Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight contenders Ricky Simon and Song Yadong will go to war TONIGHT (Sat., April 29, 2023) at UFC Vegas 72 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Simon has quietly rebounded from consecutive losses to Urijah Faber and Rob Font in tremendous fashion. Since those 2019 defeats, Simon has strung together five straight wins, demonstrating significant improvement in pretty much every area. He’ll still have his hands full with Yadong, however, who at just 25 years of age has already faced several of the most elite Bantamweights on the roster. Admittedly, “The Kung Fu Monkey” does enter this match up following a loss to Cory Sandhagen, but he’s still one of the best up-and-coming talents in the division.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Merab Dvalishvili (UFC Fight Night 128), Raphael Assuncao (UFC Vegas 45), Montel Jackson (UFC 227), Jack Shore (UFC on ABC 3)
Key Losses: Rob Font (UFC on ESPN 7), Urijah Faber (UFC Fight Night 155)
Keys to Victory: Simon has always been a great wrestler with a deep gas tank, but the rest of his game has really caught up. He’s putting together punching combinations well now, hitting the body and head with good power, and he’s more threatening than ever on the canvas.
I will admit, however, that he probably needs to wrestle to win this fight. Simon’s striking offense has improved tremendously, sure, but he still feels fairly hittable. Against perhaps the fastest and most powerful hitter at Bantamweight, that feels like a major issue and great reason not to exchange for too long.
Yadong is an aggressive fighter, so it really shouldn’t be terribly difficult to convince the Chinese athlete to swing at him. If Simon can get Yadong moving forward and punching hard — which fits his typical fighting style — then he should be able to find entries for his shots. Once that happens, the key becomes keeping Yadong scrambling, which will sap energy away from his heavy swings.
Record: 19-5-1 (1)
Key Wins: Marlon Vera (UFC on ESPN 8), Marlon Moraes (UFC Vegas 50), Casey Kenney (UFC 265), Julio Arce (UFC Vegas 42), Alejandro Perez (UFC 239)
Key Losses: Cory Sandhagen (UFC Vegas 60), Kyler Phillips (UFC 259)
Keys To Victory: Yadong is a remarkable physical talent with a sharp boxing game. He’s a highly capable wrestler with dangerous jiu-jitsu, but really, Yadong makes his money by cracking opponents across the jaw with very fast, very powerful punches.
Yadong is likely to pressure Simon, which is often a positive for avoiding takedowns. That’s only true if he avoids reaching with his right hand and left hook, however. Yadong has to start with the jab, ideally to both the head and chest. Then, once he’s providing an obstacle for Simon to duck under, he can look to build combinations off that shot to land heavier blows.
In addition, Yadong should be ready to pull back and counter when Simon fires back. Simon often brings his head forward as he throws, so pressuring that reaction from the wrestler could be Yadong’s best path to landing fight-changing shots.
The winner of this fight is in the Bantamweight title mix.
Simon is riding a really excellent win streak into his first main event slot. If he can extend that win streak to six and pick up his best win yet in the process, it’s clearly time for Simon to be considered as a potential title contender. He’ll need at least one more win, but victory here says a lot about where he stands at 135 pounds.
Yadong might’ve secured a title shot by defeating Sandhagen last year, but now he has to work his way back to a Top Five match up. Fortunately, he already has a win over one such ranked contender in Marlon Vera! Victory here could set up that rematch, or it could line up Yadong for a big fight against someone like Petr Yan.
At UFC Vegas 72, Ricky Simon and Song Yadong will duel in the main event. Which man leaves the cage with his hand raised?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 72 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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