UFC Fight Night 52 Play: Katsunori Kikuno (-145) vs Sam Sicilia (+125)

KatsunoriKikuno_crop_north_crop_northUFC Fight Night 52 Date: September 20, 2014 Arena: Saitama Super Arena City: Saitama, Japan Bantamweight bout: Katsunori Kikuno (-145) vs Sam Sicilia (+125) Fight Breakdown: The UFC Fight Night 52 preliminary card on UFC Fight Pass will be featuring a featherweight contest between Katsunori Kikuno and Sam Sicilia. Japan’s own Kikuno being the betting favorite at -145 ($145 to win $100) while his opponent Sicilia is an underdog at +125 ($100 to win $125) at Several Bookmakerss. Katsunori Kikuno (22-6-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC) impressed in his promotional debut back in January, scoring a one-sided unanimous decision victory over Quinn Mulhern, sending the Strikeforce veteran into retirement. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the Japanese veteran in his next outing at UFC 173, where was knocked out by Tony Ferguson in the very first round of action. Kikuno is an unorthodox striker from a Karate background who has a very awkward stanceto go with it. He likes to bait opponents in and counters with his heavy hands. He isn’t afraid to take one to land one, as he is confident in his chin. His knockout against Ferguson was the first of his professional mixed martial arts career, and the huge size disadvantage he had in that bout had a lot to do with it. He was at a massive size disadvantage against Mulhern, too, but was able to dominate him. However, he was not able to do the same, or even compete with a highly regarded lightweight like Ferguson. For that reason, the 32-year old has decided to make the move down to 145-pounds, and looks to set fire to the division starting with Sicilia. To compliment his skills on the feet, Kikuno also has a solid grappling game, as was evident with his domination of Mulhern. This is his first cut down to featherweight, but I think his gas tank will be good enough for three rounds of action, should the fight go the distance. Sam Sicilia (13-4, 3-3 UFC) is set to make his seventh appearance inside the Octagon, coming off a unanimous decision victory over promotional newcomer Aaron Philips on the preliminary card of UFC 173 nearly four months ago. The native of Washington is a decent wrestler, but he does not use his offensive wrestling much. He uses his wrestling defensively, to keep the fight standing, where he can do what he truly loves: use his hands. For a featherweight, his hands are serious weapons, as he possesses tremendous knockout power. In fact, he has knocked out seven of the 13 opponents he has defeated in his professional mixed martial arts career, and that is not including the impressive knockout he scored to get into the TUF 15 house. While Sicilia hits really hard, his striking skills are really not anything to write home about. It is worth noting that he has continuously been showing improvement in that department, including adding a kicking game to his arsenal, but his main weapon is still that overhand right, which he keeps looking for throughout his fights. I think Sicilia’s biggest weaknesses have been his submission game and his cardio. His cardio may be improving, but his Jiu-Jitsu needs more time dedicated to it. Gabe’s Thoughts: I can’t see Sicilia winning this fight any way other than a knockout via tremendously well-timed punch, and considering how much power he packs for a 145-pounder, that is a realistic outcome. However, it’s an outcome with a very low percentage of happening. If a knockout occurs in this fight, Sicilia will more often than not be on the receiving end of it. While he has a wrestling background, I don’t see him finding success in outwrestling the Japanese veteran, but I could see Kikuno outwrestling him. I think Kikuno has more routes to victory in this match-up, and at the current betting line of -145, I love him for a play, especially knowing that the fight is in Japan. Gabe’s Call: Kikuno by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) Gabe’s Recommended Play: Katsunori Kikuno (-145) 5.8u to win 4u

Written by Gabe Killian

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