Feb 11, 2013

UFC Japan 2013

Wanderlei Silva

Pictured left: Wanderlei Silva. Photos: © Getty images

The Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to Japan last February after more than a ten-year absence. Fight fans streamed into Tokyo from all across Japan—and the world—to get their MMA fix, selling out the Saitama Super Arena for 12 televised fights over the course of the day. In the end, Benson “Smooth” Henderson defeated Frankie Edgar by unanimous decision to become the new UFC lightweight champion.

This year the headline encounter will feature former Pride middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva stepping into the Octagon against top contender and decorated US Marine Brian Stann in a five-round, light heavyweight bout.

Silva, from Brazil, is an aggressive striker known for dropping his opponents to the canvas—earning him the gruesome nickname “The Axe Murderer.” He holds Pride records for most wins, knockouts, title defenses, and the longest winning streak in the organization’s history. Stann, a Marine Corps vet with a Silver Star for combat, was born in Tokyo on Yokota Air Base and should prove to be a hometown favorite.

Stefan Struve

Pictured right: Stefan Struve

The tallest fighter in UFC history will stalk the ring in the heavyweight throw down. Seven-foot-tall Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve, from the Netherlands, will make his first appearance in Japan against “Super Samoan” Mark Hunt. Hunt’s Maori warrior spirit has made him a popular fighter in Japan. He knocked out Cheick Kongo in the first round last year, and is currently on a three-fight winning streak.

Japanese MMA fans have much to cheer for at the March event. Like last year, Japanese fighters and favorites figure prominently in the mix. Said UFC Managing Director Mark Fischer, “We’re delighted to bring a world-class card with a distinctly local flavor back to Japan.” As such, proceedings will also pit Yokohama native and former Pride champion Takanori Gomi against Diego Sanchez in a lightweight matchup, and Korea’s Dong-Hyun Kim against knockout specialist Siyar Bahadurzada in a contest of up-and-coming welterweights.

Brian Stann

Pictured left: Brian Stann

Other showdowns include Japan’s own Riki Fukuda facing off against Brad Tavares at middleweight, Japanese bantamweight Takeya Mizugaki vs. Bryan Caraway, and the UFC debut of two Koreans: welterweight Hyun Gyu Lim and bantamweight Kyung Ho Kang, taking on Marcelo Guimaraes and Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres, respectively. Also making his debut is Japan’s Kazuki Tokudome, who will take on Cristiano Marcello in a lightweight matchup.

“This exciting mix of former Pride champions, contenders from various weight divisions, and up-and-coming stars from the region,” says Fischer, “is sure to entertain all our fans here—whether old or new to the sport.”

Saitama Super Arena, Mar 3. Tickets are ¥5,800-100,000 and can be bought from Lawson stores, or online at http://l-tike.com or www.ufcfanclub.jp/ja. UFC Japan 2013 will air live on numerous UFC broadcast partners in Japan and globally.

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