Not unlike Sage Northcutt, last week I found myself waylaid by illness. But I'm back this week with a heap of fight results from the regional circuit, beginning with this first installment below. One can only hope that Northcutt, too, can channel this same elite level of perseverance.
Among the biggest results coming out of Asia is Hatsu Hioki's return to competition for the first time since his release from the UFC last spring.
Hioki (28-9-2, 3-5 UFC, 5-1 Sengoku, 1-0 PRIDE) entered the UFC in 2011 with a reputation as one of the sport's top featherweights, and victories over Jeff Curran, Mark Hominick, and Marlon Sandro, the last of which earned him the Sengoku featherweight title, left many expecting him to make an immediate impact on the UFC's then-nascent 145-pound division. However, Hioki's campaign would get off to a shaky start--on the main card of UFC 137, he managed only a split-decision against heavy underdog George Roop. A follow-up win over the ever-tough Bart Palaszewski was encouraging, but that would end up being the last time Hioki enjoyed consecutive victories in the Octagon. Whereas once he was considered a likely contender, losses to a triumvirate of wrestle-brawlers in Ricardo Lamas, Clay Guida, and Darren Elkins left Hioki fighting for merely a foothold in the UFC. And last year, an unprecedented knockout loss to underdog Daniel Hooker (following directly on the heels of Hioki's first-ever submission loss the year before) finally put an end to his struggling UFC career.
At Pancrase 275, though, Hioki put himself firmly back in the win column. Some 90 seconds into his headlining bout with Kyosuke Yokoyama (5-4-0), Hioki secured the rear-naked choke, making for his first victory in nearly two years, and his first submission victory in nearly five.
Also on the card, former One FC title challenger Masakatsu Ueda (21-4-2, 0-1 Bellator) extended his win streak to three with a third-round rear-naked choke of the previously undefeated Jose Alday (8-1-0).
And at Road FC 28 in Seoul, South Korea, middleweight champion Riki Fukuda (23-8, 2-3 UFC, 1-0 Dream, 1-1 EliteXC) was put away with strikes in Round 2 by challenger Jung Hwan Cha (12-6-3). This marks not only the first loss of Fukuda's post-UFC career but his first TKO loss in ten years, as well. Fukuda slips to 4-1 (1NC) since last appearing in the Octagon; Jung is undefeated in his last six.
Meanwhile, ONE Championship kingpin Bibiano Fernandes maintained the strange-hold on his title, putting the kimura to Kevin Belingon in the final minute of Round 1. Fernandes has won eleven straight, with those last four being title defenses; the former Dream champion is 19-3-0 overall. Belingon slips to 13-5-0.
At Kunlun Fight 37, TUF: China winner Zhang Lipeng (14-9-1, 2-1 UFC) defeated Beibit Nazarov (6-2-0) by unanimous decision. He's 5-0 since leaving the UFC.
Fellow TUF: China alum Wang Sai (13-5-0, 1-1 UFC) improved to 6-0 in his post-UFC career with a first-round armbar of Zeinii Avhadov (2-2-0).
Tatsuya Mizuno (14-11-1, 2-2 Dream) succumbed to the elbows of Jake Butler late in the first. He's 1-1-1 since 2015. Butler is 7-1 in his career, which has been contended entirely in ONE Championship.
And Motonobu Tezuka (27-10-5, 0-2 UFC) put himself on a three-fight winning streak with a first-round arm-triangle choke of Takaaki Aoki (4-6-0). Tezuka's post-UFC mark stands at 8-4-1.