TUF China Finale: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card
Say goodbye to the Dong Hyun Kim you once knew and, well, watched. A new and much more aggressive fighter has replaced him and has his sights set on a run at the currently vacant UFC Welterweight Championship.
At the TUF: China finale on Saturday, Kim pressed forward constantly and only recorded one takedown in three rounds. A devastating spinning elbow ultimately gave Kim a second consecutive knockout victory.
Following his win over John Hathaway, Kim could be another big win or two away from fighting for UFC gold. Here are the fights that should be next for the Korean and the rest of the TUF: China competitors.
Jumabieke Tuerxun vs. Yaotzin Meza
Following a loss at 145 pounds in his first UFC outing, Jumabieke Tuerxun should return to the bantamweight division now.
On Saturday, the Chinese fighter was controlled by Mark Eddiva in the clinch and on the ground for more than 10 minutes. So, dropping down in weight could help him even the playing field when it comes to grappling.
Coming off a loss and the owner of a 1-2 record inside the Octagon, Yaotzin Meza would be a good option to welcome Tuerxun to the UFC's 135-pound class.
Mark Eddiva vs. Winner of Godofredo Pepey vs. Noad Lahat
Despite being out of action for three years heading into his UFC debut on Saturday, Mark Eddiva showed little rust and remained undefeated.
The Filipino featherweight scored three takedowns and dominated opponent Jumabieke Tuerxun whenever he could get hands on him. At 28 years old, he could have a bright future ahead of him in the UFC's 145-pound division.
As he looks to climb the ladder, his next bout should come against the winner of a UFC Fight Night 39 bout between Godofredo Pepey and Noad Lahat.
Wang Anying vs. Li Jingliang
TUF: China semifinalists Wang Anying and Albert Cheng were likely fighting for their UFC lives on Saturday.
After closing Cheng's eye with strikes in the first round, Anying earned a victory on a doctor stoppage due to his opponent's impeded vision. While it is a rough way to have a huge opportunity taken away, that will probably be Cheng's only shot inside the Octagon for now.
For Anying, who trains at Phuket Top Team in Thailand, a bout with China Top Team member Li Jingliang would be a nice addition to an upcoming fight card in Asia.
Vaughan Lee vs. Winner of Alptekin Ozkilic vs. Dustin Ortiz
Before he even stepped into the Octagon on Saturday, Vaughan Lee was considering a move to 125 pounds.
“I’m really thinking about going down to flyweight because I’ve been walking around at like 65 kilograms (143 pounds) for a while now, and I think it’s time to ask if I can go down,” Lee told MMAJunkie.com. “I think that’s the plan really.”
A comfortable decision win over former UFC featherweight Nam Phan might cause Lee to have second thoughts, but I will work under the assumption that the Englishman is going to follow through on his thoughts about moving to the flyweight division.
If he does, he should meet the winner of a UFC Fight Night 39 matchup between Alptekin Ozkilic and Dustin Ortiz. Phan, on the other hand, has a good chance of being released following a third straight loss and fourth in his past five outings.
Kazuki Tokudome vs. Drew Dober
After kicking off his UFC career with a win over Cristiano Marcello, Kazuki Tokudome has quickly started to head in the wrong direction.
He was lucky to survive a brutal first round that saw him get knocked down three times by Yui Chul Nam on Saturday. While he battled back to force a split decision on the scorecards, Tokudome was unable to get his hand raised.
Now having lost back-to-back fights, the 26-year-old will need to turn things around to continue developing inside the Octagon. A bout with Drew Dober, who is coming off a loss in his UFC debut, could get the Japanese fighter back into the win column.
Yui Chul Nam vs. Katsunori Kikuno
At 32 years old, Yui Chul Nam is getting a late start to his UFC career, but he made a big splash on Saturday.
The Korean battered Kazuki Tokudome in the first round and coasted to victory. While Nam's conditioning could be a problem going forward, there was much to be excited about following his first trip to the Octagon.
Another 32-year-old coming off a win in his UFC debut, Katsunori Kikuno would be a good opponent on an Asian fight card as Nam looks to take the next step.
Ivan Menjivar vs. Maximo Blanco
In 12 months, Ivan Menjivar has gone from fighting Urijah Faber on a pay-per-view main card to losing on UFC Fight Pass and being in jeopardy of relinquishing his spot on the UFC roster.
On Saturday, he was outwrestled by Hatsu Hioki through two rounds, and a knockdown in the third stanza wasn't enough for him to complete a comeback win. Though he has now lost three in a row, that strong third round and his name value might be enough to secure him one last chance inside the Octagon.
If so, he could find himself in a loser-leaves-town matchup with Maximo Blanco, who has lost four of his past five fights.
Hatsu Hioki vs. Charles Oliveira
Once viewed as a potential title threat, Hatsu Hioki likely staved off a release from his UFC contract on Saturday.
The Japanese featherweight entered the weekend with three straight losses. With some nice work in the clinch and his tricky ground game, he broke that streak by beating Ivan Menjivar on the scorecards.
In order to become a serious contender, Hioki will still need to build some momentum. The winner of a bout between him and talented young Brazilian Charles Oliveira would likely earn a shot at a Top 10 145-pounder.
Shawn Jordan vs. Loser of Jack May vs. Derrick Lewis
Consecutive knockout wins over Pat Barry and Mike Russow had Shawn Jordan looking like a potential title contender, but "The Savage" is now spiraling down the heavyweight ranks.
He came out strong on Saturday, hitting Matt Mitrione with some big shots throughout the first round. However, in the closing seconds of the frame, Mitrione overwhelmed Jordan and forced a stop to the fight as the horn sounded.
His next fight could be for his UFC job, so a bout with the loser of a UFC on Fox 11 matchup between promotional newcomers Jack May and Derrick Lewis would make sense for Jordan.
Matt Mitrione vs. Ben Rothwell
Matt Mitrione's UFC career may have been on the line on Saturday, but he isn't going away easily.
While he had to eat some big shots along the way, he found a way to win in China. A TUF veteran, Mitrione picked up one of his most important wins at a season finale of the reality show by stopping Shawn Jordan.
Mitrione hasn't won consecutive fights since June 2011, so another win over an opponent like Ben Rothwell would be a big step forward.
Wang Sai vs. Takenori Sato
Wang Sai wound up on the wrong end of a controversial decision in The Ultimate Fighter: China welterweight final.
Despite landing 33 more significant strikes than opponent Zhang Lipeng and spending more time in the top position—although he did surrender more takedowns—Sai only won on one scorecard. It had to be a rough loss to take in such a meaningful fight for him, but he will get another chance to compete inside the Octagon.
That chance could come against Takenori Sato, who is also coming off a loss in his first UFC outing.
Zhang Lipeng vs. Ildemar Alcantara
Zhang Lipeng will now be asked to carry the torch for Chinese MMA.
With no legitimate UFC title contenders hailing from China, he could become the nation's biggest star after winning the first season of The Ultimate Fighter: China.
That said, expect UFC matchmakers to bring him along slowly to ensure he maintains a spot on the roster as long as he can. A bout with Ildemar Alcantara would give Lipeng a realistic chance to remain in the win column.
John Hathaway vs. Loser of John Howard vs. Ryan LaFlare
After 17 months away from competition, John Hathaway returned to meet Dong Hyun Kim on Saturday.
The Englishman landed some stepping knees and surprised Kim with a takedown, but he had trouble dealing with some unusual aggression from the Korean. Usually methodical, Kim came out firing against Hathaway and stopped the fight with a spinning back elbow in the third round.
So long removed from his last win, Hathaway could use a small step down in competition. A bout with the loser of a UFC Fight Night 40 bout between John Howard and Ryan LaFlare would be logical.
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Winner of Jake Ellenberger vs. Tarec Saffiedine
Georges St-Pierre vacating the welterweight championship has opened up possibilities for many high-level 170-pounders to make a run at UFC gold.
Dong Hyun Kim is one of them. On Saturday, he took a big step toward getting a shot at the welterweight belt by scoring a second straight knockout win against John Hathaway.
With four straight wins, he is a dark horse in the race for the 170-pound title. He has earned a fight with an elite welterweight and could meet the winner of a UFC 172 bout between Jake Ellenberger and Tarec Saffiedine.
Statistics via FightMetric.com.