Four of Clay Guida’s last five fights have gone the distance. | Photo: Mike Fridley/Sherdog.com
Clay Guida admires the work of Tatsuya Kawajiri.
Guida will have to put those feelings aside, as he tackles the “Crusher” in the UFC Fight Night 40 co-main event on Friday at du Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. When the Ultimate Fighting Championship approached “The Carpenter” with Kawajiri as a potential opponent, the promotion did not have to wait long for his response.
“It’s an opportunity to fight one of the old Pride [Fighting Championships] vets,” Guida told Sherdog.com. “We jumped at the challenge. It was a great opportunity to get us to the next level in our career, to fight a guy that’s got some momentum. I’ve been watching him since the old days, when I was fighting at all the old bowling alleys and bingo halls in the Midwest.”
A longtime lightweight, Kawajiri has not lost since downshifting to 145 pounds in September 2011. The former Shooto champion made his Octagon debut at UFC Fight Night 34 in January, when he submitted the previously unbeaten Sean Soriano with a third-round rear-naked choke at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Kawajiri’s reputation as a hardcore fan favorite precedes him, along with a lengthy list of accomplishments, particularly in his native Japan.
“He’s a superhero out there,” Guida said. “He’s one of those guys that’s larger than life. He’s almost like a pro-wrestler out there. It doesn’t really shake me that he’s not as well-known in the States. He’s one of those guys that ... a real MMA fan knows who he is. Having a nickname [like] the ‘Crusher’ is pretty awesome. He’s fought the who’s who in Pride and in Dream and in Shooto. He’s been in all the organizations, and I’m going to welcome him to the UFC in not a warm way.”
Guida could use a victory. The 32-year-old Jackson-Wink MMA export has lost three times in his past four outings. He last competed at UFC 164 in August, when he succumbed to third-round punches from Team Alpha Male thoroughbred Chad Mendes at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Guida thinks he holds certain advantages over Kawajiri.
“I believe I have a more solid wrestling background than him,” he said. “He’s fought some very slick jiu-jitsu guys [and] he’s fought some strong wrestlers, but I believe [I have an edge] in the scrambles. I believe solid Midwest wrestling will stand the test against his more of a take-’em-down-get-on-top-ground-and-pound [style]. We’re going to kind of just roughhouse him a little bit, wear him down and then put him on his back. Then it’s still our game.”
John Howard has momentum on his side.
The man they call “Doomsday” will carry a four-fight winning streak into his welterweight showcase with unbeaten former Ring of Combat champion Ryan LaFlare at UFC Fight Night 40. The 31-year-old Wai Kru MMA representative last appeared at UFC 168 in December, when he recorded a unanimous decision over Afghan striker Siyar Bahadurzada at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
LaFlare, meanwhile, has rattled off three consecutive unanimous decisions victories -- he outpointed “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 winner Court McGee at UFC on Fox 9 in December -- since arriving in the Octagon a little more than a year ago. Howard likes what he sees in the well-rounded Lindenhurst, N.Y., native.
“I think he’s a good, up-and-coming fighter,” Howard said in his pre-fight interview with UFC.com. “The only thing he lacks is experience.”
THIS & THAT
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has beaten five former UFC champions: Mark Coleman, Ricco Rodriguez, Josh Barnett, Tim Sylvia and Randy Couture ... Onetime International Fight League titleholder Roy Nelson defeated Kevin Ferguson, Justin Wren, James McSweeney and Brendan Schaub to win Season 10 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Only Schaub remains on the active UFC roster ... Kings MMA lightweight Beneil Dariush has finished his past six opponents since touching off his professional mixed martial arts career with a split decision victory against Jordan Betts in November 2009. Betts had not fought before nor since ... Jared Rosholt was a four-time state wrestling champion at Ponca City High School in Oklahoma, where he compiled a 150-5 record before embarking on a stellar collegiate run at Oklahoma State University ... Rani Yahya is a two-time medalist at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships, having earned silver in 2005 and gold in 2007 ... When Thales Leites climbs into the cage to face Trevor Smith, 1,819 days will have passed since he challenged Anderson Silva for the middleweight crown at UFC 97 ... Jim Alers and Alan Omer have each held titles inside organizations in England, Alers with the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship and Omer with the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts ... UFC Fight Night 40 will be the 268th event staged in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.