If there is an event to really complain about the watering down of the UFC product, it was this Ultimate Fighter Finale China. It was a card where nearly all of the fighters ,save a few known names, were basically not ready for anything close to the upper divisions of their weight classes.
The UFC is attempting to build a global product and to do that they are creating an international regional circuit, but using the UFC brand name as opposed to creating or buying a "minor league". It is an idea with a lot of merit and potential. There is growing interest and talent around the world. Brazil, the U.S., and Canada remain the traditional talent hotbeds, but Japan has declined in terms of producing top level fighters. Parts of Europe, Central Asia, and the Pacific Rim are all emerging as new sources of talent.
So, it makes sense that the UFC wants to foster growth themselves, and maintain a presence in those areas, in addition to continuing to search for talent in Brazil. What does not make a great deal of sense is putting top ten fighters on these cards. Dong Hyun Kim is an upper level welterweight and really the only fighter of actual importance on this card. It raises the question, "why place him on this card?" It could be that the UFC has slotted him as a main card guy for these lesser cards. Since UFC 148, Kim has only fought on Fight Night cards.
So, while the inclusion of Kim might be forgivable, next week's card featuring Alexander Gustafsson airing on Fight Pass is not. It seems to be a massive waste of Gustafsson's increased standing and visibility after his very narrow loss to Jon Jones on a card that few fans will watch. It seems very odd that the UFC is so desperate to bring attention to these largely meaningless, prospect hunting cards that they are willing to detract attention from their top talent, where the real money for the UFC supposedly comes from.
Thoughts on the fights:
- Dong Hyun Kim notched another knockout and continues to show that he has made strides in his offensive striking game, but there is little progress made in his defensive work. He is still very, very hittable and seems to be relying more on his chin than anything thing else.
- John Hathaway looked fairly good for having been out of the cage for a full year. His skills are coming along considering he really didn't have a combat sports background at all when he started fighting. He seems like he could hang around in the welterweight division and give tough fights to guys, especially on this regional circuit the UFC seems to be cultivating.
- Sai Wang and Zhang Leping both showed off just how raw they are as the fight was an extremely sloppy grappling affair. Leping got the nod despite spending basically the entire fight on the defensive. Bad decision aside, neither fighter is ready for anything more than regional UFC action.
- Matt Mitrione's fluid combination punching is his greatest strength and if he can find the proper distance, he can put a beating on MMA heavyweights. Shawn Jordan, while a good athlete, just has not developed the kind of skills you need to compete at the higher levels of heavyweight. At this point, neither fighter is really a prospect as Mitrione is 35 years old, and despite being younger and having twice the number of pro fights, Jordan is a far less polished product.
- Hatsu Hioki and Ivan Menjivar put on a very entertaining scarp, as two technical experts with no sense of MMA strategy met in a scramble-filled bit of violence. It was refreshing when Hioki's aggressive grappling got him the win, as often the biggest mistake a fighter can make in MMA grappling is to actually grapple.
Quick thoughts on prelim action:
- Yui Chul Nam and Kazuki Tokudome put on a barn burner of a fight to close out the undercard. Nam is a very raw athletic talent, but he put of a real beating on Tokudome in his first round. Tokudome rallied to make the fight fight close, but in the end Nam rightfully took the fight on two scorecards. Nam becomes yet another interesting Korean prospect as South Korea continues to grow as a source of MMA talent.
- Vaughan Lee put a beating on a Nam Phan who looked to be a total shell of himself. Phan appears to be shot as a fighter.
- Anying Wang bombed Albert Cheng, who seemed content to strike despite being and grappler and Mark Eddiva took a rather forgettable decision.