Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its presence known to Sajik Arena in Busan, South Korea, last night (Sat., Dec. 21, 2019) for UFC Fight Night 165. For whatever reason, UFC likes to book its journeys to Asia around the holidays, be it Thanksgiving or Christmas. The card was pretty standard for an international fight night event: a solid main event supported by regional fights. Luckily, South Korean fighters tend to put on incredible action fights, so it certainly wasn’t a boring night of action. Let’s take a closer look at the best performances and bouts of the night below:
A Bonafide Contender
Chan Sung Jung is 32 years old and has been a member of the UFC roster since 2011. He first fought for the Featherweight title six years ago, coming up short to Jose Aldo. Up until 2019, Jung has struggled to make it to the cage consistently.
All of the above hurts Jung’s chances of fighting for the title. Despite the generally incredible nature of his fights, Jung is not frequently as looked at as a possible champion. The last-second elbow loss to Yair Rodriguez definitely hurts as well, but UFC tends to look to young up-and-comers for the next big opportunity, and Jung isn’t that.
Based solely on how well he’s fighting, however, Jung has about as good a chance at dethroning Alexander Volkanovski as anyone.
“The Korean Zombie” was absolutely on fire last night, remarkably accurate with his counter punches from the first bell. Despite not having a full camp aimed at Frankie Edgar, Jung seemed perfectly prepared for everything Edgar brought to the table. It was vicious work, as Jung largely pummeled Edgar for the bulk of the three minute contest.
Let’s recap Jung’s 2019: the sole black mark is the loss to Rodriguez, but it really cannot be understated that Jung was literal seconds away from winning. MMA is goofy, and Rodriguez deserves credit for his wild elbow, but the circumstances have to be considered. Since then, Jung absolutely annihilated both Renato Moicano and Frankie Edgar — a pair of very tough contenders who do not get finished.
Jung is ready for a title shot, and I’d love to see it.
The Kryptonite of Superboy
Doo Ho Choi is a really powerful fighter with some great tools in his arsenal. “The Korean Superboy” is sharp and accurate with his hands, steps deep into his long jab and cross, and routinely kicks his opponent’s lead leg so hard that his foe spins a complete 360 degrees.
So why hasn’t the South Korean won a fight since 2016?
The answer, unfortunately, continues to be energy management and defense. For the first few minutes of each of his losses, Choi tends to look unstoppable. He stalks his opponents with heavy punches, landing the right hand repeatedly and kicking out the lead leg when they lean back. That was no different last night, as Charles Jourdain looked like he was close to being overwhelmed for much of the first round.
Jourdain may have been struggling with his foe’s physicality and aggression, but he did an excellent job of remaining composed throughout. It’s a bit strange to describe a fighter who threw poorly setup flying knees and other wild strikes frequently as composed, but it’s true. Jourdain could not allow his foe to keep surging forward with no respect for his kickboxing, so he threw a lot of heavy strikes in the space in front of him.
Towards the end of the first, Choi walked directly into one such cross, which dropped him badly. From that point forward, Choi could no longer freely march forward, resorting to a more technical battle. His dearth of head movement became more and more apparent, as Jourdain feinted and found a home for his right hand repeatedly.
Choi doesn’t have the head movement to fight so aggressively, but he also doesn’t have any other option.
- Da Un Jong defeats Mike Rodriguez via first-round knockout: Rodriguez has proven himself a tricky striker who struggles with takedowns in his three UFC bouts prior, so I’ll be honest, I kind of expected Jong to mix it up and focus on takedowns. Maybe that was the eventual game plan, but Jong instead feinted his way forward and dropped the hammer with a perfect cross just a minute into the round. Jong is now 2-0 in his UFC career, and the South Korean is proving to be a solid prospect.
- Alexandre Pantoja defeats Matt Schnell via first-round knockout: Durability is a real gift. As a dangerous outside kickboxer with slick grappling, Matt Schnell has all the skills to be a Flyweight contender. However, the same could be said for Pantoja, and while the Brazilian has proven plenty durable in a brawl, Schnell has been hurt more often. As such, Pantoja forced a lot of exchanges in the pocket. In truth, both men found their marks and stunned the other at various points in the first, but it was Pantoja’s right hand which put his foe down for good.
- Amanda Lemos defeats Miranda Granger via first-round rear naked choke: Brazilian jiu-jitsu may be marketed as “the gentle art,” the martial art in which the small athlete conquers the large. Yet there’s something to be said for having a strength advantage and chasing the neck, as Lemos showed to score her first UFC victory as the underdog. A clinch takedown saw Lemos circle behind Granger along the fence to referee’s position, where Lemos simply reached across to the neck. It was not ideal positioning, but it hardly mattered, as Lemos showed a tight squeeze to sleep her foe!