Usually it’s the wee hours of Sunday mornings that host UFC action, but with the organization making its debut in Macao, Saturday morning here in Canada got off to a fistic start with live fight action from the other side of the world.
While the event was heavy on decisions in the early going, it closed out with back-to-back finishes, and provided a handful of breakthrough performances that fight fans will want to make note of as we head into what should be an exciting year in 2013.
I never thought this series would feature a main event competitor, but Le’s stunning first-round knockout win over Rich Franklin changes up his trajectory heading into next year.
The former Strikeforce middleweight champion and part-time actor looked less agile than normal in the opening minute of the fight, and Franklin looked to be finding his range. BOOM! Right hand meet jaw, Franklin crashes to the ground, and just like that, Le is riding a two-fight winning streak in the UFC.
With the middleweight division seemingly growing deeper with every passing card — and primed to receive an influx of talent from Strikeforce as well — there is a very good chance we see Le in a starring role early next year. He’s a recognizable name and on a bit of a roll, so another bout with a quality opponent is definitely in the cards.
Dong Hyun Kim
Kim tends to get forgotten when we start talking about welterweight contenders, but that should change following his dominant performance against Paulo Thiago in Macao. The South Korean fighter controlled the vast majority of the contest with his superior grappling, poured on the Sakuraba double hammerfists to close out the fight, and pushed his record to 16-2-1 (1 NC) with the victory.
Here’s the thing: his loss to Demian Maia came due to a fluke injury, and his only other loss came against interim welterweight champ Carlos Condit. That’s not too shabby at all if you ask me.
“Stun Gun” continues to show improvement each time out, and his size/strength combination is hard to deal with. Kim has the make-up to be a tough out for anyone in the division going forward, and he should find himself opposite a top-15 opponent next time out.
Now that he has a UFC win under his belt, Guam’s Tuck no longer has to be remembered as “the guy who busted his toe on TUF 15.”
Debuting against Zhang Tiequan, Tuck showed off his outstanding ground game en route to his seventh consecutive victory. He threatened with an armbar early in the first, transitioned to dominant positions on a number of occasions, and even showed a little in the striking department as well. While he faded in the final round, this was a strong first showing for the 28-year old.
Over the next few years, I have a feeling there will be a lot of people identifying Lineker as their favourite fighter. The Brazilian flyweight is a bundle of offensive firepower, and it was on full display in his win over Yasuhiro Urushitani on Saturday.
After dropping his UFC debut to Louis Gaudinot back in May, Lineker was a little less reckless and a little more technical with his striking against Urushitani, and it paid off with a very good win. While he still threw everything with serious power, the 22-year-old mixed in work to the body with numerous kicks, rather than spending the entire fight headhunting. He staggered Urushitani on a couple occasions — scoring a couple of knockdowns as well — and showcased his granite chin and aggressiveness throughout.
The flyweight division is so new that a single victory carries a lot of weight, and this win will definitely put Lineker into the conversation in the UFC’s newest weight class.
The Japanese veteran looks better every time we see him, and had his best overall performance in the UFC Saturday, scoring a unanimous decision victory over Tom DeBlass.
Fukuda has very good takedowns, and his work with the pack of wrestlers at the American Kickboxing Academy showed in this one. He has very good control from the top, continues to develop his striking, and is developing into more than just a tough, experienced out in the middle of the middleweight division.
The 31-year-old is the type of fighter who can make people look bad. He was a little hesitant in his previous fight with Costa Philippou, but showed none of that here, taking the fight to DeBlass from the outset. A couple more performances like that and we could be adding Fukuda’s name to the growing list of contenders in the middleweight division.
E. Spencer Kyte is a regular contributor to ufc.com, UFC Magazine, and Fight Magazine, and writes the MMA blog Keyboard Kimura. Follow him on Twitter @spencerkyte.