The UFC spends Thanksgiving weekend bringing the Octagon to South Korea for the first time for UFC Fight Night 79 on Saturday. The event will be streamed live on UFC Fight Pass with an early morning start time, or late-night start time depending on which coast you live in, with an eleven-fight card in Seoul, South Korea. The action kicks off with preliminary card action at 5 AM eastern time heading into the main card kicking off at 8 AM eastern time.
The event will be headlined by a five-round bout in the welterweight division as former UFC and WEC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson fights at 170 pounds for the second time when he takes on Jorge Masvidal, who replaced Thiago Alves in the headline bout. In the co-main event, it will be South Korea's own Dong Hyun Kim, looking to score his second straight win, taking on Dominic Waters, who stepped in to replace Masvidal. Also on the card is the return of "Sexyama" as Yoshihiro Akiyama takes on Alberto Mina. Let's take a deeper look into the action and give you five storylines to keep your eye on for Saturday's UFC Fight Night 79 event.
1. Will this be Benson Henderson's last fight in the UFC?
Benson Henderson enters the main event of UFC Fight Night 79 at a pivotal point in his career. This will be the final fight on Henderson's contract with the UFC, and he will be testing the free agent market following Saturday's event. Henderson is a former UFC and WEC lightweight champion with a 22-5 record in his career. If you were to rank all of the 500-plus UFC fighters in order, odds are Henderson would be ranked in the top 25. He has been a top-five lightweight in the world for the last six years, and as he has moved up to welterweight for the time being, he has shown he has the chance to be a threat there as well. He has just three losses inside the Octagon- losing the championship to Anthony Pettis, who just has Henderson's number, a flash knockout to current champion Rafael Dos Anjos, and a close split decision loss to Donald Cerrone in January, the man getting the next title shot.
It all comes down to how Henderson wants to test the market. Times are different these days with the Reebok deal and the opportunities to promote sponsors in the UFC being slim. Bellator has shown that they will go after high-profile fighters, and while the sponsorship issue doesn't exist there, the exposure there hasn't been the best, and their top fighters are getting pushed down the card in lieu of the likes of Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock and Kimbo Slice. Henderson is a bonafide main event fighter, and he is one of the best in the world. He will command a solid contract, but he belongs in the UFC. The competition is the best there, and if he wants to truly show he is the best, he re-signs when all is said and done. Henderson is the biggest name to find himself in this position since the Reebok deal was fully implemented in July, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Win or lose, I see him being back in the UFC, but his position makes for an interesting question heading into Saturday night's event, when he takes on Jorge Masvidal in the headline bout.
2. Will Jorge Masvidal spoil Benson Henderson's night on Saturday?
Jorge Masvidal gets his first UFC main event on Saturday night, taking on Benson Henderson in the five-round welterweight headliner, and it is a fight Masvidal is taking on short notice. He was scheduled for the card against Dong Hyun Kim, but it was a three-round bout. He now takes a five-round bout against a much different opponent, and one that he was scheduled to fight in April when both were competing at 155 pounds. Both are now at 170 pounds and looking to establish themselves as contenders. Masvidal has won four of his last five fights, with the lone loss coming in a close split decision to Al Iaquinta, a fight more remembered for Iaquinta's post-fight tirade. Masvidal moved up to welterweight following that fight, and he had a strong knockout of Cezar Ferreira in July in his UFC welterweight debut.
Henderson will come in as the big crowd favorite being of Korean descent, and with him being in his current position as noted above, Masvidal will be looking to spoil the party in the main event. Masvidal has the tools to be a threat in whichever division he competes in, and he seems more comfortable at 170 pounds as he doesn't have to make the huge weight cut or worry too much about missing weight, though there were slight issues in his first drop back down. Henderson is one of the best in the world and Masvidal will have his opportunity to prove he belongs in the discussion. Masvidal has very good boxing and power, and Henderson is the better grappler and one who excels in bringing pressure. Henderson is an experienced five-round fighter while Masvidal has had just one over the years, a title fight loss to Gilbert Melendez in Strikeforce. Henderson is the favorite, and for good reason, but Masvidal a solid chance to score the upset.
3. Will Dong Hyun Kim score the win in his home country?
There are actually two fighters named Dong Hyun Kim on the fight card, a first in the UFC, but it is the veteran welterweight, otherwise known as "Stun Gun", who comes into Saturday's event as the biggest favorite on the fight card. He competes in the co-main event, and it will be his first fight in his native country of South Korea since 2004. This will be the 16th fight in the UFC career of Kim, who holds an 11-3 with 1 no contest record inside the Octagon, and he remains a top-ten ranked fighter. However, he has always had trouble getting inside the top five, and every top opponent he has fought has ended with him on the losing side. Kim hopes to reverse that curse, and while he doesn't have a top-level opponent in this bout, the hope for Kim is that a big win in his home country will give him that extra boost towards title contention.
He fights Dominic Waters, a man who took the fight on short notice looking to score the huge upset and get his first UFC win. Waters is an opponent to not take lightly as he comes from a good camp and has solid skills, but Kim is a tough opponent to fight no matter if you take the fight on two weeks' notice like Waters did, or if you get the full eight weeks of a training camp to prepare for. Kim is an excellent judoka and has been improving his striking. Despite being 34-years-old, Kim doesn't feel like a finished product, but has some hurdles to still overcome, one being his tendency to start off slow. It would be in Waters' best interest to come out aggressive and try and catch Kim early, but Kim's striking and overall suffocating top game will begin to take over the fight in the early stages of the opening round. This is a fight Kim is made to win, and he will get the job done.
4. How much does Yoshihiro Akiyama have left?
Yoshihiro Akiyama is a popular fighter who hasn't quite lived up to the high expectations given to him when he signed with the UFC in 2009. He has had a tough road, and injuries haven't helped him at all as he has missed a lot of action over the six years, having fought an average of just once a year during his UFC tenure. He was out of action for nearly 31 months following a February 2012 loss to Jake Shields, but he returned in September 2014 to score a decision win over Amir Sadollah, which ended a four-fight losing streak. He hasn't fought since that win, having done some acting work since then, but he returns in South Korea, where he has a big following being a Korean descent.
He will be taking on Alberto Mina, who is undefeated with an 11-0 record in his career, but he also has been out of action for a while. He hasn't fought since a TKO win in his UFC debut over Shinsho Anzai in August 2014, and he actually has the same amount of fights in the last four years as Akiyama has. Mina is heavy-handed and has a solid submission game, so Akiyama will need to establish his wrestling to take Mina down and establish some ground-and-pound from the top. Akiyama looked good in his win over Sadollah, but he still has a tendency to wanna rely on his striking to win fights. Mina will make him pay with a slew of various attacks, from kicks to knees, and Akiyama's chin has been battered before. Akiyama should use constant pressure and keep Mina out of range with his wrestling. This is a toss-up fight and one that will show if Akiyama has anything left in his tank.
5. What else is there to look out for on the card?
Filling out the main card is a featherweight bout between prospect Doo Ho Choi and "TUF" veteran Sam Sicilia. This is a fight that has been attempted to be made on two separate occasions, but injuries to Choi have caused the delay of the fight both times. They were set to fight at UFC 173 in May and again at UFC Fight Night 71 in July, and Sicilia wound up competing on both cards, winning fights over Aaron Phillips and Yaotzin Meza. Choi has one fight in the UFC, an 18-second TKO win over Juan Puig last November, and he has won ten straight fights and 12 of his 13 professional bouts. He is a knockout artist, much like Sicilia, and this fight has fireworks written all over it and a very good chance at winning "Fight Of The Night".
Another fighter to keep an eye on, this time in the preiminary card, is Fredy Serrano. Serrano is a former Olympian in wrestling for Colombia, competing in the same weight class that was won by current flyweight contender Henry Cejudo in the 2008 Olympics. Serrano retired from wrestling in 2013 and moved to MMA. He was on the first season of "TUF: Latin America" but lost to eventual winner Alejandro Perez. He made his UFC debut in March, scoring a third-round knockout win over Bentley Syler. Serrano has just a 2-0 record during his professional career, but also wins in two unsanctioned fights. He has the wrestling pedigree and has shown some great knockout power, and is a definite prospect in the growing flyweight division.
Full UFC Fight Night 79 Fight Card, Betting Odds and Predictios
MAIN CARD (UFC FIGHT PASS- 8 AM ET/5 AM PT)
Welterweights: (#7 LW) Benson Henderson vs. Jorge Masvidal
Betting Odds: Henderson (-260), Masvidal (+220)
Prediction: Henderson by decision
Welterweights: (#7) Dong Hyun Kim vs. Dominic Waters
Betting Odds: Kim (-750), Waters (+525)
Prediction: Kim by submission in round 1
Welterweights: Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Alberto Mina
Betting Odds: Akiyama (-150), Mina (+130)
Prediction: Akiyama by decision
Featherweights: Doo Ho Choi vs. Sam Sicilia
Betting Odds: Choi (-240), Sicilia (+200)
Prediction: Choi by knockout in round 2
PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC FIGHT PASS- 5 AM ET/2 AM PT)
Middleweights: Dongi Yang vs. Jake Collier
Betting Odds: Yang (+115), Collier (-135)
Prediction: Yang by decision
Featherweights: Yui Chul Nam vs. Mike de la Torre
Betting Odds: Nam (-120), Torre (+100)
Prediction: Nam by decision
Lightweights: Tae Hyun Bang vs. Leo Kuntz
Betting Odds: Bang (-135), Kuntz (+115)
Prediction: Bang by submission in round 2
Women's Strawweights: Seo Hee Ham vs. Cortney Casey
Betting Odds: Ham (+145), Casey (-165)
Prediction: Casey by decision
Flyweights: Yao Zhikui vs. Fredy Serrano
Betting Odds: Zhikui (+155), Serrano (-175)
Prediction: Serrano by knockout in round 2
Bantamweights: Ning Guangyou vs. Marco Beltran
Betting Odds: Guangyou (-185), Beltran (+160)
Prediction: Guangyou by decision
Welterweights: Dominique Steele vs. "Maestro" Dong Hyun Kim
Betting Odds: Steele (-130), Kim (+110)
Prediction: Kim by decision