Riki Fukuda has yet to win back-to-back fights in the UFC. | Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog.com
The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to the Land of the Rising Sun this Saturday in a trip that Japanese mixed martial arts fans undoubtedly hope will be more “Seven Samurai” than “Sword of Doom.”
UFC on Fuel TV 8 takes place at the hallowed Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, and is headlined by a light heavyweight showdown between Wanderlei Silva and Brian Stann. I like to imagine that “The Axe Murderer” has been prepping for this fight by obsessively playing as himself in the Pride Fighting Championships mode of “UFC Undisputed 3.” Something tells me virtual Quinton Jackson was probably having a bad time in my imaginary Silva training montage.
The Brazilian bomber has not competed on Japanese soil in more than six years; that alone should be enough to make fans flip to Fuel TV to catch the main draw. Before the televised festivities kick off, however, the preliminary proceedings stream live on Facebook.
Here are five reasons to fire up that Internet connection and whet your appetite with the UFC on Fuel TV 8 undercard:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC on Fuel TV 8 Free Fan Pick’Em
It is difficult to know exactly how to feel about Riki Fukuda.
At times, the former Deep champion has looked like he was on the verge of really stepping up his game and making a run in the UFC’s middleweight division. In other instances, he has looked like a middle-of-the-packer with few elite aspects to his game.
With that said, Fukuda’s most recent performance was arguably his best, as the Killer Bee representative showed a varied and effective striking attack against jiu-jitsu black belt Tom DeBlass while mixing in takedown attempts to keep the ex-Ring of Combat champion on his heels.
Will Fukuda build on that performance and post back-to-back wins for the first time in his Octagon career or will young gun Brad Tavares prove to be too much for him?
Much like his opponent, Tavares has shown flashes of excellence betwixt periods rife with non-compelling mediocrity.
While his comeback knockout against Phil Baroni was thoroughly exciting, it did come against Baroni, a man whose best days are most likely in the rear-view mirror. A defeat to hard-nosed wrestler Aaron Simpson followed, but Tavares then responded with a pair of solid performances against Dongi Yang and Tom Watson. These men are not world-beaters, but they also are by no means tomato cans.
I do not feel like Tavares has found his identity as a fighter. He is young, athletic, well-rounded and holds a wealth of potential, and I think a victory over another solid test in Fukuda could tell us a great deal about where Tavares might land on the middleweight landscape in years to come.
Carried Away with Caraway
I think Bryan Caraway’s last victory went a long way toward distancing the bantamweight from being known only as Mr. Miesha Tate.
The former featherweight performed like a true professional in his 135-pound debut, weathering dangerous bursts of offense from athletic Canadian Mitch Gagnon in the first and second rounds before dragging his fatigued opponent to the floor in the third stanza and strangling him with a rear-naked choke.
Caraway is not the biggest or strongest guy at 135 pounds, but I think he is nevertheless much better suited for the weight class than he was for featherweight. He has less to worry about in the way of heavy hitters in his new division, and I think he could make a nice little run if he plays his cards right. His next step on that path will come against the talented but inconsistent Takeya Mizugaki.
Can Caraway take the Japanese talent off his feet and put him in trouble on the floor?
Look at ‘Leeroy’
I want to see Alex Caceres star in a remake of “Black Belt Jones.” Is that weird?
Like Caraway, the man known as “Bruce Leeroy” has looked sharp since making the cut to 135 pounds and would currently be riding a wave of four consecutive wins were it not for a two-point deduction due to accidental groin strikes in his battle with Edwin Figueroa.
Caceres is an exciting prospect at bantamweight for a whole fistful of reasons. For one, his style is unique, which counts for a ton in my book. I love that this guy will toss out unorthodox techniques from angles his opponents are not expecting, and I am equally wooed by his aggression off his back. Take this beanpole down at your own risk because a series of armbar, triangle and omoplata attempts are surely coming your way not long after his spine touches the canvas.
I never, ever thought I would say this when Caceres was screwing around as a lightweight on Season 12 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” but with a few more quality wins, the 24-year-old could find his name on Sherdog’s contenders list, provided, of course, that Caceres gets past Road Fighting Championship titleholder Kyung Ho Kang.
Cristiano Marcello is running out of time.
Though the 35-year-old began his in-ring career back in 1997, he is still probably best known for a backstage altercation at Pride Shockwave 2005, during which he slapped a triangle choke on everybody’s favorite on-again, off-again convict, Charles Bennett.
The onetime Chute Boxe jiu-jitsu coach made his UFC debut as a member of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15, falling by knockout to brawler Sam Sicilia at the live season finale in June. Marcello rebounded from the defeat, however, notching a hard-fought but widely disputed split decision win over Iranian-born Swede Reza Madadi.
Marcello’s ground game is obviously excellent, but the Brazilian showed a disconcerting willingness to brawl in his first two Octagon appearances. If the lightweight hopes to notch a few more win bonuses in what could be the last act of a long career, he should stick to his bread-and-butter against Pancrase import Kazuki Tokudome.