Shooto Champ Kyoji Horiguchi and PXC Champ Louis Smolka land on UFC Fight Night 40 this May 10, 2014.
The complexion of Asian MMA has changed drastically in the last two years. The behemoth UFC was quick to take note, and set up shop in China where it hosted the first and second events in Macau plus a TUF television series. UFC Japan finally came back online as a regular planned event, and Singapore became a new target market.
Part of this west to east transition has provided opportunities for Asian and Asia-based athletes to get signed into the big leagues in quick, unprecedented fashion. This trend has allowed the UFC to roster its Asia cards with relevant fighters. Conversely, there are a few hot prospects who made it into the UFC without needing to being weaned through Asian UFC events. Two of these exciting fighters make an appearance on UFC Fight Night 40 this weekend, May 10th: Kyoji Horiguchi and Louis Smolka.
Kyoji Horiguchi – The Real Karate Kid
Kyoji Horiguchi of Krazy Bee is just 23 years old. On the back of a karate base, he smashed through the Shooto heap early and ascended to the Bantamweight Championship throne on March 16, 2013 with his first and only professional submission win over Hiromasa Ogikubo. Before that fight, we interviewed Kyoji here, and when asked about his goal for the future, he sidestepped his upcoming title fight and simply replied,
A mère six months after claiming the Shooto title, his prognostication came true. In October he faced American Dustin Pague on American soil. The first round saw Horiguchi’s hands-low weakness exposed and his back was taken for it. But the Karate Kid endured – as he vehemently stated he could,
“… I don’t care about long, short, tall opponents, whatever, I don’t care. If I go in, I do try to protect points like my neck, but I’m very strong, and I can work through it.”
And just like that, the tables turned, and Kyoji scored a second round TKO win by blitzkrieg.
His next opponent is Darrell Montague, a young wrestler ranked #10 by many media outlets, and #15 by the UFC. It’s a great challenge for Horiguchi who may have an ace up his sleeve – or it could be the other way around. Montague and Horiguchi shared billing at the first VTJ in 2012, and since Montague fought after him, Kyoji was able to watch the southpaw work his magic against Mamoru.
There is no doubt this will be an exciting fight no matter the outcome.
Louis Smolka – The Smokin’ Hawaiian Samurai
Louis Smolka is a PXC product, and the Guam-based, Philippines-executed promotion boasts feeding multiple talents to the UFC such as Lim HyunGyu, Jon Tuck, and Michinori Tanaka. Smolka’s dynamic performances earned him a shot at the PXC Flyweight title last November, and while his eyes were on the prize he knew there was more than a belt on the line, as he said in our interview here,
“I feel like this fight is huge for my career. I only compete to prove that I will one day be the best in the world and this win would be huge in validating that belief that I have in myself.”
Smolka’s quick pace, flurries of striking, and takedowns to ground and pound saw him rip the Flyweight belt right out of Ale Cali’s hands. Then one month later, on Christmas Day, he got the best present he could have asked for: a UFC contract for a fight against Alp Ozkilic. And in our interview with him here, shortly before the fight, the 22-year old foretold his own future,
“I plan to push the pace and force action, just how I always fight. They can also expect me to pursue the finish.”
Smolka did both, though he had to settle for a Unanimous Decision in his freshman UFC outing. It earned him a huge bump up to the main card in his next shot which will be against 9th ranked Chris Cariaso, who was ironically supposed to have faced Horiguchi before an injury interrupted the plan.
It will perhaps be the biggest fight of Smolka’s life, but those who’ve watched his young career develop know he has the stamina, power, and instinct to be in the Octagon.
As the flyweight division grows deeper, it will be interesting to see if Horiguchi and Smolka one day test their contrasting styles against each other. However, the two match ups in front of them at UFC Fight Night 40 promise to showcase what these two thrilling athletes are capable of.