opening seconds of the fight, though, he should be able to impose his own strategy in spite of Thiago’s pressure. Expect Kim to use jabs and leg kicks to keep his opponent at range until he feels comfortable wading in and resorting to his judo. Kim’s strength should allow him to muscle Thiago against the cage until he sees the chance to slam him to the mat.
When this fight does hit the ground, brace yourself for some intensity, as Thiago hunts for chokes and Kim looks to stretch him out and reign down the ground-and-pound. Neither man is going to go easily in this fight, but eventually, the relentless pressure with which Kim blankets Thiago on the mat will allow him to find his groove. The flight from Brazil to China is a long one, especially for a part-time fighter like Thiago. Kim, on the other hand, will be a relative stone’s throw from his homeland, and will look fresh even after the intensity of the fight’s opening rounds. In the end, expect him to put on a performance that is reflective of his win over Nate Diaz at UFC 125, as he grinds Thiago into powder for three rounds.
The Pick: Kim scores a significant win on his home continent, beating Paulo Thiago by unanimous decision.
Thiago Silva (14-3) vs. Stanislav Nedkov (12-0)
Bulgarian national wrestling champ and Jiu Jitsu black belt Stanislav Nedkov will face the starkest test of his career in Macau when he enters the octagon with one of the most intimidating fighters at light heavyweight, Thiago Silva.
In Silva’s last fight, he lost a unanimous decision to rising Swedish prospect Alexander Gustafsson. The loss marked Silva’s third in five fights, and a further descent down the light-heavyweight pecking order. Once upon a time, however, Silva was talked about in the same light as his former opponent Gustafsson now is, and was considered a talented prospect. He even worked his way into a number-one-contender fight with Lyoto Machida, although he came up short. Since his loss to Machida, the ferocious beatings Silva used to dole out have been replaced by showings that are tepid at best. He has subsequently settled into gatekeeper status, a role he is surely unhappy with.
Against an opponent like Nedkov, who despite being a talented grappler, seems to be content to scrap it out with his opponents, Silva will have the opportunity to put on a vintage performance and thrust himself back in the direction of title contention. In Nedkov’s last fight, he knocked out Luiz Cane out in the first round by drawing him into a firefight, and then putting him away with a storm of punches against the fence. Silva will be content to figure things out on the feet with Nedkov, but will prove far more dangerous in this department than Cane was.
Both men know their way around a knockout win, but the striking advantage has to be awarded to Silva. Nedkov’s willingness to bang it out, then, will play directly into Silva’s strengths. Look for the two men to begin chucking leather early, as Nedkov pushes ahead and Silva fires back with stiff punches.
Silva’s octagon experience and comfort on the feet will allow him to capitalize on every mistake Nedkov makes, and eventually, he’ll plant a bomb on his Bulgarian opponent’s chin. Nedkov showed a good chin in absorbing some big shots from Cane in his last fight, but Silva has a near-criminal killer instinct, and when he smells blood, he won’t let the opportunity slip away. Nedkov will attempt to escape the situation with takedowns, but Silva will forbid him from doing so, and leave him supine on the mat with a shower of strikes.
The Pick: Thiago Silva reminds people why he was once so highly regarded with a violent second-round knockout.
Rich “Ace” Franklin (29-6) vs Cung Le (8-2)
UFC on Fuel TV is anchored by a middleweight scrap between former middleweight champion Rich Franklin and martial artist-turned-movie-star, Cung Le. In terms of star power, this might be the biggest fight that Fuel TV has ever shown.
Both Franklin and Le will carry wins into this fight, over Wanderlei Silva and Patrick Cote respectively. Neither was especially impressive in those wins, however, as Franklin was nearly stopped by Silva at one point in his fight, and Le coasted to a dominant, yet unspectacular decision over Cote.
Franklin, whose career is gradually winding down, has expressed his desire to make one final title run at middleweight, and a win over Le would certainly be a valuable step towards doing so. Le, who has been hot and cold throughout his career, and currently sits at 1-1 in the UFC, has been made busy by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, as his movie The Man with the Iron Fists is currently in theatres. It will be interesting to see how his moonlighting as an actor will affect his performance against an opponent as experienced as Franklin. In addition, cardio has always been an issue for Le, and any deficiencies he has in this department will be easily exposed by Franklin, who has gone five rounds before.
Still, Le cannot be counted out. As one of the most entertaining and deadly strikers in MMA today, he has a stunning array of weapons with which to end a fight on a moment’s notice. We’ve seen him end fights with body shots before, such as his win over Scott Smith in Strikeforce, and he certainly has power in his hands. Given this, Franklin will need to be especially cautious when striking with his opponent. This is not to discount Franklin’s striking capabilities, just to say that he will need to be careful to stay out of range of Le’s artillery. When it comes to grappling, Franklin’s experience should give him an advantage, but Le has showed impressive takedown defense, stopping 89 percent of takedowns that have been attempted on him in the past.
When Franklin and Le begin their main-even tilt in Macau, we can probably expect several rounds of action before the fight ends. Franklin’s high fight IQ will make him hesitant to engage Le too aggressively, and his well-known grittiness should carry him through any early attacks that Le dishes out, of which there will likely be several. We saw Franklin survive a variable meteor shower of punches in his last fight against Wanderlei Silva, and even against today’s watered-down version of Silva, that’s saying something. Le himself, after all, couldn’t seem to withstand the level of violence that Silva dished out when they fought at UFC 139. Look for Le to punish Franklin with spinning kicks and punches to the body early on, and crack him in the head any time he drops his hands to cover his body. Franklin will hang on though, until his opponent’s cardio begins to fade, at which point he will work tight punches in the clinch to soften Le up. Eventually, Franklin will be able to drag Le to the floor and start pummeling him with big, ugly shots until the referee steps in.
The Pick: Whether Franklin’s desire for a final middleweight title run comes true remains to be seen, but he gets his foot in the door with a third-round TKO over Cung Le in Macau.