Yuta Sasaki and Leandro Issa, two fighters based in Asia, will meet in Brazil on December 20, 2014 in UFC Fight Night 58: Machida vs Dolloway. Both fighters ride Octagon victories to the clash.
Yuta “Ulka” Sasaki is a Shooto Champion who hails by way of the Japanese megateam Wayjutsu Keishukai. He was heralded as the next big thing out of Japan following fellow Shootist Kyoji Horiguchi and was incredibly dominant against Roland Delorme in his debut with the UFC. He fulfilled his fast finisher reputation by latching onto and submitting Delorme in the early parts of the opening stanza, and claimed a $50,000 bonus for doing so.
Sasaki also benefits from having Kenichi Serizawa, one of Japan’s longest working and most prolific referees, as his coach. Serizawa has seen everything in the game, and Ulka is adept at picking up everything he has to share. Sasaki is game both standing and on the ground, but in order to get some of his finishes, he’s put himself in some adverse situations in which most might think he’s lucky to come out of. This is not a strategy, as Ulka explained in our recent interview with him, but opportunities he sees during the fight and goes for. In other words, he’s adaptable.
Leandro “Brodinho” Issa is a phenomenal grappler from Singapore’s behemoth Evolve MMA who has made himself a stellar grappling figure in Southeast Asia for the last seven years. Issa finished a ONE FC contract and landed a spot on the UFC’s first Singapore card to make his highly anticipated debut.
While Issa failed to pull off a win in his debut effort, he made his sophomore appearance a memorable one by completely outclassing China’s standout Jumabieke Tuerxun in all areas. Issa brought back his prospect status with the performance, and earned his own $50,000 bonus as well.
In this fight, Sasaki will have the reach and the puncher’s power. Issa’s stand up will be strong from his team’s training, but it’s not his forte. Conversely, Sasaki has shown he is not afraid to grapple but has faced no one with a grappling pedigree near to Issa’s. Sasaki would be best to use the strengths he has that are a given – his reach and shoot defense – and keep this a technical game to preserve his UFC future.
Issa would do best to use his superior grappling acumen. Ulka has the ability to handle shoots and take the back, so Issa shouldn’t play that game. He should be tricky and think in the gi. We don’t quite know Ulka’s vulnerabilities so Issa should seek to exploit what hasn’t been shown. Issa should watch out for Ulka’s hands and find creative takedowns and only land in a position to be on top and able to star out of or work for a finish.
Given the history the two of these guys have shared in Asia, it’s a bit depressing to have them face off against each other in Brazil in their nascent UFC careers. However, since it’s a fight, both men will go into it gamely. It will be most spectacular if we can see a high level Octagon grappling match out of these two. Otherwise, Ulka has the puncher’s chance.