The UFC Returns to Japan for the 2nd time in 2 years after a very long hiatus from it's only UFC events held prior to zuffa ownership which began in 2001. UFC 144 last year was my favorite card of the year because of the many matches, the great finishes and the of course the high level stars combines with former pride fc stars like Mark Hunt. Japan has an aura that contaminates Mixed Martial Arts into being great events no matter how little real star power talent a card has (see world victory road, sengokou, dream etc.).
The crowd for the most is genuinely quiet and respectful the only boo's heard last year were from the rampage vs bader lay and pray snoozefest which had more impact as rampage is a cult hero in Japan and has gone on record to saying they are the best fans in the world. Getting in a boring losing fight with a wrestler was the last thing rampage or the crowd wanted to see. At first I was troubled to learn that the UFC's 2nd straight year in Japan would be a lowly Fuel card but it turned out to be merely a smoke screen for a great card contrary to most fuel cards on paper.
The Preliminaries Feature lots of asian talent on display which is sure to seek out some potential future UFC talent that has been lacking from that region of the world and at the very least provide exciting fights for the Japanese fans. The preliminary card features:
Riki Fukuda vs. Brad Tavares Takeya Mizugaki vs. Bryan Caraway
Cristiano Marcello vs. Kazuki Tokudome
Alex Caceres vs. Kyung Ho Kang
Marcelo Guimaraes vs. Hyun Gyu Lim
Each fight containing an asia vs the world scenario which brings intrigue and an emotional investment for the crowd to cheer on someone from their region. The main card is even better bringing back pride veterans and fan favourites Wanderlei Silva, Mark Hunt and Takanori Gomi with very exciting opponents in Stefan Struve, Brian Stann and Diego Sanchez. Among those great fights are Yushin Okami taking on the judoka olympian with T-rex arms Hector Lombard, the debut of Mizuto Hirota against a very good bjj blackbelt in Rani Yahya is a potentially fantastic grappling match up and a battle of prospects between Siyar Bahadurzada coming off a KO win over Paulo Thago in his debut against grappling master Dong Hyun Kim.
Japanese cards get me excited as soon as their announced and I never am disappointed with them whether it's Dream, Sengokou, Pride, DEEP or UFC Cards and I see no way possible for this card not to be the same.