The UFC’s latest trip to Japan will bring back some nostalgia for old fans of Japanese MMA promotions. The card will start at 12:30am ET, as so many PRIDE and DREAM shows used to. The fighters should provide a good deal of memories as well, with PRIDE veterans like Mark Hunt and Takanori Gomi in key fights. Yoshihiro Akiyama also makes his return to the Octagon, and the singer/fighter always brings a great deal of publicity with him in the Far East. The main event bout between Mark Hunt and Roy Nelson has had a line released for about a month, and it has stayed relatively steady. Hunt currently sits as a -150 favorite (bet $150 to win $100) with the comeback on Nelson at +130 (bet $100 to win $130). The line reflects how difficult it is to pick between these two durable sluggers who have physiques you could find in your local Wal-Mart. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the remaining betting lines for UFC Fight Night 52 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Take a look: ——————– MAIN CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 3:30am ET) Mark Hunt -140 Roy Nelson +100 Myles Jury -405 Takanori Gomi +285 Yoshihiro Akiyama -185 Amir Sadollah +145 Miesha Tate -280 Rin Nakai +200 Kiichi Kunimoto -210 Richard Walsh +160 Kyoji Horiguchi -555 Jon de los Reyes +365 ——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 12:30am ET) Alex Caceres -245 Masanori Kanehara +175 Katsunori Kikuno -190 Sam Sicilia +150 Hyun Gyu Lim -705 Takenori Sato +435 Michinori Tanaka -150 Kyung Ho Kang +110 Johnny Case -125 Kazuki Tokudome -115 Maximo Blanco -215 Daniel Hooker +165 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: I make no bones about being a big fan of Japanese MMA, some of my favorite fighters all time have come from the land of the rising sun, and something about the style of fighter’s Japan produces is just a treat to watch. However, that hasn’t always translated to success on the global scene, as very few Japanese fighters have earned major titles in the MMA world. It will be interesting to see how the new breed of Japanese fighter like Kyoji Horiguchi and Michinori Tanaka continue to progress. In the co-main event, Joe Silva’s perverse desire to have hometown fighters beaten in front of their local crowds shines through. We saw it a bit in Brazil last weekend, and it’s hard to see how Myles Jury doesn’t put together a stifling performance against Takanori Gomi. It would be fantastic to see Gomi put on a vintage performance, but more likely we’ll see that Jury is too quick and too technical for a faded Gomi. Even for those whose hearts tell them to bet Gomi, that’s probably not a great idea here, but I’m not as high on Jury’s long-term potential as some. Neither of these men has fought in about two years, and Sadollah is now 34 while Akiyama is 39. It’s really hard to gauge how either man will look, but judging by past performances I favor Akiyama. He’s the more powerful of these two men, and he also possesses the better wrestling game due to his judo. Coupled with the fact that Akiyama has been in the cage with a higher caliber of fighter (albeit with mixed success) and I think he takes the decision over Sadollah despite the factors going against him. I do expect this will hit the scorecards however, as both men have proven fairly durable in the past, but still don’t feel particularly comfortable betting that outcome given their respective ages and layoffs. Rin Nakai has a nice glossy record, but she hasn’t faced nearly the competition that Miesha Tate has gone up against. With Nakai being a fighter who relies on her grappling, I think she’ll finally pick up her first loss against a better overall wrestler and submission artist. Nakai has faced a lot of undersized fighters in Japan, so I think the fact that Tate will be bigger than her could create some issues. Tate has shown cardio issues in the past however, so it’s not a 100% confident pick in the former title challenger, but if the undefeated hype brings the line down too far I can see Tate being worth a play. Kiichi Kunimoto was impressive in dispatching Daniel Sarafian, and he has an impressive grappling game. Richard Walsh on the other hand hasn’t impressed me with much. Outmuscling a vastly undersized and under-talented Chris Indich just doesn’t convince me that Walsh is ready to head into Japan against a solid fighter and pick up the win. I think Kunimoto manages to get inside on Walsh, take him down and find a quick submission to move to 3-0 in his UFC career. It’s tough to bet Kunimoto because he’s not great on the feet and if Walsh is able to strand him there we may see an upset, but I think he gets it done for the home fans more often than not. Kyoji Horiguchi seems like the best Japanese hope to win a UFC title, as the flyweight has huge power, solid wrestling and pretty good all-around defense. Jon de los Reyes is better fighter than people give him credit for, especially offensively, but his defensive liabilities will leave him too open to Horiguchi’s dynamic offensive attack. It’s one of many long lines on this card, and hard to play because of that, but I fully expect Horiguchi to keep climbing the 125lb ladder. Masanori Kanehara is a very solid fighter who probably would have been better served if he came to the UFC five years ago. He’s only 31 years old, but his career has spanned over ten years, and he was never the most durable fighter to begin with. His most recent loss came via disqualification, but the three prior to that were all T/KOs of varying brutality (the Marlon Sandro one being the worst). Alex Caceres doesn’t necessarily have the power to exploit that weakness, but he should be able to use his striking to control the striking exchanges and he’s the superior fighter in scrambles. I don’t think Caceres finds the finish, but I think he takes a relatively comfortable decision in a competitive bout. Katsunori Kikuno dropping to 145 is a sign of Japanese fighters getting with the times, as the 32-year-old finally drops to a better weight class for him. Kikuno was tiny compared to Tony Ferguson, but still has excellent striking skills and solid takedown defense. Against Sicilia, the karateka should be able to pick his spots and keep the fight standing, where we’ve seen Sicilia hurt by every quality striker he’s faced in the past. Takenori Sato really never should have made it to the UFC, and I imagine once he gets knocked out by Hyun Gyu Lim he’ll get his walking papers. Hard to lay -700 on a fighter who can gas like Lim does, but it’s even harder to justify taking a shot on Sato. Tanaka/Kang is awesome, and probably the frontrunner for ‘Fight of the Night’ outside of the main event. Both fighters are excellents grapplers, and while Kang is physically bigger and likely stronger, Tanaka is faster in scrambles and extremely adept at getting top position. I do slightly favor Tanaka to win, but he puts himself in a lot of bad positions, and if Kang is able to take the back and hold onto it I wouldn’t be too surprised. I would expect the over 2.5 to be the safest route here. I really don’t know how Johnny Case is in the UFC. He’s got some skill, but he clearly lost his last bout to anyone who was watching, and hasn’t fought in nearly a year. He’s actually got a pretty decent style matchup in the defensively non-existent Kazuki Tokudome. I do slightly lean to Tokudome because somehow his chin manages to hold up despite getting hit with every punch thrown at him, and Case struggles with his takedown defense, but I’ll be passing this bout as I can definitely see Case winning a decision or getting a stoppage. Here’s the formula to 95% of Maximo Blanco fights. He’s the better wrestler. He’s the better striker. He’s the more dangerous overall fighter and should win, but he’s also incredibly dumb in the cage from a tactical and decision-making perspective. Daniel Hooker seemed to make some good strides before his UFC debut, but Ian Entwistle is a very one-dimensional fighter and Hooker benefited from Entwistle having nothing for him beyond an early submission attempt. It’s always hard to bank on Blanco doing anything smart, but he does have advantages in many areas here, so he’s the pick, although I may just fade his stupidity and throw Hooker in a round robin.
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