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X-Factor! Some UFC Fight Night 165 main card predictions

The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Choi v Tavares Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

This Saturday (Dec. 21, 2019), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to Sajik Arena in Busan, South Korea, for UFC Fight Night 165. I don’t want to shock any readers terribly, but UFC’s journey to South Korea — wait for it — features a ton of local South Korean talent! Luckily, South Korean fighters have a well-earned reputation for putting on crazy brawls, and the main event between Chan Sung Jung and Frankie Edgar is a relevant and interesting contest. Before that match up though, let’s analyze some main card fights!

Remember: Later in the week, Jesse Holland will be back to preview and predict the biggest fights of the night.

Featherweight: Doo Ho Choi vs. Charles Jourdain

Best Win for Choi? Thiago Tavares For Jourdain? Alex Morgan
Current Streak: Choi has lost two straight, Jourdain recently lost his UFC debut
X-Factor: Can Choi perform well after a pair of losses and long layoff?
How these two match up: Expect a brawl.

Choi began his UFC career with a trio of knockout wins, rising up the ranks as a potential contender. While “The Korean Superboy” was able to demonstrate his ferocious straight punches against both Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens, Choi’s defense failed him against those veteran strikers.

Jourdain, meanwhile, is still very new to the roster, having made his debut on short-notice back in May. In that bout, the 24-year-old talent showcased some good well-rounded skill, but he was ultimately out-wrestled by a tough Desmond Green.

Jourdain is a good prospect. The Canadian has picked up some solid wins in his young career, and he certainly has the mix of athleticism and skills to eventually make some noise at 145 pounds.

Choi is not a good match up for a young prospect, though. The South Korean has a piston of a cross, sharp and powerful enough that it definitely cracked into the jaws of more veteran opponents with scary consistency. It’s just hard to see Jourdain avoiding them and even harder to see him surviving them once they land.

Prediction: Choi via knockout

Light Heavyweight: Da Un Jung vs. Mike Rodriguez

Best Win for Jung? Khadis Ibragimov For Rodriguez? Adam Milstead
Current Streak: Jung won his UFC debut last time out, whereas Rodriguez came up short
X-Factor: Which man has the wrestling advantage?
How these two match up: Once more, this is likely to be a scrap.

Da Un Jung overcame pretty significant odds to win his UFC debut opposite Russia’s Ibragimov, rallying late to submit the grappler with a guillotine choke. It wasn’t the most technical performance the world has ever witnessed, but Jung showed good conditioning and moxie to overwhelm his foe down the stretch.

Rodriguez picked up an impressive flying knee knockout on “Contender Series” to earn his spot on the roster, but his results inside the Octagon has since been inconsistent. Rodriguez has still managed to impress with his kickboxing skills, but his wrestling has last him down twice now.

In both of Rodriguez’s losses, he was placed on his back for the majority of the fight, but Jong is not a wrestling specialist. He seems like more of a generalist, which means there’s a real chance Rodriguez is able to keep this one standing and pick him apart.

At the same time, Jung is six years younger and has the grappling skill to at least threaten some takedowns. More than anything else, I like the volume and grit he showed in his debut win. There’s a fair chance this is an ugly, high-volume scrap, and Jung seems better equipped to win such a fight.

Prediction: Jung via decision

Middleweight: Jun Yong Park vs. Marc-Andre Barriault

Best Win for Park? Ray Cooper III For Barriault? Adam Hunter
Current Streak: Park lost his last bout, Barriault is winless in two trips to the Octagon
X-Factor: Which striker is the heavier puncher?
How these two match up: As will likely prove a theme for the night, this is very likely to be a brawl as well.

Park showed some good skill in his debut opposite fellow prospect Anthony Hernandez, but ultimately he fell to an anaconda choke in the second round. Barriault can relate to that struggle, as his first two UFC bouts were match ups against men who solely wanted to wrestle, which really stymied the Canadian slugger.

Luckily, the two have found will face-punch partners in each other.

Given how both have lost due to grappling in their past UFC appearances, that makes this kickboxing battle a bit more difficult to predict. While Barriault faced the more accomplished UFC veterans in losing efforts, Park has scored better wins on the regional scene. Lastly, Park tends to throw more, but Barriault seems the heavier puncher.

Though the match up is ultimately a coin flip, when trying to predict a fight with limited information, age and volume are among the best indicators of success. In both areas, Park has a slight edge, so I’ll hesitantly side with him.

Prediction: Park via decision

Bantamweight: Kyung Ho Kang vs. Liu Pingyuan

Best Win for Kang? Brandon Davis For Pingyuan? Damian Stasiak
Current Streak: Kang has won two straight, Pingyuan came up short in his last bout
X-Factor: The general chaotic nature of Kang’s fighting style
How these two match up: While most of the above fights should be fun kickboxing matches, this should prove to be a fun grappling match!

Kang has won five of his last six trips to the Octagon, only losing a split-decision in that time period. The South Korean athlete seems to be putting it all together, showcasing more dangerous kickboxing and better implementing his submission grappling after landing takedowns.

Meanwhile, Pingyuan has found his best success on the mat as well, where his physical strength is quite valuable. The Chinese athlete was showcasing his kickboxing skill last time and doing well, but a well-timed knee from his opponent in the third ended his win streak.

All in all, this sounds a recipe for a scramble-filled fight. Both men are large, strong Bantamweights who tend to win such fights, which should result in some great exchanges. However, Kang still has an issue with slowing down in the latter half of fights, and that could prove a serious issue against a foe who can match his physicality.

Prediction: Pingyuan via decision

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 165 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 2 a.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 5 a.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 165: “Edgar vs. Korean Zombie” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2019: 56-26-2 (2)

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