Mixed martial arts fans from around the world will be treated to a clash of high-level grappling on Saturday when South Korea’s Kyung Ho Kang takes on Brazilian Rani Yahya. Kang has met little resistance to his grappling heavy style in the octagon, but that fact will be disputed by the ADCC champion.
Coming off wins over Teruto Ishihara, Brandon Davis, and Liu Pingyuan, Kang looks to make it four in a row. On the other end Yahya, a 10-year veteran of the UFC, has suffered mixed results over the years but the experience seems to be paying dividends as he is coming off one of his most impressive victories yet.
While both men are very high-level mixed martial artists, they are also two of the best grapplers we could hope to see compete against each other in the bantamweight division. It is one of the rare occasions where once it hits the mat, it feels as though we will see an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
Kang vs. Yahya betting odds
As of right now, Kang sits as the -140 favorite, with Yahya a slight underdog.
Kang vs. Yahya breakdown
Kyung Ho Kang is a very technical and sound striker. He has an excellent jab and superb timing, and he will enjoy both a reach and speed advantage against his Brazilian opponent. He is also a bit more fluid and comfortable on the feet.
However, for the most part, his striking is really used to set up the takedown. As a grappler, Kang is a master at setting up particular routes, and although he has multiple different submissions on his record, he typically wants the back.
Once securing the takedown, which he has a variety of takedown techniques, he uses smothering top pressure. He will stick to his opponents like glue, and as they get desperate and expose one side, he is one of the best at transitioning onto the back, a place his opponents have found it unbelievably difficult to escape from. Even when winning the striking exchanges, if Kang finds his opponents wobbled or even dropped, rather than attempting to find the TKO, he will more than often rather look to take the back.
If there has been one point of weakness we have seen from Kang in the past, it has been a vulnerability to leg kicks. As he utilizes a wider stance and often switches between being light and heavy on the leg looking for the takedown. This leads to a style where checking kicks is not his strongest suit.
Both Kang and Rani Yahya have looked similarly dominant when they have gotten top position in the octagon, but Yahya’s game has been more battle-tested against stronger foes over his long career. Furthermore, while they make be equally dangerous, Yahya has a wider range of grappling techniques coming from his ADCC background and his decade-long UFC stint.
Whereas Yahya will have to be particularly wary of letting Kang near his back, most of Yahya’s best submission work comes from any top position. He slightly more often looks for arm triangles, but it would be a stretch to say he favors them much more than any other submission.
However, his vast experience in the world of grappling prior to MMA is a double-edged sword. While few in the octagon including Kang should be able to match his Jiu-Jitsu prowess, he does sometimes read like your typical grappler who learned “just enough” striking to compete.
On the feet, he uses a high guard and wades his way in with low kicks, and throws heavy leather in the pocket, but doesn’t have the efficiency of a well-rounded mixed martial artist.
On the rare occasion he finds himself being controlled on the bottom, he will also go to positions typical of traditional BJJ competition, which don’t necessarily suit MMA. This is especially the case when he finds himself rolling through underneath his opponent, in a style not accounting for ground and pound, and takes unnecessary damage to those who shouldn’t be able to touch him on the mat.
Kang vs. Yahya prediction
Expect to see a back and forth fight, with high-level grappling exchanges between the two men. I understand why the odds are so close, but I think Kang’s position is justified as he is a bit more well-rounded in his overall game.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Kang keeps it on the feet a bit more often than his usual bouts, picking Yahya apart before engaging in the groundwork on his terms. Whilst I would pretty much pick no one against Yahya when it gets to the floor, Kang’s greater efficiency leads me to believe he will be in better shape by round three and will be able to find his moments to mix in his ground and pound inside the grappling sequences.
Prediction: Kyung Ho Kang wins by decision
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.