For those who were up in the early hours on Saturday morning for ‘The Ultimate Fighter: China’ finale which was one of the least anticipated UFC cards of all-time, you certainly got your money’s worth out of the first month of your UFC Fight Pass membership. The Asian-catered start time also makes it feel like the card happened last weekend, even though it was only a day ago. Although the fights that were expected to be contested at a lower skill level played out just that way (although I have to admit, the TUF China welterweight final was more entertaining than I expected), the more well-known fighters on the card delivered. None more so than the rejuvenated, exciting, go-for-broke version of Dong Hyun Kim, who notched his second consecutive highlight reel knockout after five years of nothing but decision victories. In fact, Kim’s spinning back elbow that absolutely melted John Hathaway has to go down as one of the top five KO’s that we’ve seen thus far this decade. Right up there with the memorable kicks Anderson Silva and Edson Barboza have delivered.
More importantly, the consecutive knockouts have people mentioning Kim in the UFC welterweight title picture, which is something his old style never produced. While it’s far too soon to consider Kim an immediate title challenger, it’s time that he faces a high-profile top 10 welterweight to see if he truly belongs in that conversation. My choice, Rory MacDonald. Without going into too much detail about the fight or the fighters, the TUF China final was better than I expected. I feel like the wrong fighter won the decision, and I don’t see too many fighters on the roster at 170 that either of these guys could beat moving forward. Despite it being a competitive and fairly entertaining bout, the moment of the fight had to be when Bruce Buffer announced the decision and referee Jerin Valel didn’t know which fighters’ hand to raise. Heavyweight Matt Mitrione got back on the winning track with a stoppage of Shawn Jordan at the last second of the first round. The fight was competitive up until that point, but the difference between the two fighters that nearly everyone pointed out beforehand was Jordan not having as stout a chin. While I believe the barrage of punches that Mitrione landed to finish the contest would have put nearly anyone out, Jordan has been woken up by the ref in two consecutive bouts now. As for Mitrione, I know it makes no sense in the scope of the rankings, but I think a bout with Mark Hunt would be immeasurably entertaining. The opening bout on the four-fight main card featured Hatsu Hioki once again making things more difficult on himself than they needed to be against Ivan Menjivar. Hioki dominated the first two rounds with his grappling, although he was unable to put the durable Menjivar away, but was caught in the third and momentarily dropped in a moment that put a scare into a whole lot of parlays out there. I think it’s criminal that Hioki has dropped out of the top 15 in the UFC’s “official” rankings when fighters like Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor are included, so I say give Hioki the winner of Bermudez/Hettes at UFC 171 and let him continue to climb back up the ladder in the division. As a side note, Hioki/Hettes could be something extremely special on the ground. With this card being only eight fights long, the two relevant undercard bouts should get some attention as well. Especially since the bout between Yui Chul Nam and Kazuki Tokudome was about as crazy as it gets in MMA. Nam rocked Tokudome multiple times in the first round, scoring three knockdowns according to FightMetric, but closer to five in the eyes of everyone watching. The round was a perfect example of a 10-7, although one judge had the audacity to not even give it a 10-8. Tokudome proceeded to come back in the second round and dominate a seemingly gassed Nam with ground and pound in another round that could have been scored a 10-8. Then the two traded takedowns in the third round, with Nam once again landing some hard shots to Tokudome on the feet to secure the victory. This fight was obviously deserving of ‘Fight of the Night’, and say what you will about Tokudome’s hall of shame level striking defense, the man is resilient and makes his bouts a ton of fun to watch. The other bout worthy of mention showcased the best performance we’ve seen from Vaughan Lee in his UFC career, and a fight that may convince him to stick around at 135 since he exhibited an incredible speed advantage over Nam Phan over 15 minutes where Lee landed at will and Phan simply couldn’t get anything going. Phan has stuck around in the UFC for his ability to put on exciting fights, but he’s now taken one-sided beatings in four of his last five, and I think it’s time for him and the UFC to part ways. For what many fans had looked past, the TUF China Finale turned out to be a ton of fun, produced an all-time knockout, and should be a great marketing tool for the UFC to turn their Fight Pass into a success. The MMA snowball doesn’t stop with the four notable events that took place this past weekend either. Coming up this week, the Octagon heads to London for UFC Fight Night 38, Bellator has a bantamweight title bout and the opening round of their heavyweight tournament at Bellator 110, and RFA 13 goes live on AXS TV. Stay tuned to MMAOddsBreaker.com for lines, picks, bets and analysis for all of those events in the coming week.