Two notable Asian lightweights will duke it out this Saturday (Nov. 10, 2012) as Guamanian standout Jon Tuck takes on Chinese veteran Zhang Tiequan in the opening bout of the UFC: Macao main card in Cotaiarena, Cotai, Macau.
Tuck made a big impression despite failing to get into the house of The Ultimate Fighter season 15 earlier this year, fighting to a decision against eventual finalist Al Iaquinta despite suffering one of the most gruesome toe injuries in MMA history during the bout. He'll be looking to give fans something more positive to remember him by this time around.
Zhang Tiequan has had some serious ups and downs in his Zuffa career, and he'd really like to put his last bout, a rough first round knockout at UFC 144, behind him. Everything will be forgiven if he can hand Tuck the first loss of his professional career.
Record: 6-0 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Eduard Folayang (Gorilla Warfare 3)
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Jon Tuck got off to a hot start in his MMA career, winning three fights via stoppage in his native Guam in his first nine months of professional competition. After an extended layoff, he returned once more with two more fights and two more first round stoppages, including a devastating knockout over current One FC standout Eduard Folayang in just eight seconds.
Again, Tuck would take an extended break from mixed martial arts, this time to work on his Brazilian jiu-jitsu and to enter grappling competitions around the world. He represented Guam at the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Cup in 2010, earning a gold medal in Dubai in the open light division as well as a silver in the under 78 kilogram division.
Tuck returned to mixed martial arts almost exactly one year ago, earning his sixth career first round stoppage in six fights. He tried out for season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter, the show's debut on FX, but would lose a one-round decision to eventual finalist Al Iaquinta. Tuck notably fought through a horrific toe injury in the bout which impressed UFC President Dana White.
Now, Tuck will get his shot in the UFC against "The Mongolian Wolf."
How he gets it done: Tuck is ferocious both on the feet and on the ground. As long as he puts constant pressure and is able to avoid getting caught in Tiequan's signature guillotine choke, he should be able to roll here.
Tuck likely has an advantage in every area, being a slightly larger fighter, younger, more athletic and overall better skilled. An obvious plan of attack is to go right after the openings Tiequan showed in his last fight, which is his susceptibility to the knockout. Tuck has some major knockout power so look for him to either try to blitz Zhang on the feet or shoot for a takedown and try to posture up with superior hip positioning and rain down blows until his Chinese opponent either wilts under the pressure or goes out cold.
Something to look out for is Tuck's gas tank. If he doesn't have Tiequan hurt, he shouldn't force anything considering he's never left the first round in his entire professional career.
Record: 15-3 overall, 1-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Zhang Tiequan has been fighting professionally ever since the inaugural Art of War event in China in 2006. While competing in Asia, Tiequan looked unstoppable, finishing every opponent he faced, all but one of them in the first round.
He steamrolled his way to a 13-0 record before earning an invite to compete in the WEC, where he would face late notice replacement Pablo Garza, finishing Garza via guillotine choke at the midway point of the first round.
Against Danny Downes at WEC 53, he looked well on his way to another victory before failing to secure the first round finish and running out of gas. Downes would outgrapple him in rounds two and three to hand Tiequan his first career defeat.
Tiequan bounced back against Jason Reinhardt in his UFC debut, finishing off the American inside the first minute of their UFC 127 bout in Australia. Since then, however, "The Mongolian Wolf" has experienced serious problems, getting dominated by Darren Elkins via decision and then knocked out cold by Issei Tamura earlier this year at UFC 144 in Japan.
He'll be hoping to right the ship against Tuck on Saturday in Macao.
How he gets it done: I hate to call Tiequan a one trick pony, but he hasn't shown much else in his Zuffa career other than the threat of a guillotine choke in the opening round. Zhang has modest but unspectacular overall grappling skills, although he's pretty resilient against submissions thus far.
He's had issues against superior wrestlers with decent conditioning in the past, but if he fights a more measured pace, the conditioning which has plagued him in prior fights could actually be an advantage here. While he hasn't had success in fights that have gone the distance, at least Tiequan has been there.
If he can survive the early onslaught from Tuck in that opening round, he'll have a shot if Tuck fades.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be conditioning. Both of these men are first round fighters. Tuck has never left the first round while Zhang has only done so four times in his 18-fight career thus far. If this fight goes past the opening five minutes, it could all come down to who has the better gas tank. Hell, both men could be exhausted after the first frame and after that, it could just come down to pure heart and guts.
Bottom Line: Zhang Tiequan has not shown much in his Zuffa career, but he was kept around for a fight like this, where his notoriety in Asia could potentially bring in some new fans to the UFC. Tuck looks to have the advantage in every area, but he's never competed under the bright lights of the Octagon and that can be a harrowing experience for any fighter. Considering both men's penchant for first round finishes, it would be unlikely that this fight goes the distance, whether alone gets out of the opening five minutes. While Zhang is not the most technical fighter on the roster by a long shot, this fight has potential to be exciting for however brief it lasts.
Who will come out on top at UFC: Macao? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!