An interesting welterweight match-up opens the night’s main card as Dong Hyun Kim enters the octagon for the eleventh time looking to notch his second straight win. Kim last fought in November, scoring a decision win over Paulo Thiago at UFC On FUEL TV 6. Kim is 3-2 over his last five. He fights Siyar Bahadurzada who returns after missing nearly a year due to injury. Bahadurzada made his UFC debut in his last fight, scoring a vicious knockout win over, coincidentally, Thiago. Bahadurzada is riding a seven-fight win streak coming into this fight.
Fight Breakdown- This is a classic ‘grappler vs. striker’ fight as Kim comes from a heavy judo background and likes to grapple while Bahadurzada has vicious knockout power and likes to keep the fight on the feet. Both have a common opponent in their most recent fights- Paulo Thiago. Kim smothered Thiago on the mat en route to scoring a very easy decision win while Bahadurzada took just 42 seconds to send Thiago face first to the mat with one punch. Kim was not a fan of this fight being announced, and it could give Bahadurzada some added motivation going into the fight.
Kim has shown improved striking during his time in the UFC, but a striking battle will likely be one he wants to avoid with the Afghan fighter. Kim likes to use tons of judo techniques to get the fight to the ground. He especially likes to mix in trips and throws, and he is good at smothering opponents and getting solid ground control. His striking from the top position can leave lots to be desired, but he is good at keeping his opponents from establishing guard. Bahadurzada likes to keep the fight on the feet and does have some trouble fighting from his back. He can take fights down, and he will actively work inside of his opponent’s guard.
Bahadurzada will want to keep this fight standing and show off his aggressive striking. He does tend to get wild and leave himself open for counters, but Kim is not going to scare him on the feet. Kim would be best served closing the distance, but Thiago tried the same and he ended up doing a Ric Flair style flop to the mat. Kim had trouble with a dynamic striker in Carlos Condit, and Bahadurzada is a dynamic striker. Bahadurzada will need to keep enough distance to land his punches, as if Kim is able to keep that distance close, it will likely lead to judo takedowns, especially if the fight pushes to the fence. This one either ends with a vicious knockout or an uneventful decision.
Why It Matters- It is unlikely Kim would be cut with a loss, but a loss would mean three losses over five fights, and with his not too crowd pleasing style, it could put him in a danger zone. Kim wants to fight for the title and needs to start racking up the wins again. A win could put him in close enough position to break into the top ten in the UFC rankings, and eight wins in the UFC’s welterweight division is a solid number.
Bahadurzada wants to prove that the Blackzilians camp can win big fights. They have disappointed in some of their outings and it possibly puts a chip on Bahadurzada’s shoulder. He has a flair for excitement and has five straight knockout wins, and he wants to prove he is ready to take on the elite in the UFC’s welterweight division. The two fighters who have beaten Kim- Carlos Condit and Demian Maia- are among 170 pounds’ elite and an impressive showing will send Bahadurzada in that direction.