At UFC Fight Night 52 on September 20, 2014, a young and hungry Michinori Tanaka (10-0) will be taking his undefeated record into competition against the gritty and tough Kang Kyung Ho (12-7-1).
Tanaka, a Japanese prospect, has been unstoppable since turning pro about five years ago. In 2011, he was crowned the 132lb Rookie Champion of Shooto at the young age of 21. Then, less than two years later he defeated Crisanto Pitpitunge to capture the PXC Bantamweight title. After successfully defending the belt one time, the UFC came a-calling.
The 23-year old Japanese fighter had his most impressive performance against Russell Doane at PXC 34. Even though Doane was more experience and touted, Tanaka dominated him on the ground showing great control, eventually finishing him with a rear-naked choke in the third.
However, in his UFC debut against Roland Delorme, Tanaka showed weaknesses in his stand up game by being knocked down with a right hand. Then, despite Delorme getting top position, Tanaka was able to reverse and control the rest of the round. The remainder of the fight was the same as Tanaka took Delorme to the ground and peppered him with short strikes. It ended with the young Japanese fighter getting a unanimous nod.
Kang Kyung Ho, Team M.A.D. member, will be fighting for the fourth time in the UFC this weekend. He has experienced a lot of different scenarios in his previous outings but one thing is for sure: he is tough as nails.
In his first appearance for the UFC, he faced Alex Caceres, currently ranked #10 in the bantamweight rankings. It was a back and forth affair with neither fighter getting an edge on the other. Many publications saw Kang taking the decision with takedowns and ground control but the judges saw it differently and awarded Caceres the split. Later on, this was overturned to a No Contest because Caceres tested positive for marijuana.
Next the South Korean went up against Chico Camus at UFC 164. This fight was pretty much the same as his debut. Kang started strong and then faded in the last round. The end result was a Unanimous Decision in favor of Camus.
His most previous fight happened at UFC Fight Night 34 in Singapore last January. A much bigger Kang totally reigned over his opponent, Shunichi Shimizu, in every round, taking full mount and throwing down elbows and punches. In the final round Kang got into good position and locked in an arm-triangle for the fight ending submission.
Kang vs Tanaka: Fight Analysis
Since Kang will be the bigger, taller and longer fighter, he will need to take advantage on the feet early and often. He will have to establish his jab then throw in uppercuts and knees to keep Tanaka from coming in for takedowns. If he can catch Tanaka with a strike when he is rushing in, then maybe he can attempt a submission.
Kang is no slouch on the ground but Tanaka has proven to be much better. He has great transitions and submission defense which allows him to bait his opponents into spots where he can reverse and get on top. Once he is in that position Tanaka can work for submissions all day. With either fighter not possessing much finishing power in their hands, this fight will likely not be a standup war but a ground heavy affair.