TUF China Finale: The Real Winners and Losers
Between Bellator's Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Christian M'Pumbu and Titan FC's event on Friday night, MMA fans have had a brutal 16-hour stretch.
It was an up-and-down day for the UFC, though, which finds itself as both the biggest overall winner and loser.
How did the UFC win? Well, it owes a debt to Dong Hyun Kim. The Korean welterweight had been an anonymous body in the UFC's deepest division for the better part of a decade but has taken on new life since his fluke loss to Demian Maia.
Before The Ultimate Fighter: China finale, he was already on a hot streak, riding high on his one-punch knockout of overhyped semi-prospect Erick Silva, but he delivered what is potentially the 2014 Knockout of the Year when he cleaned John Hathaway's clock with a devastating spinning elbow.
Buckle up, fans, because you're going to see that highlight a lot for the foreseeable future. It's the first good thing the UFC can point to and say "only available on Fight Pass."
How did the UFC lose? There is no way it won over China with that card.
TUF finales are always interesting and tend to be either an indictment or endorsement of the entire season. TUF 18, for example, got a strong nod when all eight female contestants were brought back for the finale. TUF 16, meanwhile, was basically covered up, as just four fighters got a real shot in the Octagon.
TUF: China was much closer to the latter. Everyone who watched the series on Fight Pass knew this was inevitable. The season has been marred by the generally low-quality fighters, and that fact was on full display, as just two bouts on the card featured cast members. Neither fight was particularly impressive.
Worse yet, none of the other Chinese fighters on the roster wound up making a good showing. Hailin Ao remains missing, Zhang Tiequan didn't fight, and newcomer Jumabieke Tuerxun was a complete dud.
So who, and what, else ended up winning or losing the night (or morning, if you're stateside)?
Find out here!
Real Loser: McDonald's
Results: Zak Cummings vs. Albert Mina was cancelled following Cummings missing weight by eight pounds.
McDonald's. Zak Cummings missed the welterweight limit by a hefty eight pounds. The foul was so egregious that it actually saw him never make the stage at the official weigh-ins. UFC president Dana White reacted with strong words to MMA Junkie: "They have one job: to get ready for the fight, train and make weight. That’s definitely a career killer."
Ignore the fact that's three things and focus on how, if the UFC releases Cummings, some poor Midwestern McDonald's will take a serious hit to its Big Mac sales.
Cummings' weight issues axing the fight was yet another hit to the already shabby TUF: China finale. By showtime, the card was reduced to just eight fights. Worse yet, it left his opponent Alberto Mina (who the UFC was praying would have a breakout fight) without an opponent.
Real Loser: UFC's Great Chinese Hope
Results: Mark Eddiva defeats Jumabieke Tuerxun by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
UFC's Great Chinese Hope. TUF: China was a mess from a talent perspective and yielded basically nobody who will be able to compete with legitimate UFC fighters from outside China. Jumabieke Tuerxun, though, was widely regarded as one of the top fighters from China, and he was thought to be the guy who might have had a legitimate shot at actual MMA talent. Too bad he wound up getting dominated by Mark Eddiva over the course of three rounds.
As somebody who lived in East Asia and talked to people from China, Japan and South Korea about this very subject, I believe that the UFC won't be able to capture the hearts of the Chinese without a Chinese fighter being competitive near the top of his division. Tuerxun represented the UFC's best hope for that to happen, and he didn't look ready for the UFC's bright lights.
Real Winner: Wang Anying
Results: Wang Anying defeats Albert Cheng at 5:00 of Round 1 by TKO via doctor stoppage
Wang Anying may not have been a winner on The Ultimate Fighter: China, but you don't need to win, necessarily, to become a star. He put on a solid, scrappy performance against Albert Cheng and earned a quick stoppage that might end up making him a steady presence on future Asian cards.
While Jumabieke Tuerxun looked every bit the part of the next Zhang Tiequan, the UFC got a teeny, tiny glimmer of hope from Wang Anying. He stalked Cheng throughout the first round, beating one of his eyes shut with high-volume combinations that included high kicks aplenty.
Will he end up being a legitimate part of the UFC's welterweight division? Not necessarily. But he likely just earned himself a steady paycheck for the next couple of years.
Real Loser: Urgency
Results: Vaughan Lee defeats Nam Phan by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Urgency. Nam Phan entered the fight on a two-fight losing streak. His overall record in the UFC was 2-5. Even accounting for the infamous decision loss to Leonard Garcia, he would be sub-.500 at 3-4. He needed a win to preserve his job and looked indifferent when it came to Vaughan Lee circling and outstriking him for 15 minutes.
The TUF 12 dark horse likely just punched his ticket out of the UFC with that lackluster performance. Phan is one of the most wildly inconsistent fighters on the UFC roster. While he has been overmatched lately—getting dominated by the massive Dennis Siver and making his bantamweight debut opposite Takeya Mizugaki—this was his chance to shine, and he did not do that.
Real Winner: South Korean Construction Equipment
Results: Yui Chul Nam defeats Kazuki Tokudome by split decision (29-27, 28-29, 29-28)
Yui Chul Nam. Despite the scorecards basically reflecting everything wrong with MMA judging today, the right man got his hand raised. "The Korean Bulldozer" earned the win and suddenly finds himself with thousands of fans for a gutsy, exciting performance opposite Japanese fighter (and therefore his mortal enemy) Kazuki Tokudome.
Nam went full-blown Doug Marshall on Tokudome in Macau, leaping into haymaker after haymaker and scoring a ridiculous four knockdowns in the first round. Tokudome, to his credit, somehow survived the round and took the second with ease. Nam, though, sealed the win with a solid third round.
The UFC has a growing stable of exciting Korean fighters. A strong push into the region must be in the works.
Real Winner: Weight-Class Proponents
Results: Hatsu Hioki defeats Ivan Menjivar by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Weight-class proponents. The tale of the tape read that Hatsu Hioki is 5'11", and Ivan Menjivar is 5'6". It looked like Menjivar rounded up when they stepped into the cage, though. Hioki towered over Menjivar and fought like the much bigger man against the Salvadoran, working him over from start to finish in grappling exchanges and outpointing him in the stand-up.
Menjivar is a guy with big skills and small smarts. Moving up to featherweight, when he was a midsized bantamweight to begin with, was not a wise idea in the first place. Moving up to featherweight to face a guy who matches his grappling skills but makes him look like he's 13 years old? Well, that's just dumb.
There's a chance he gets booted by the UFC, but he will more likely get forced back down to 135 pounds.
Real Winners: Confidence, Lists
Results: Matt Mitrione defeats Shawn Jordan by KO via punches at 4:59 of Round 1
Confidence and lists. Often, fighters look no farther into the future than the end of their next fight. Looking past that, of course, can lead to a loss.
Well, Matt Mitrione didn't get that message. He scored a buzzer-beating knockout of Shawn Jordan and pulled out a list of people to thank during his post-fight interview. Kudos for being prepared and avoiding a long, rambling, Nate Diaz-like expression of gratitude to coaches, training partners, entire cities of people, your favorite author and your third-grade science teacher. However, it wasn't all fun, as Mitrione ended his time on the mic with a sad story about one of his training partners' family being wiped out in a fire.
Mitrione and Jordan were both in desperate need of a win, and the former NFLer bought himself some more time with the big victory. We'll have to see what ends up happening with Jordan, though.
Real Loser: The Ultimate Fighter: China's Credibility
Results: Zhang Lipeng defeats Wang Sai by split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28)
The Ultimate Fighter: China's credibility. It was a fairly controversial decision, but that's beside the point. The big thing to note here is that this sloppy fight was between the two best guys the UFC could muster in China.
Bleacher Reports' Riley Kontek said it nicely:
I got it 29-28 for Wang Sai. The level of skill in that fight reminded me of a local YMCA grappling class.— Riley Kontek (@BigRilesMMA) March 1, 2014
This fight spoke to where China is relative to the rest of the world in MMA. Wang and Zhang looked generally awful. There literally isn't a welterweight fighter in the UFC against whom either TUF: China finalist would be the favorite. The UFC needs a Chinese title contender if it wants to get the hundreds of millions of fans it was hoping for, and it's highly doubtful that either of these guys will get that far.
Real Winner: Dong Hyun Kim
Results: Dong Hyun Kim defeats John Hathaway by KO via spinning elbow at 1:02 of Round 3
Dong Hyun Kim. No cute comments here; he just became one of the hottest names at 170 pounds. While the UFC has consistently undermined his ability to develop a fanbase due to his grinding style of fighting, Kim recently decided to start knocking people out with one shot and has done just that in back-to-back fights.
It's time the UFC does right by him and starts giving him a legitimate opportunity to make a title run.
It was a fantastic knockout for Kim, but he's not quite "there" yet, skill-wise.
He's an excellent grappler with good takedowns, solid takedown defense and enormous amounts of physical strength. His striking, though, was best described as sloppy, as he spent the first three rounds throwing Leonard Garcia-like haymakers.
If he can polish that up, though, there are few fighters that he couldn't beat.
Main Card Results
- Dong Hyun Kim def. John Hathaway by KO via spinning elbow at 1:02 of Round 3
- Zhang Lipeng def. Wang Sai by split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28)
- Matt Mitrione def. Shawn Jordan by KO via punches at 4:59 of Round 1
- Hatsu Hioki def. Ivan Menjivar by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Preliminary Card Results
- Yui Chul Nam def. Kazuki Tokudome by split decision (29-27, 27-28, 28-27)
- Vaughan Lee def. Nam Phan by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
- Anying Wang def. Albert Cheng by TKO (doctor's Stoppage) at 5:00 of Round 1
- Mark Eddiva def. Jumabieke Tuerxun by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)