In the UFC’s first foray into Southeast Asia, Singapore will witness the first card of 2014. Welterweight Tarec Saffiedine will face Ace Korea’s Lim HyunGyu in the Main Event. Undefeated Sean Soriano will take on bonafide bone crusher Tatsuya Kawajiri in the Co-Main Event.
Tarec Saffiedine was first set to meet Jake Ellenberger as the headliner, however a training injury dropped him from the card at quite an early date. Lim HyunGyu was moved up from facing HEAT Champ Kiichi Kunimoto to the marquee position. Saffiedine, a one-time DREAM fighter and Strikeforce’s final Champ, has eight years on his pro record and is riding a 4-fight win streak. While short for the division, he has even fought at middleweight and has proved comfortable taking larger opponents to decision.
Meanwhile, Lim has already knocked out his first two opponents in his first UFC year, shattering faces as well as notions contrary to him being the next “big” thing out of Korean Top Team. KTT previously produced Korean Zombie title contender Chan Sung Jung and Dongi Yang. Head Coach Dongjin Ha has been quite vocal about Lim being the most ripe of all his proteges to enter the world stage cage. Lim will have a distinctive reach advantage.
Tatsuya Kawajiri meets Sean Soriano in a dual debut at UFC. Kawajiri is a name known far and wide as one of the premier Japanese fighters ever to step foot in a ring. His cage presence has been short, however, having dropped his lone contention in Strikeforce. With a heavy handed and pressurizing style, the Crusher’s style should be perfect for the cage, so his gameplan reworking ahead of his anticipated UFC entrance should be top notch by now.
Soriano is undefeated in his MMA career, which spans 8 fights. The Blackzilian team member has taken advantage of training with monsters and brought his game up another level in pursuit of the UFC. Well rounded or not, he’s got a huge fight on his hands for his first time in the Octagon.
Kiichi Kunimoto will face Luiz Dutra in another welterweight tangle. Kunimoto is the stalwart defending Champion in HEAT who seemingly could not be budged from his throne. The tanned one is a grappler who trains with beasts at the Cobra Kai dojo. He’s outgrown his cage in Japan, and the Octagon will be his next proving grounds.
Dutra is no stranger to the canvas himself. The Brazilian has burned through competition in his country to earn the shot in the UFC. What’s more, he’s a finisher, so this will be a fight that neither will let go the distance, no matter what’s at stake.
In what could become either a game of chess or a zombie feeding frenzy of limbs, ZST prodigy Shunichi Shimizu will be welcomed to the UFC by Kang KyungHo. Shimizu has been one of the most overlooked fighters in Japan, but no longer so. The self-professed “MMA geek” is a tactician who goes for a finish when he wants to, not when it’s offered. He will have to decide a little bit quicker when he faces his next opponent in the Octagon.
Kang is a big bantamweight who rose through ROAD FC under the guidance of Kim DongHyun‘s own Team MAD. He is very strong and crafty and displays the toughness known to come from his camp. At 0-1-1 in the UFC, this fight could be make or break for Kang. He can’t let the slippery Shimizu neutralize his game.
On the prelims card, Asia’s busiest fighter Will Chope faces Max Holloway. Chope is young, hungry, and determined – all things that have granted him success in his dreams to this point. He conquered the URCC featherweight division and took the belt, then met King Of Pancrase Takumi Nakayama and won, silencing all critics.
Holloway has already almost two years in the UFC under his belt. The Gracie Technics fighter obviously has the grappling under control, but it’s his striking that has impressed. Taking on a taller Chope will be an interesting contrast, and he’ll need to show up in top form to get his record back on track.
One of the most well-known proponents of traditional Japanese karate Katsunori Kikuno will face Quinn Mulhern. Kikuno has a ubiquitous style that stalks and brutalizes. The former DEEP champion’s chance in the cage will be nothing if not interesting to be able to witness his style and power. Mulhern is a champion himself, formerly holding the welterweight title in KOTC. He’s extremely tall and with a black belt in BJJ will obviously be very comfortable on the ground. It’s a tall order for Kikuno, literally.
Singaporean bantamweight Royston Wee will make history as the first from his country in the UFC, as will his Philippines born-and-bred opponent Dave Galera. Wee is one of the city-state’s first MMA fighters who went on to coach others in the nascent sport. His local contributions can’t be measured by his record on paper. Galera is a hot prospect from one of the most prolific camps in the Philippines, Team Lakay. Rule out Octagon jitters just because of Coach Mark Sangiao’s eat-sleep-breathe MMA mentality for his students. Galera does have much of the tale of the tape in his favor.
Bang TaeHyun is another KTT fighter entering the UFC for the first time against Mairbek Taisumov. Bang has a whopping ten years in MMA, with a fantastic run in DEEP that got him the Lightweight Championship. Taisumov Is also no slouch. Hailing from M-1 Global, he’s been knocking out guys ho have just as much experience as himself. This looks to be a heavy-handed war – both guys have already proved their worth to be in the Octagon, so this one’s for glory.
More bantamweights banter as Jon Delos Reyes faces Dustin Kimura, both prodigies from PXC. Delos Reyes is a classic speedy finisher who has not let it go to decision in his whole career, and in the last four years has only been stopped once, by fellow card member Doane. Kimura stunned everyone when he beat Guy Delumeau in 2012, when the Japan-based fighter looked to be close to sealing a deal with the UFC. Kimura got there first, and spent 2013 testing the waters.
Evolve MMA grappling superstar Leandro Issa takes on Russell Doane in the opener of the night. Don’t blink, because whether this becomes a jiujitsu clinic or a limb-jarring roadbump on the first leg of the night, it will deliver. Issa is an amazing and speedy tactician. Doane hails from a very tough 808 Top Team, and he’ll need to bring all his well-rounded skills for his debut.
UFC Fight Night 34
January 4, 2014
The following broadcasters will be airing the event – check local listings for live or delayed.
Australia: UFC Fight Pass (live and free trial)
Brasil: Combate Channel
Cambodia: Hang Meas
Canada: UFC Fight Pass (live and free trial)
China: Sohu, PPTV, Liaoning TV, Guangdong TV, Jiangsu TV, Shanxi TV, Shenzen, Hainan, Tianjin, Hebei TV
Indonesia: RCTI, MNC Sports
Japan: Hikari TV, Nico Nico Video
Korea: SuperAction TV, SPO TV
Malaysia: Astro Supersport
New Zealand: UFC Fight Pass (live and free trial)
Philippines: Studio 23, Balls
United States: UFC Fight Pass (live and free trial)
#10 Welterweight Bout 5 Rounds
Lim Hyun Gyu
#9 Featherweight Bout 3 Rounds
#8 Welterweight Bout 3 Rounds
#7 Bantamweight Bout 3 Rounds
Kang Kyung Ho
#6 Featherweight Bout 3 Rounds
#5 Lightweight Bout 3 Rounds
#4 Bantamweight Bout 3 Rounds
#3 Lightweight Bout 3 Rounds
Bang Tae Hyun
#2 Bantamweight Bout 3 Rounds
Jon Delos Reyes
#1 Bantamweight Bout 3 Rounds