UFC Fight Night 39: Tatsuya Kawajiri Can Become Key Figure In Featherweight Ranks With Another Victory

By Rick LaFitte
UFC featherweight Tatsuya Kawajiri at Fight Night 34
Getty Images

Japanese MMA veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri looks to make it back-to-back victories since joining the UFC when he tangles with promotional mainstay Clay Guida at Fight Night 39 in Abu Dhabi. Kawajiri made a successful Octagon debut in January at Fight Night 34 in Singapore when he submitted Sean Soriano, while Guida is looking to rebound from the first knockout loss of his career at UFC 164 against Chad Mendes.

Kawajiri has looked impressive since making the move down from the lightweight ranks as he’s reeled off five straight victories. He’s currently riding a six-fight overall win streak since his last loss against Gilbert Melendez in a Strikeforce lightweight title affair in 2011. Kawajiri was stating his case for a title shot after making his successful Octagon debut and those cries will likely grow louder if he can handle “The Carpenter.”

The no. 12 ranked Kawajiri is known for his tremendous strength and has registered 33 victories in a 42-fight career that’s mostly been spent in the Shooto, Pride and Dream promotions. He’s faced the likes of Melendez, Josh Thompson, Eddie Alvarez and Takanori Gomi during a career that’s produced several memorable battles.

“The Crusher” is one of the more powerful featherweights in the division and can start gathering some serious momentum with another triumph against the no. 9 ranked Guida. Kawajiri will likely look to employ his usual strategy of working for takedowns and looking to dominate from top control. He has 22 finishes by way of knockout or submission.

Guida has been involved in some of the UFC’s most exciting lightweight bouts ever during an 18 fight Octagon tenure and holds a victory over current lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. However, he’s just 1-1 since making the move down to the featherweight division and hasn’t looked like the same fighter.

His style has changed quite a bit in the last couple of years as Guida has gotten away from being the high-energy brawler that made him a huge fan favourite. He’s just 1-3 in his last four fights and can’t afford another setback if he wants to be a key player in the 145-pound ranks.

This could be the type of matchup that brings the “old-school” Guida back. Kawajiri is a tremendous pressure fighter while Guida has shown a tendency to be a resilient battler who also likes to push the pace and never seems to tire. It shapes up as a highly entertaining contest in Abu Dhabi with the winner looking at major future opportunities within the featherweight landscape.

Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports

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