World class kickboxers don’t do as well in MMA as you’d think. Most of them adjust to the threat of takedowns well enough, but it has an unpleasant side effect; they can’t kick as much. With their kicking game hamstrung (pun intended), most of them turn out to be ho-hum boxers and win as much as they lose.
Worry not, because Gokhan “The Rebel” Saki (0-1) has both lightning and thunder in his fists.
Standing “only” 6’0″, Saki gave height and length to pretty much every top heavyweight during his career. Rather than engage in a kicking game that he probably wouldn’t win, Saki opted to do what many fighters with a perennial size disadvantage do; infight. The rules prevented him from taking his opponent down and his build kept him from taking full advantage of the clinch. So he polished his hands to the point that he could deliver three to five knockout blows in rapid succession with uncanny accuracy.
From both sides, he can torque body blows behind the elbows, fire uppercuts in between forearms and looping shots over the top of the earmuff guard. No one can block every punch with a single guard, and Saki can fire these punches so quickly and with so much power that it’s nearly impossible to predict all of them. If he finds himself caught at range, he’s a beastly counter puncher as well. He’s one of the few men with a lead hand cross counter, in that he has the strength and timing to throw his lead hand over the top of his opponent’s right (and usually power) hand.
And because it was kickboxing, Saki has a beast of a leg kick that he’ll throw in combination with his destructive punches. He’s dexterous enough that he’ll sometimes throw it in the middle of combinations, punting his opponent’s leg to put them off balance before blasting them with another haymaker.
With his only MMA fight over a decade ago, there is one question that looms over his debut: can Saki stop the takedown? Because if he can, then the light heavyweight division will be dealing with the deadliest striker it has seen since Chuck Liddell.
Henrique Da Silva
In a manner of speaking, Henrique Da Silva (12-3) is well-rounded.
He can punch and kick with enough power that opponents can’t afford to eat any of his shots cleanly. He also has a purple belt in BJJ which was enough to earn him a “Performance of the Night” bonus for his armbar over Joachim Christensen.
The problem is that, as his nickname “Frankenstein” suggests, his game doesn’t blend together well and there are tears at the seams.
Rather than being a jack of all trades, Da Silva is more like an eight of all trades; he’s competent, but not great. Strikers get out-struck and grapplers get out-grappled, it happens to everyone. But the level of competition that has been able to beat Da Silva on either the feet or ground is troubling. He was caught in an armbar by Paul Craig, a man who has been knocked out two straight times in the UFC. Ion Cutelaba threw huge bombs over the top of Da Silva’s outstretched arms when the latter man tried to maintain distance and earned a knockout victory.
He’s lost three fights in a row to competition that won’t be fighting in the UFC in a couple of years.
The UFC wouldn’t risk putting Saki in with a fighter that would make him look bad, so this matchup makes sense.
Da Silva may win the fight if he can get Saki down, but he’s not a terrific wrestler. So weighed against how heavily Saki is probably training to defend a takedown in his first mainstream MMA debut, there’s a good chance this fight is contested on the feet. There, Saki has an advantage everywhere. Saki hits way harder, his hands are faster and he’s a gifted counter fighter.
Sit back and enjoy this one guys. Barring a disastrous first-round takedown, Saki is about to use this guy as target practice.
Saki via KO
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