Areas to improve on but an otherwise hugely impressive UFC debut from 'The Turkish-Tyson' in Japan
Gokhan Saki knocked the senses out of Henrique Da Silva and then delivered a message to the rest of the UFC light-heavyweight division – be ready.
The 33-year-old was comfortably the most intriguing takeaway from UFC Japan as he made a stunning start to his career with the premier MMA promotion.
And his thunderous first-round stoppage didn’t just practically sleep the Brazilian, but it also woke a division which has been dazed and disorientated after Jon Jones was stripped of the title again.
Light-heavyweight has been crying out for an injection of new talent and while the window of opportunity is not quite so open with Saki turning 34 next month, the next 12 months will certainly be entertaining.
The “Turkish Tyson, who lives in Dubai and began his preparations from a 29-month layover in the Emirate, bounced bombs off his durable adversary with laser-like precision.
But that’s nothing new. Saki is a kickboxing legend, after all, a fighter with nearly 100 pro fights and a marriage of skill and mental fortitude which saw him compete against anyone at any weight.
His striking credentials were always going to impress but beyond the stoppage was two key elements of analysis – takedown defence and cardio.
Da Silva failed to complete a single takedown but Saki’s ability to snuff them out was built on strength rather than technique and it meant he faded before his seismic finish.
Granted, the three minute rounds in kickboxing vastly contrast five in MMA but it’s an area which the Turkish-Dutch fighter will point to for improvement.
With only four months of genuine wrestling practice, though, he displayed excellent defence and more development will mean he’s a genuine threat.
While the preference would be to build Saki up slowly to better prepare him for the wrestle-heavy background of occupants inside the top-10, ultimately, at his age and with his mileage on the clock, time is no luxury.
That’s something Saki himself realises, though.
“I stopped for two-and-a-half years, and I’m not back just to take part in the UFC and tell people I’m a UFC fighter,” Saki said in his post-fight press conference. “I’m here to take over.”
The warning was ominous and it’s backed by an impressive performance – the rest of the 205lbs division better take notice and be ready.