These five fights kick off UFC 144 from Japan. The first will air on Facebook, while the remaining four will air on FX. The main card is a pay per view four hour event that is covered in Parts 1 & 2 of my betting preview for this event.
Betting Odds from Bovada.lv
Zhang “The Mongolian Wolf” Tiequan (-285) vs. Issel Tamura (+225)
This fight will air on Facebook. Quan Zhang is a guy who basically does one thing well: guillotine choke. It’s not the mark of a developed fighter and it sure isn’t the result of hours spent practicing JJ. It can’t be done standing up, and if he can’t land his precious choke, he usually loses.
The fact that such a fighter can be considered a heavy favorite must only say that Tamura is pretty awful, and he seems to be a wrestler, with pretty basic boxing skills. Like Tiequan he isn’t a very versatile fighter, but he’s got more to offer than the favored Tiequan. I guess MMA oddsmakers just must have looked at records.
Tayeka Mizugaki (-200) vs. Chris “Kamikaze” Cariaso
Cariaso is 2-1 in the UFC and he beat Will Campuzano with ease, while arguably outstrking Michael MacDonald, but he lost a split decision. He won a split over Vaughan Lee, in a fight he easily could have lost.
Sadly, I guess, this one will likely be another split decision. Mizugaki is favored in what will likely be a striking battle. Cariaso is just tough to gauge really and if he fights his best, it’s his fight to lose. I know that sounds like an over simplification of sorts, but the difference between his worst fighting and his best is more severe than most.
Riki Fukuda (-300) vs. Steve “The Robot” Cantwell (+230)
Fufuda debuted at UFC 127 against Nick Ring. He looked better as the night went on and his wrestling was impressive. He lost in decision somewhat unfairly, and has had a full year to stew about it now.
Cantwell has lost his last four fights, which doesn’t happen all that often, but the UFC is giving him one last chance because of the problems he’s had outside the cage. He’s a very active striker and won in TKO over Brian Stann. His submission skills are there, and he has won three fights by armbar and one by rear-naked choke. His striking defense could use some work, to say the least…Cyrille Diabate beat him up like a punching bag, because he just couldn’t get his hands in the right place at the right time.
Because the favored Fukuda is a better striker and wrestler, it’s hard to give Cantwell much of a chance here, and he’s likely going to have to retire either after this fight or very soon.
Takanori “The Fireball Kid” Gomi (-225) vs. Eiji Mitsuoka (+175)
Gomi is another Japanese fighter who fizzled in the UFC. He hasn’t been winning regularly since 2006 and he lost to Marcus Aurelio, then barely beat him in a rematch, and then lost to Nick Diaz in a result that was overturned (giving him a cheap victory), and he also lost to Sergey Golyaev, Saturu Kitaoka, Kenny Florian, Clay Guida, and Nate Diaz. He’s a good knockout fighter, but little more right now, and he’s seen his best days.
Mitsuoka has had some success in his career, and beat Joachim Hansen, Rodrigo Damm, and Clay French. All three of those fighters have had good careers and are not easy to beat, so Mitsuoka must be taken seriously in this fight. He has landed 31 significant strikes in his last 34 minutes of fighting, while allowing only 22 to connect hon him. He still wants to get Gomi to the ground.
But Gomi isn’t easy to get down, and that is why he is favored. Gomi has a great chance of knocking out Mitsuoka if he waits for the right chance.
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (-325) vs. Vaughan Lee (+250)
Yamamoto faced Darren Uyenoyama in a prelim of the UFC on Fox event we covered here at Maddux Sports. We didn’t like his chances at the time, but he did the unthinkable and beat Uyenoyama convincingly by getting him to the ground. Yamamoto is now perilously close to falling out of the UFC, though at one time it didn’t appear it would ever come down to that.
Vaughan Lee had a nice fight against Chris Cariaso but he still doesn’t seem to have any legitimate specialities as a fighter. He lost his fight to Cariaso by split decision, but his top two wins were over very average fighters in Antana Jazbuits (6-5) and Mark Chen (7-6). It makes sense to go with Yamamoto because he should have a goods hot at a knockout, and if he doesn’t a split decision win is likely over Lee.