(Denis Kang: There can be only one. Photo courtesy of PrideFC.com.)
From international stars to local yokels, this Saturday’s UFC event in Dublin will feature another crop of fighters who will be scrappin’ in the Octagon for the first time. Read on, and you’ll know just as much as Mike Goldberg…
DENIS KANG (MW)
?Experience: 31-10-1 record, with 15 wins by submission and 12 by KO/TKO. Is the reigning Sprit MC heavyweight (80kg+) champion and was a finalist in PRIDE’s 2006 welterweight grand prix. Holds notable victories over Murilo Rua, Amar Suloev, Akihiro Gono, and Marvin Eastman.
Will be facing: Alan Belcher (13-5, 4-3 UFC)
?Lowdown: Chances are, you’re already familiar with “The Super Korean.” Kang became a consensus top ten middleweight (and superstar in Asia) after going on a 22-1-1 run from April 2003 to March 2007, but his momentum was stalled following back-to-back losses to Yoshihiro Akiyama and Gegard Mousasi. Still, the Canadian BJJ black belt is a huge acquisition for the UFC, and the most credible threat to Anderson Silva’s middleweight title since Dan Henderson. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that the UFC has tried to bring Kang aboard; he was offered a spot on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, but turned it down in order to compete in Korea. Kang had previously trained with American Top Team in Florida, but has recently been working out in Montreal with Georges St. Pierre due to some visa issues which are close to being settled.
ALEXANDRE BARROS (WW)
?Experience: 13-5 record, primarily in Brazilian leagues like Heat FC, Meca, and the International Vale Tudo Championship. Currently on a nine-fight win streak. ?Ten of his 18 fights have gone to decision; one of those decisions was a loss to Matt Hughes in 2000.
Will be facing: Martin Kampmann (13-2, 4-1 UFC)
?Lowdown: Who knows, maybe “Baixinho” could pull a Junior Dos Santos, and score a dramatic win over an established UFC vet after being plucked from Brazilian obscurity. But most likely he’s just being brought in to give Kampmann a relatively easy first fight at welterweight. Judging from this highlight reel, the Gracie Barra Combat Team member is aggressive with his hands and likes to throw the head kick. Still, he hasn’t beaten anybody close to UFC caliber. We don’t predict big things.