Ultimate Fighter China Finale review

Dong Hyun Kim knocked John Hathaway out at 1:02 of the third round with a spinning back elbow in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter China Finale on Mar 1. Kim received a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus and became the first fight to win a UFC match with a spinning back elbow. The event took place at Cotai Arena in Macau, China.

Kim, from South Korea, may have star potential in certain parts of the Asian market. “I cannot tell you how happy I am. I think I draw from the energy of all the fans that come from Korea to watch this and from all the Asian fans,” Kim said at the post-fight presser. “There’s no stopping. I’m going to continue to go forward, forward, forward.” Kim was ranked at 11th in the welterweight division before the event.

The exciting main event capped off an equally exciting show, probably the most entertaining show that the UFC has promoted thus far in 2014. It was the company’s second major event held in China, and the first Fight Pass exclusive show to be broadcast on that web site after Fight Pass became a paid service, also on Mar 1.

The event drew a 6,000 sellout, announced by Mark Fischer, UFC’s managing director for Asia, at the post-fight presser. “We had attendance tonight, it was a sellout. Another sellout. We had six thousand fans in attendance tonight just packing the arena,” said Fischer. No live gate was announced.

The UFC’s previous visit to Cotai Arena was UFC on Fuel TV 6 on Nov 10, 2012 drew 8,415 paying $1.3 million. With UFC claiming a sell out with 6,000 people in attendance, the 2,400 difference might possibly be due to the live event configuration.

That the show was considered the most exciting of the year is no coincidence. Although it’s impossible control the pace of fights, and it is true that anything can happen in a live sporting event (including a series of dull fights), the UFC has recently been promoting long shows featuring as main as a dozen fights. This event, however, featured only eight fights, the first time a UFC event featured only eight since UFC 72 in June 2007. A show with a more reasonable amount of fights makes longer fights late in the card less tiring for the viewer. Sometimes less is more.

Fischer also announced that the UFC will return to Asia at least twice more in 2014, with a Fight Night in Macau planned for August, and another Fight Night in Japan in September, the latter event planned for the 37,000-seat Saitama Super Arena.

“Based on the success of our first event in Macau and tonight, we can confirm we are going to be be back here in August,” said Fischer. “We’re holding the date of August 23rd with an even bigger event. I don’t know if we can top this, but we’re certainly going to try. And we’ll return to Japan on September 20th with a major event.”

MMAJunke.com also interviewed Fischer in the days leading up to the event, where Fischer claimed that the UFC was also negotiating to run an event in Manilla this year. The promotion also plans to return to Singapore in December, and possibly South Korea late in the year.

The Ultimate Fighter China Finale was the final show in The Ultimate Fighter China series that started airing in China a couple of months ago. It was the first Ultimate Fighter season to air in Asia. Fischer told MMAJunkie that nearly ten million people watched a portion of each episode in the first season, and that the UFC was planning a second season for 2015.

“We’re looking at a Southeast Asia version,” Fischer told MMAJunkie. “We’re also looking at a Korea vs. Japan (version), but Southeast Asia would probably come first.”

Regarding Fight Pass, UFC had been pleased with the service’s performance prior to it becoming a premium service on Mar 1. Fight Pass debuted Dec 28, the same day as UFC 168, and remained a free service until Mar 1 as UFC continually uploaded content to the web site. Fight Pass debuted with 3,000 hours of content and added an additional 2,000 hours during that time. The company has been able to add a significant amount of UFC content, although they’re constrained in adding Strikeforce content as they are unable to rebroadcast Strikeforce shows until three years after each show took place. This is likely due to a contract restraint with Showtime, the original broadcaster of Strikeforce events. UFC has also expected to release pay per views on Fight Pass about a month after they take place.

In the co-main event in Macau, Lipeng Zhang defeated Wang Sei via split-decision to win the welterweight bracket of the TUF China Finale tournament. Zhang used take downs to control the early part of the fight, but tired as the match went on. He was still able to hold on to squeak out the split-decision victory. Scores were 29-28, 29-28, and 27-30.

The finals for the show’s featherweight tournament did not take place. Jianping Yang was set to fight Guangyou Ning, but pulled out due to injury a few days before the show. The fight is being planned for a future event in Asia.

Also on the event, Matt Mitrione knocked Shawn Jordan out with one second remaining in the first round. Mitrione received the second Performance of the Night bonus. Mitrione hurt Jordan with a left hand against the fence during the round and followed up with a series of strikes to earn the stoppage.

Hatsu Hioki defeated Ivan Menjivar via unanimous decision. Hioki was able to out grapple Menjivar, although Menjivar came back stronger with a big right hand and a heel hook attempt in the third round. Scores were straight 29-28s for Hioki. Hioki stopped a three fight losing streak with the win. Menjivar has now lost three straight fights. Menjivar was ranked 15th at bantamweight before the show. Hioki was unranked.

In the prelims, Yui Chul Nam defeated Kazuki Tokudome via split-decision. Both fighters earned the Fight of the Night bonuses. Scores were 29-27, 29-27, and 28-27. Nam knocked Tokudome down three times in the first round, and became only the second fighter to score three knock downs in a single UFC fight without finishing his opponent (the first being Gray Maynard, who couldn’t stop Frankie Edgar at UFC 125). He was also the eleventh fighter in UFC history to score three knock downs in a single round.

Vaughan Lee defeated Nam Phan via unanimous decision. Scores were 30-27, 30-27, and 30-26. Phan didn’t fight well, and his left eye was split open by the end of the match. Lee’s 142 significant strikes landed were the third most ever landed by a bantamweight in a single fight, and his significant strikes differential of +118 was tied for the second largest diffential, with Cyrille Diabete vs Steven Cantwell and Jessica Andrade vs Rosie Sexton.

Anying Wang defeated Albert Cheng after Cheng couldn’t make the bell for the beginning of the second round. Doctors stopped the fight after the first round when Cheng’s right eye was swollen shut. It looked like a broken orbital bone, caused by a left high kick by Wang.

In the opening fight, Mark Eddiva defeated Jumabieke Tuerxun via unanimous decision. Scores were straight 30-27s.

Jeremy Wall

Jeremy Wall has been covering combat sports since 2002. He is the author of UFC's Ultimate Warriors: The Top 10, released in 2005. From 2004 through 2006 he was the lead reporter for MaxFighting. After stepping away from MMA for a few years, he returned in 2013, launching the combat sports industry blog MMAChronicle.com. Jeremy holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts from Western University and attended law school at Dalhousie University. He also holds the Series 7, Series 63, and Canadian Securities Course investment designations.