Kyoji Horiguchi has won his last six fights, finishing four of them. | Photo:Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight division is arguably the promotion’s fastest growing category, as evidenced by the organization’s continual acquisition of elite 125-pounders.
Kyoji Horiguchi and Darrell Montague are two such acquisitions, and these two game flyweight talents will lock horns at Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena on Saturday to highlight a dense UFC Fight Night “Brown vs. Silva” undercard.
In Horiguchi, some may see the second coming of iconic Japanese talent Norifumi Yamamoto, and “Kid’s” Krazy Bee stablemate appears to possess all the tools necessary to become one of the UFC’s finest flyweights. The 23-year-old made his Octagon debut as Shooto’s reigning 132-pound titlist in October, running through the much larger Dustin Pague at UFC 166.
Horiguchi will now drop to 125 pounds, likely a smart choice considering some of the monsters that make their living in the UFC bantamweight division. However, Horiguchi has drawn no gimme in his sophomore Octagon outing, as he must now contend with Montague, a former Tachi Palace Fights champion and a bright prospect in his own right.
“The Mongoose” saw a four-fight winning streak abruptly halted by former UFC title challenger John Dodson in his promotional debut, but there is little shame in getting caught by “The Magician.” Just ask T.J. Dillashaw, who saw his first UFC appearance spoiled by Dodson but will soon challenge Renan Barao for the bantamweight title following a string of impressive performances.
Watching these two highly regarded prospects is only one reason to check out the UFC Fight Night “Brown vs. Silva” prelims. Here are four more:
WINELAND’S WINDING ROAD
It was not so long ago that Eddie Wineland was staring across the cage from Barao, and I would not be shocked if he earned himself another title shot before all is said and done.
For whatever reason, people seem reluctant to give the ex-World Extreme Cagefighting champ his due, but he is absolutely one of the world’s best at 135 pounds. His striking may be a little unorthodox and, at times, even dangerous given his apparent disregard for well-established fundamentals like keeping one’s hands up and chin down, but no one could argue with his results.
Wineland has gone 3-1 in his last four outings, with his lone loss coming to Barao in his failed title bid. The veteran outpointed Brad Pickett and nuked Scott Jorgensen and Yves Jabouin -- victories that are deserving of both your attention and respect. Wineland will now do battle with Johnny Eduardo, a 35-fight pro looking for his second UFC win.
Can the 29-year-old American overcome the similarly experienced Brazilian and take another step back up the ladder?
Manny Gamburyan’s clash with Nik Lentz is one that could have some serious implications for the ever-improving featherweight division. Though both men are coming off less-than-desirable results, this is nevertheless a battle between two of the UFC’s most established 145-pounders.
Much like Wineland’s loss to Barao, Lentz’s December setback at the hands of Chad Mendes should be no cause for concern. After all, that defeat halted a three-fight winning streak for “The Carny,” and Lentz had, up until that point, handled his business quite nicely since as a featherweight.
Gamburyan, meanwhile, rebounded from a three-fight skid to earn back-to-back wins over Michihiro Omigawa and Cole Miller, though that latter result was certainly a controversial one. The former WEC title challenger faced more adversity in his last outing, when he was outpointed by an hCG-enhanced Dennis Siver. However, since Siver’s drug test was flagged, that decision was changed to a no-contest.
Neither Gamburyan nor Lentz can really afford a defeat given the competitive waters in which they are swimming. Which featherweight will rise to the occasion and which man will be forced to take a step backward?
CABRAL VS. CUMMINGS
Yan Cabral and Zak Cummings both interest me as UFC welterweights, but I am not sure how either man will fare against some of the division’s better talent.
I think this is a well-made match that should tell us quite a bit about both men, provided Cummings avoids whatever mistakes he made during the failed weight cut that caused his planned March showdown with Alberto Mina to be canceled.
Cabral is a potent grappler, to be sure, but he has fought only once in the last two and a half years, tapping David Mitchell in October. Cummings, meanwhile, last competed in August due to his aforementioned slip in making weight, tapping out Ben Alloway in the first round.
While both men were dominant in their most recent outings, it is too early to tell whether such results should be interpreted as signs of things to come. Their bout should present us with a clearer picture.
Ben Wall and Albert Tumenov are worth keeping an eye on, despite the fact that they suffered setbacks in their UFC debuts.
In Wall’s case, he stepped up on short to face the explosive Alex Garcia -- a decision for which he could hardly be faulted, despite his night ending in just 43 seconds. Tumenov’s debut lasted considerably longer, as the 22-year-old Russian relinquished a split decision to Ildemar Alcantara in February, the result snapping an eight-fight winning streak for “Einstein.”
Things will not get any easier for these young bucks when they climb in the cage with Justin Salas and Anthony Lapsley, respectively, during the Fight Pass portion of the undercard. Will one or both of these prospects make a statement against more established foes?