The best thing that could have happened to the UFC heading into UFC Busan was a definitive win in the main event to deliver a potentially definitive #1 contender to new featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski. The organization got it’s wish. The Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung, delivered a violent beatdown of former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, giving him enough of a potential pedigree to call for the title shot… something he called for after the fight. Given the cult status of Jung, it’s hard to believe the UFC won’t give him that shot. There may not have been many waves coming out of UFC Busan, but the waves that did come appear to be pretty damn sizeable.
Chan Sung Jung (The Korean Zombie): I was amongst those saying Max Holloway deserved a rematch against Volkanovski. Not because I thought their contest was close; but because I didn’t see anyone definitively deserving of a title shot. After the way he disposed of Edgar, it’s hard to feel like Jung hasn’t earned the opportunity. There are some arguments that could be made against pushing Jung into a title fight. Edgar does have a history of being rocked, even if he doesn’t have a history of being finished. Plus, Edgar is a diminished legend, having now lost three of his last four. However, finishing a notoriously tough legend is a hell of an accomplishment, even if a diminished one. It’s not like Edgar went down easy either. Jung scored a hard combination early, then spent the next couple of minutes trying to submit Edgar. When that didn’t happen, Jung let the fight back to his feet and finished the job with more punches. This wasn’t a flash KO. Jung battered and beat Edgar until referee Marc Goddard finally called the fight. It isn’t an iron clad case, but Jung has the best case for a shot at Volkanovski.
Charles Jourdain: I was right when I said there was a good chance Jourdain would get the FOTN with Doo Ho Choi. In the process, I underestimated Jourdain’s power, scoring a violent combination that finished off Choi. In the process, Jourdain may very well have made himself a potential new star for Canada, showing a nice blend of humbleness and personality… the type of blend that made GSP a star. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing his potential to that of GSP; just his likeable nature and penchant for excitement. I wonder what type of place he’ll get now that he’s moving out of his parents’ basement….
Da Un Jung: I couldn’t have been more wrong about Jung. Believing he didn’t have the power in his fists to make a big impact in the division, Jung put Mike Rodriguez on dream street with a single punch, sealing the deal just over a minute into their contest. Even before that heavy blow landed, Jung was having little problem navigating the extreme length of Rodriguez, showing the technique I knew was there. Knowing he can pair that with the power that I wasn’t sure was there, Jung looks like he could become a serious dark horse.
Jun Yong Park: Every time I see Park, I’m more and more impressed with him. This time around, it was the second and third efforts on his takedowns that caught my attention in particular. And his ability to pressure. And his ability to fight off the back foot. There isn’t much that he didn’t do. He did arguably drop the final round after Marc-Andre Barriault had to go for broke, but Park still fought intelligently down the stretch, minimizing Barriault’s opportunities for damage while dishing out his own fair share. In my book, Park was one of the biggest winners on the evening.
Cyril Gane: Some may find Gane’s inability to finish off Tanner Boser to be a disappointing result. I’m sure Gane would have preferred that himself, but there isn’t any reason to be upset with how the contest played out. In fact, I find it to be the most promising contest on his UFC ledger thus far. He easily outpointed a crafty veteran, hurting him on several occasions, and leaving Boser looking a mess by the end. Given how dynamic Gane has looked, many people forgot just how inexperienced he is, this marking his sixth MMA contest. Some of that inexperience shined through, but no one will argue that he isn’t ahead in his development than others would be in his position.
Seung Woo Choi: See what happens when the UFC pits Choi against someone who doesn’t want to ground him the entire time? We get a fun striking performance out of the native Korean. He did taint his performance a bit with his early abuse of fence grabbing, but it’s hard to find much to tear apart aside from that. Some may say a finish would have been nice, but there was at least on occasion where it could have been argued a stoppage was warranted. Great performance from the youngster.
Omar Morales: I’m giving the DWCS alum some leeway here. I expected he’d be able to finish off a shopworn Dong Hyun Ma. Instead, outside of a few flashy moments – such as a spinning wheel kick in the final round – it wasn’t the type of performance most expected out of him. He looked like he could have had some jitters as it was his UFC debut. I’d imagine flying halfway around the world didn’t help either. Thus, even if it wasn’t the smoothest performance, I’ll give Morales credit.
Alexandre Pantoja: Pantoja isn’t just here because of his brutal KO of Matt Schnell, showing the power he had only teased in the past. No, Pantoja is also here as Henry Cejudo relinquishing the belt means the division will once again begin moving… and Pantoja could very likely make his way into the title picture with another win, though it may take two. Finishing Schnell in violent fashion off the counter will only help his cause. A very good week for Pantoja indeed….
Raoni Barcelos: Despite a shaky start to the contest, Barcelos settled down over the final two rounds to secure a pretty clear cut decision over Said Nurmagomedov. Barcelos pressured his Russian counterpart, eventually slowing his movement enough to inflict the physical brand of offense the Brazilian is known for. Now owning four wins without a loss in the UFC, the hope is the UFC will give Barcelos a ranked opponent next. He is already 34 after all.
Amanda Lemos: It turns out Lemos learned a lot from her UFC debut over two years ago. Coming out with a disciplined approach, Lemos took Miranda Granger to the mat and worked her over before finding the submission. Most impressive is it looked like she managed her cut to 115 quite well, an accomplishment given she last participated at 135. Given the short nature of this contest, there’s still a lot of mystery to Lemos, meaning there’s a strong chance she could continue to be underestimated moving forward.
Heili Alateng: I picked Alateng because I thought he’d be the more active fighter. That proved to be the primary reason he walked out with his second consecutive UFC victory, overcoming Ryan Benoit. He almost blew it at the end as Benoit almost finished him off, but Alateng demonstrated his toughness. Still, it’s too early if he’s a legit UFC talent or if he’s only winning because of favorable matchmaking.
Frankie Edgar: After a decade of being an elite talent, it looks like Edgar’s time near the top has come and gone. First, there was the loss to Ortega. Then, he squeaked by Cub Swanson, another fighter who appears to be diminished. Then came a non-competitive loss to Holloway and now a quick finish at the hands of Jung. How much more evidence is needed? Edgar may be able to have a brief revival if he drops to bantamweight, but it appears unlikely he’ll be able to hang with them as he looks to have lost a step. Do people really expect Edgar to find success in a division with quicker athletes. Whether he stays at featherweight or goes through with the drop to bantamweight, Edgar isn’t going to be a title threat. There are wins out there for him, they just won’t be coming against the elite.
Doo Ho Choi: Jourdain was supposed to be a softball for Choi. While many did sleep on just how good Jourdain is, it still should have been a win for Choi. Choi was performing well up until the point Jourdain dropped him at the end of the first round. After that, Choi lost both his confidence and his aggressiveness, eventually resulting in Jourdain’s finishing combination. I don’t see the UFC cutting Choi loose as he is still immensely talented and explosive, but I don’t see them putting any hype behind him anymore.
Mike Rodriguez: Someone with the length of Rodriguez shouldn’t ever be knocked out the way he was by Jung. While Jung proved to be a skilled and smart striker, Rodriguez should have been able to maintain his distance more effectively and prevent a punch as clean as the one that got him from landing. Given how much potential is still untapped within Rodriguez, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get another fight, but it would be foolhardy to think he’ll ever come close to fulfilling his promise.
Marc-Andre Barriault: While I’ll admit Barriault hasn’t received any gimme’s in his UFC run, all three of his opponents represented very winnable fights. Alas, Barriault is 0-for-3 in his UFC run. He was thwarted early by Park’s aggression and didn’t seem to have enough zip on his strikes late to get the finish he desperately needed. His inability to adapt looks like it will doom him as it seems most likely he isn’t getting a fourth UFC contest.
Liu Pingyuan: I’ll give Pingyuan credit for being the entertaining side of his contest with Kyung Ho Kang, but Pingyuan didn’t come close to winning, despite what one of the judges might have thought. Pingyuan was completely unable to stoop any of Kang’s takedowns, a development that doesn’t bode well given the Chinese representative has been training with Team Alpha Male… a team known for their wrestling. I don’t think the UFC is going to cut him loose quite yet, but I don’t see Pingyuan having much of a future.
Suman Mokhtarian: Can we be done with the Mokhtarian brothers already? They’ve had five UFC appearances – six if you count Suman’s appearance on TUF – and haven’t come close to picking up a win. I’ll admit Suman proved his toughness, but that’s a bad sign when that’s the only thing worth commenting on in a positive fashion.
Dong Hyun Ma: I’d say it looks like Ma has run his course in the UFC. He gained a reputation as a reckless brawler after his legendary scrap with Polo Reyes. That exciting style hasn’t been seen since and he’s now riding a three-fight losing streak, none of his opponents coming across as world beaters. He showed some toughness, but couldn’t stop the takedowns from a guy whose known for anything but that.
Matt Schnell: After four consecutive wins, the first thing out of peoples mouths in reference to Schnell was no longer about his fragile chin. Well, we’re back to that. Schnell had some good moments up until that point, showing a confidence on the feet and touching up Pantoja with some good shots. It looks like he may have been overconfident, showing no hesitation despite the questions about his chin lingering. Confidence is obviously a good thing. This loss proves why too much confidence can be bad.
Said Nurmagomedov: I was hesitant to put Nurmagomedov in the loser’s column as there was a lot to like about his performance against Barcelos. However, it felt like this was a win that could have been had with an adjustment or two. Thus, I couldn’t in good conscious avoid putting him here. Whether it was injury or fatigue – or a little of both – Nurmagomedov’s movement on the outside faded after the first, allowing Barcelos to wrest him to the ground and slow things down. I’m not sure what adjustment would have made the difference – perhaps a greater emphasis on his jab as opposed to his spinning back-kicks – but this was winnable. Nonetheless, Nurmagomedov shouldn’t take a huge hit in his stock.
Miranda Granger: While my overall outlook on Granger hasn’t changed an iota despite the disappointing loss, it is a setback nonetheless. Then again, it may not be terrible for her development for her to be brought along slowly. Regardless, Granger’s loss could have been avoided if she had focused on getting to her feet as opposed to being offensive off her back. As time goes on, she’ll better understand what she can and can’t get away with. She’s just not there yet.
Ryan Benoit: Perhaps moving up to bantamweight is the right move for Benoit. He was able to go the distance without badly fading, but he still has issues with volume. I understand power punchers rarely look to pile on the offense, but Benoit is a smaller fighter where KO’s rarely happen. He NEEDS to be throwing with greater frequency. However, his lack of attention to defense was even more damning, whether it be stopping takedowns or allowing Alateng to counter. The fight may have been close, but on pure talent, it should have been Benoit’s easily.
Max Holloway: Even though MMA math is an inexact science – and even those who use it are aware of it – there’s a strong chance Holloway’s inability to finish Edgar this summer will be used against him getting a rematch when Jung put him away in just over three minutes. The main event of UFC Busan could not have played out worse for the former champion.
Cory Sandhagen: Even if he keeps the contest with Edgar – an unlikely happening – it won’t have the same cache it would have had Edgar just been coming off the loss to Holloway. Now, Sandhagen is doesn’t get to build his case with a potential win over a former champion. The UFC would be wise to get the up-and-comer a replacement fight very soon, but it doesn’t appear they have any sort of urgency to do so.
Volkan Oezdemir: There was an overwhelming sense that Oezdemir committed a robbery by walking out of South Korea with a win over Aleksander Rakic. I’ll agree that it was a controversial decision and that I scored it for Rakic myself… but I can see where someone would score it for Oezdemir. He brutalized Rakic’s leg, doing most of the damage in the second round. It wasn’t as memorable or flashy as Rakic’s punches, but a strong argument could be made it was just as damaging as anything Rakic landed in that round. Oezdemir took advantage of Rakic’s limited mobility in the final round, making it the only round most would agree was a round in his favor. The win keeps Oezdemir relevant near the top of the division, but he’s also walking out of this contest with a particular stink thanks to the controversial nature of the scorecards. Whether deserved or not, it’s going to hurt him until he secures a more definitive win.
Aleksander Rakic: Whereas Oezdemir will have a stink around his win, Rakic will receive some leeway for his loss to Oezdemir. However, the loss could prove to be beneficial for the Austrian in the long run. Though he is proving to be one of the more talented members of the light heavyweight division, he could also use some more seasoning before being thrust into the spotlight. Now, the pressure is off him to continue climbing… at least for now. If Rakic continues to progress the way he has thus far, he’s going to be battling the best in the division sooner rather than later… even with this so-called loss.
Kyung Ho Kang: The only controversy in Kang’s win was how in the hell one of the judges could have possibly scored the contest in favor of Pingyuan. Kang was very top heavy in the first two rounds before slowing some in the final round, allowing Pingyuan’s overall activity create some drama. Nonetheless, it showed some improved wrestling from Kang, even if it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing performance. Nonetheless, I would have expected more out of him over an opponent like Pingyuan. Being unable to put away Pingyuan and his troubles with Brandon Davis in his previous performance has me questioning my opinion on Kang.
Tanner Boser: The heavyweight division needs a lot more guys like Boser. An experienced veteran with a deep bag of tricks, he pushed Gane in a way the former kickboxer hadn’t previously been pushed in his MMA career. Boser also clearly lost and endured a hell of a beating, but he was there at the end and won several tactical battles. In other words, he’s ideal as a middling gatekeeper who isn’t going to be rushed out of there in a hurry. His upside is limited, but he was pit against Gane to provide him with hard earned experience. He did just that and should continue to do so against similar prospects.