(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.
IVAN SERATI (LHW)
?Experience: 10-2 record (7 wins by stoppage within the first minute), with multiple appearances in Cage Rage and Ultimate Warrior Challenge. Has won his last four fights, most recently a first-round KO of Claudio da Silva at a No Limits MMA event in August.
Will be facing: Tomasz Drwal (14-2, 0-1 UFC)
?Lowdown: Serati’s “get in, get out, and go to the pub” style has made him a hot prospect in England. The 35-year-old native of Milan, Italy, is a former boxer with crazy knockout power who represents the Sure Grip Vale Tudo camp in Essex. Unless the UFC vetoes his selection, Serati will be walking out to the Italian national anthem.
TOM EGAN (WW)
?Experience: 3-0 record in Irish fight leagues, including the amazingly-named “Cage of Truth.” ?Last fought in September where he earned a TKO win over Jonny Shiels.
Will be facing: John Hathaway (see below)
?Lowdown: Was this really the most impressive local boy they could find? The Dublin-bred 20-year-old started fighting professionally last March, and has only been following the sport for about three years. (Noob!) Even he’s shocked that the world’s most prominent MMA organization came calling this soon, telling UFC.com "I’d have probably liked to be around 10-0 or 15-0 before entering the UFC." Egan is a member of the Pro Team Ireland crew, and trains at SBG Dublin under John Kavanagh, the only BJJ black belt in Ireland.
JOHN HATHAWAY (WW)
?Experience: 9-0 (5 wins by first-round stoppage), with multiple appearances in Cage Rage and ZT Fight Night. ?
Will be facing: Tom Egan
?Lowdown: Just like Egan, Hathaway is a young, undefeated, well-rounded prospect who is a bit shocked that he’s now a UFC fighter. Hailing from Brighton, England, the 21-year-old is a standout at the London Shootfighters camp, and works part-time as a personal trainer. There’s not much else to say about him, so we’ll leave you with this quote: “If the Irish fans are going to boo me they’re going to boo me. There’s nothing I can say or do to change that. So long as I put on a good show and do what I need to do, I’m sure it will play out fine."
Did you learn something? You can pay us back by Digging this story.
(Denis Kang vs. Murilo Rua @ PRIDE Bushido 11, 6/4/06)
(Tom Egan vs. Arturas Pranckevicius @ Cage of Truth, 3/8/08)
(John Hathaway vs. Jack Mason @ Cage Rage 28, 9/20/08)
(Ivan Serati vs. Frantisek Smetanka @ UWC 7, 5/31/08)