UFC 174 Undercard Preview for ‘Johnson vs Bagautinov’ Prelims on FX

Daniel SarafianAh, Vancouver. A beautiful city that’s ready for some fights tonight with an undercard full of Canadian warriors. We have a light undercard today, only four matches, so let’s get into it. The prelims are on FX, and not FOX Sports 1 for some reason this week, so in the FX prelim main event before we go to PPV, we have a welterweight bout between TUF: Brazil middleweight tournament finalist Daniel Sarafian (8-4) and Kiichi Kunimoto (16-5-2). Sarafian was pulled out of his finals bout against Cesar Mutante you may remember, but got his ‘TUF Finals’ fight last November at Henderson vs. Belfort, which he lost by split-decision. That adds up to two out of three of his UFC fights being losses by split, as he dropped one to CB Dolloway in his January 2013 UFC debut in Brazil. Kunimoto is on a five-fight winning streak due to illegal elbows to the back of his head from Luiz Dutra Jr at Fight Night Saffiedine vs. Lim. Those ill-placed ‘bos gave him a UFC debut win, even with possible Octagon jitters. Kunimoto is slick on the ground. He has eight submission wins, and the Pancrase standout can definitely hang with anyone in the UFC on the mat, even BJJ black belt Sarafian. On the feet, the Brazilian has the edge, but this will likely be a very fun grappling match. It may come down to ground and pound tactics depending on who is on top, and takedown defense. Look for Kunimoto to shoot and Sarafian to sprawl. Bantamweight women are up next, as Elizabeth Phillips (4-1) makes her UFC debut against a Canadian also making her debut, Tristar Gym’s Valerie Letourneau (5-3). This fight actually comes as Valerie’s (technically) second time in the Octagon, as she was a member of TUF 18, in which she lost to Roxanne Modafari, but an injury to Germaine de Randamie opened a door for the woman who had a local TKO win in 34-seconds less than a month ago. Beyond the fact that she trains with Rory MacDonald, GSP and a host of other brilliant fighters at Tristar, she has decent hands and a decent ground game with suspect submission defense. Her opponent in Elizabeth Phillips is actually a late-replacement herself, even later than Valerie in fact. Phillips is replacing Milana Dudieva on about a week’s worth of notice. We could be in store for some sloppy fighting here. Phillips has two KOs, a submission and a decision win to her name, but I’m throwing everything out the window here. This is a tough pick, and even though Phillips is fighting out of the nearby Spokane, Washington, it’s hard to bet on the extremely late-replacement. And now bantamweight men are fighting, as Yves Jabouin (19-9) is looking for his first win in 2014 after getting knocked out by Eddie Wineland at UFC on FOX: Henderson vs. Thomson in January. He’s facing the Lil’ Hulk, Mike Easton (13-4) who has his back up against the cage, losing his last three fights in a row, his last being to now-bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw at UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Philippou, so that lessens the sting somewhat? Maybe. You can expect both men to get off to a fast start here, as Jabouin is the fancier striker, but Easton is in general a better fighter on the ground and in the clinch. Look for Jabouin to put Easton’s lights out the best he can while Easton looks to slam Jabouin onto his back and ground and pound him into oblivion. Easton can’t get into a situation in which he’s winging strong punches in the air while Jabouin picks him apart, but that is very likely to happen. Opening the card on FX (not FOX Sports 1 remember) are lightweights, with Kajan Johnson (19-10) the TUF Nations vet who also fights out of Tristar, facing Tae Hyun Bang (16-8), the South Korean who lives up to his namesake with eight KO wins to his record. Bang lost his UFC debut in Singapore to Mairbek Taisumov in January and will now be in enemy territory facing Johnson. The Tristar fighter is on a two-fight winning streak back from when the MFC was going strong, but those fights also came in 2011 and 2010. He hasn’t fought outside of TUF in nearly three years. Will that matter for the ground specialist with 11 subs? Maybe. Bang is an underrated fighter, and he’s lost to quality opponents such as Takanori Gomi and Jorge Masvidal, so expect this fight to be a solid grappler vs. striker affair.

Written by Jason Nawara

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