Top 5 Fights To Make In The Wake Of TUF: China Finale
Five UFC bouts to consider booking in the aftermath of TUF: China finale
Although it didn’t have the star power of most UFC events, the TUF: China Finale certainly produced some excitement in Macau. The main event saw the continuing transformation of welterweight Dong Hyun Kim from ultimate grinder to KO artist. The powerful South Korean delivered a second straight devastating knockout with a spectacular spinning back elbow finish of John Hathaway in the main event. It was the first time in his career that “The Hitman” had been stopped. Kim’s effort secured a Performance of the Night bonus and is likely to move him into the top-10 rankings.
The card also saw a much needed victory in the heavyweight ranks for Matt Mitrione. “Meathead” kept his Octagon career afloat with an impressive first round stoppage of Shawn Jordan. Mitrione showed solid accuracy in the striking department and was able to close the show with a barrage of punches at the 4:59 mark of the opening frame. It was exactly what the doctor ordered for Mitrione after having lost 3 of his last 4 fights and earned him a Performance of the Night bonus.
Featherweight Hatsu Hioki finally ended his losing ways with a unanimous decision victory over Ivan Menjivar. Hioki survived a third round scare against the veteran and was able to snap a three-fight skid. He avoided his walking papers with the win and should be ready to test himself against top-15 competition moving forward. The event also saw a dynamic performance from Vaughan Lee as he recorded a dominant unanimous decision victory over Nam Phan.
As I like to do after major UFC events I will put on the matchmaker’s hat and examine what could possibly come next. Here are in my opinion the Top-5 Fights to make after the The Ultimate Fighter: China Finale.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports
5. Vaughan Lee vs. Bryan Caraway
Lee looked outstanding in getting his career back on track with a victory over Phan. The Englishman put on a striking clinic utilizing a strong left hand and showcasing a variety of techniques. While he has pondered a move down to flyweight, the performance against Phan should be enough for Lee to remain at 135-pounds. A matchup against the no.14 ranked Caraway would seem a good option. “Kid Lightning” is on the mend from an injury that forced him to withdraw from UFC 170. His most recent effort was a submission victory over Johnny Bedford.
4. John Hathaway vs. Ryan LaFlare/John Howard loser
It was a tough return to the Octagon for Hathaway after a 17 month absence against Kim, but it’s too early to give up on the 26-year old just yet. He still possesses a solid 17-2 career mark and a bounce back opportunity against either LaFlare or Howard would be a solid test and likely an entertaining matchup. The unbeaten LaFlare and the veteran “Doomsday” will meet in a welterweight clash in Abu Dhabi at Fight Night 39 in April.
3. Hatsu Hioki vs. Dennis Bermudez/Jimy Hettes winner
The Japanese veteran avoided the prospects of a UFC release by holding off Menjivar over three hard-fought rounds. Hioki initially entered the promotion back in 2011 hyped as being one of the best featherweights on the planet. He hasn’t lived up to those expectations but a chance to make it back-to-back wins against either Bermudez or Hettes could provide an opportunity to build some momentum. The surging Bermudez tangles with the submission specialist Hettes at UFC 171 later this month in Dallas.
2. Matt Mitrione vs. Ben Rothwell
Mitrione likely saved his Octagon career with the stoppage of Jordan and in a thin heavyweight division he remains relevant. Rothwell registered a stoppage victory over Brandon Vera at UFC 164 but is currently serving a suspension for elevated testosterone levels after that triumph. That suspension will be up at the end of May. When he’s ready to return Mitrione would be a solid opponent. Given the approach of both men to look for finishes this would have the potential to be an entertaining scrap.
1. Dong-Hyun Kim vs. Jake Shields/Hector Lombard winner
Kim is on quite the roll with four straight victories and means business when he says his goal is a future title shot. The powerful South Korean is 10-2-1 in his UFC career and with the spectacular nature of his last two wins deserves a major opportunity next. Shields and Lombard are set to square off in a high-profile contest at UFC 171 this month in Dallas and the winner of that bout against Kim seems the fight to make.