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Gokhan Saki - Veteran kickboxers into MMA

Some flashy turkish former K-1 fighter as a heavyweight. A lightheavyweight Glory kickboxer.  The embodiment of speed at those weightclasses, as a smaller lightheavyweight. That’s Gokhan Saki. UFC’s latest addition to the roster.

The turkish tornado has an extensive striking experience and amazing hand speed. Two attributes which come as antidotes of a lightheavyweight class who just lost a power striker from their rankings, as Anthony Johnson. His addition to the lightheavyweight is a striking show promise with the skills to deliver and be a standing hell of a fight.

But as we’d all expect, against a striker like Saki, most would try and clinch up, wrestle, take him down or dirty box him. Most won’t be willing to stand and trade. Because the difference in speed between him and any other lightheavyweights is noticeable. Letting him set up his combos is a serious risk to any striker from that division.

Being prepared by Ramon Dekker’s former coach, Cor Hemmers, Gokhan Saki had his boxing combos adapted to the best against taller kickboxers, as the school of Cor Hemmers relies on speed, combinations and aggresivity, overwhelming the opponent by swarm-boxing done with damage-filled strikes. His native speed bodes very well with that type of training. And with small gloves, that speed get amplified up and the gaps are easier to exploit.

But that leads us up to two questions:

Will the smaller gloves affect his precision? He’s used to heavyweight boxing gloves. Having smaller gloves requires more precision and makes those handswings go further than expected, exposing someone to a counter.

Will he gain the skills to avoid being taken down? As he is a smaller, stockier lightheavyweight, his center of gravity is lower and being unable to take him down is a heavy risk, especially when being left in the dirty boxing range. But skilled wrestlers like Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones won’t be stopped by that unless caught in a very bad position.

The best matchup to make a fight for him would be pitting him against Jimi Manuwa. They’re both strikers, they both enjoy boxing and they both go for finishes.

The worst matchup is against someone like Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier. Their wrestling skills won’t bode well with his lower range and boxing-oriented striking.

And as he already stands, some might say that Gokhan Saki could go down to middleweight. And that’s where he’d be an undisputed danger. But having a long career as a heavyweight and a lightheavy transition lately might not translate very well as weight cutting might make him underperform and still have somehow a reach disadvantage. And he can’t simply go lower than upper-edge middleweight class.

Now that the UFC is headhunting for talents from the striking department as well, we might be seeing more kickboxers hitting the UFC door on their way in, as they slowly walk in and take divisions by storm then.

Now that they got Overeem, Mark Hunt and Saki, wonder what’s going on with Tyrone Spong or Nathan Corbett. I bet they’d be some show to the MMA scene. Don’t you?

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