Thursday in Singapore, the first two episodes of “Road to UFC” were held, kicking off four 8-man tournaments with Asian prospects battling for a shot at the big league.
Eight fighters advanced to the semifinal round of their respective tournaments. Among the standouts on the first day were Chinese featherweight Yi Zha, South Korean lightweight Won Bin Ki, and Indonesian lightweight Jeka Saragih.
Yi came into the fight having dealt with four weeks of strict lockdowns in China. Being isolated for about month hampered his training camp, but he still managed to get a nice rear naked choke victory over Japan’s Keisuke Sasu.
The pair of lightweights in Ki and Saragih both advanced with brutality. South Korea’s Ki unleashed brutal hellbows in the first round, while Indonesia’s Saragih came in as an short notice alternate and suddenly pulled off a nasty spinning backfist KO out of nowhere in the third round of his bout.
Saragih wasn’t even originally planned to be in this tournament, but he made the most of his opportunity and time in the spotlight.
Two non-tournament bouts were also held, and while they technically did not fight for a contract, 19-year-old flyweight Takeru Uchida made a damn good case for him to just be signed outright. The Japanese teenager showcased his grappling ability against a 28-year-old in Shaun Etchell, defending his back before immediately pulling off a slick back take of his own and a nice rear naked choke finish.
Uchida turned pro as a 16-year-old, and the Shooto product is now 6-1, with a five fight winning streak. After that performance, he at the very least deserves to be an alternate for the flyweight tournament, if not just signed outright.
Chinese fighters went a combined 3-1 for the day, while Japanese fighters went 3-2 and South Koreans 2-1.
Episodes 3 and 4 will happen Friday in Singapore, ahead of the UFC 275 event in the country.
Road to UFC Episode 1 Results
FW Tournament: Yi Zha def. Keisuke Sasu by Submission (Rear Naked Choke), R1
LW Tournament: WonBin Ki def. Jinnosuke Kashimura by TKO (elbows), R1
BW Tournament: Toshiomi Kazama def. Maimaiti Tuohati by Decision (unanimous), 30-27, 30-27, 29-28
FLW Tournament: SeungGuk Choi def. Rama Supandhi by Decision (unanimous), 30-27 3x
Non-tournament bout: Zhang Mingyang def. Tuco Tokkos by KO (punches), R1
Road to UFC Episode 2 Results
FW Tournament: Koyomi Matsushima def. JunYoung Hong by Decision (Split), 28-29, 30-27, 30-27
FLW Tournament: Qiu Lun def. Wallen Del Rosario by Decision (Unanimous), 30-27 3x
LW Tournament: Jeka Saragih def. Pawan Maan Singh by KO (Spinning Backfist), R3
Non-tournament bout: Takeru Uchida def. Shaun Etchell by submission (Rear Naked Choke), R1
BW Tournament: MinWoo Kim advances due to fight vs Xiao Long being cancelled