The UFC touched down in Japan on Friday, with a card badly shaken by injuries. UFC Fight Night 117, or UFC Saitama if you prefer, had boasted a main event rematch between Shogun Rua and Ovince Saint Preux. A Shogun knee injury later, however, and that main event was gone. In stepped Yushin Okami, moving up a weight class after years away from the promotion (he’d even dabbled in the welterweight division for a time).
The MMA Gods weren’t about to stop there, however. Also scrapped from the card was a featherweight bout between Charles Rosa and Mizuto Hirota. Hirota had a scary moment at the weigh-ins, missing weight by several pounds and looking shaky enough that the UFC’s medical team opted to pull him from the event.
That resulted in the flyweight contest between Jussier Formiga and Ulka Sasaki being promoted up to the main card as the show opener. There was a time when Formiga had been on a three fight win streak in the flyweight division, and was talked about in conjunction with a possible title shot. Then came losses to Jon Dodson and Ray Borg, with a win over Dustin Ortiz sandwiched in the middle. UFC Saitama marked Formiga’s first fight back after the Borg loss, and he was looking to get back on track.
Ulka Sasaki, meanwhile, was 2-1 at flyweight since dropping to 125lbs in 2016. A win over Formiga would arguably be the biggest of his career, and definitely get him some notice.
Formiga opened the action with a leg kick; Sasaki answered back with a combination. Jussier Formier was able to sneak in an overhand counter right that, while not landing clean, looked dangerous. That strike was something the Japanese fighter would have to watch out for. Sasaki, the much lankier fighter, used his reach advantage early to create distance, and utilized knees in the clinch when Formiga did close the distance. After encountering a fair bit of resistance on the feet, Formiga looked for a double leg, and secured the takedown easily. He then moved to the back, looking for a rear-naked choke while Sasaki crouched against the cage. Flattening the Japanese fighter out, it wasn’t long before Formiga had the first stoppage of the night!
Jussier Formiga def. Ulka Sasaki by submission (rear-naked choke), Round 1, 4:30