MMA Review: #710: UFC Fight Night 165

-This was the UFC’s first return to South Korea since 2015, and it looked like a pretty decent card with the Korean Zombie vs. Frankie Edgar in the main event and a bunch of solid Korean talent up and down the show.

UFC Fight Night 165

12/21/19
Busan, South Korea

-Your hosts are Brendan Fitzgerald and Dan Hardy.

Bantamweight Fight: Kyung Ho Kang vs Pingyuan Liu

Kang was coming off two straight wins here and was 6-2 in the UFC overall, making him one of the Bantamweight division’s more underrated fighters, while China’s Liu had been stopped by Jonathan Martinez in his previous fight. Obvious pick here was Kang, despite Liu training at Team Alpha Male these days.

Round One and the crowd are wildly into Kang. Few early strikes land for Liu but Kang looks chilled and then tackles him to the ground into guard. Couple of elbows get through for Kang from the top but Liu comes back with some of his own from underneath. Guillotine is avoided by Kang but he isn’t doing a ton from the top here to be honest. Scramble allows Liu back to his feet, but Kang quickly gets back on him and takes him back down. Some punches land for Kang now and Liu doesn’t really look capable of getting back up. Round ends with some ground-and-pound from the Korean. 10-9 Kang.

Round Two and Kang lands a big head kick in an early exchange before easily taking Liu back down. His takedown defense needs some serious work. From there the Korean works with more ground-and-pound, seemingly headbutting the body at one point which I always thought was illegal. Liu lands some elbows from his back, but it looks like he’s bleeding from the left eye. Kang seems happy to just grind this one out from the top. Liu gets his back to the fence but still can’t stand, and Kang continues to work him over from the top with punches as the round ends. Two rounds in the books for the Korean.

Round Three and they pop some strikes at one another from range, and you can tell Liu is wary of the takedown. He’s being more active on his feet though to be fair. Clinch from Kang as the Chinese fighter gets too close sees him look for a takedown, but this time Liu slips away and then defends another shot. Looks like Kang might be a little tired. Another attempt is defended by Liu and he gets a front facelock and then spins to land some knees to the body with Kang turtled. They come back to their feet and Kang tries to get a takedown, then throws a kick that causes Liu to stumble to his back, and the Korean gets on top quickly. Good job from Kang to ensure Liu doesn’t get to his feet, and the action grinds to a halt again. One minute to go and it looks like Kang’s bleeding pretty badly, probably from those elbows from the bottom. There’s a lot of blood actually, wow. They continue to trade from the guard, and that’s the fight. Probably 10-9 Liu on damage, but it’s clearly Kang’s fight.

Judges have it 29-28 Liu (!), 29-28 Kang, and 30-27 for Kyung Ho Kang, thank god. I mean, how could ANYONE score that fight for Liu? That’s some all-time bad judging right there. Anyhow, fight was pretty dull as Kang just blanketed Liu for the most part. Can’t blame him as it was the easiest path to victory, but it certainly wasn’t entertaining. Reminiscent of early Josh Koscheck or something.

Middleweight Fight: Jun Yong Park vs Mark-Andre Barriault

Park – sporting the comical nickname of ‘The Iron Turtle’ – had lost in his UFC debut, breaking a pretty long winning streak, while Barriault had lost his only two fights in the Octagon as well, meaning this was a potential loser-leaves-town deal. Hard to pick too if I’m honest.

First round and Park opens things up with a decent combo that Barriault largely blocks. Striking exchange continues and while neither man’s landing cleanly, Park is being far more active. Nice right hand into a body kick from the Iron Turtle, but he takes an eye poke in the next exchange. Ref calls time and they restart when Park’s recovered. Quick left hook lands for the Korean. He follows that with a couple of nice flurries, and then gets a big takedown. Scramble from Barriault sees Park grab a front facelock, and he gives his back in order to stand. Good job from the Canadian to get free, and they’re back to the striking exchange with Park again getting the better of it. Takedown is stuffed by the Korean too. His uppercut is looking really nice. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Park.

Second round and Park opens up with a couple of decent jabs. Barriault looks more aggressive in this round and comes forward, but he eats a pretty big flurry and then gets dumped to the ground with a double leg. Barriault gives his back in an attempt to get up, and then does so despite Park staying heavy on him. Park keeps hold of him by the fence and then works for another trip, but the Canadian defends. Finally Park trips him down and takes the back with one hook. Barriault again crawls up to his feet, but Park won’t let him go. They finally do break with two minutes to go and Barriault presses forward with a strong leg kick. Park looks unbelievably relaxed though and calmly circles around while throwing some jabs. Couple of good combos get through for Park but a takedown attempt is blocked. Barriault comes back with some punches of his own, and he’s really chasing the Korean now. Round ends with a jab from Park. 10-9 Park again.

Third round and Barriault is really pressing the action. Both men wing some heavy shots in the early going before Park looks for a takedown and gets it, taking the back again as the Canadian pops to his feet. They separate and Barriault continues to push forward winging power punches. He just isn’t landing enough though. Clinch sees both men land some pretty good shots. Clean combo lands for Park on the retreat. Park seems happy to just clip Barriault with counters as he goes backwards. Couple of heavy leg kicks land for Barriault, but his nose looks pretty badly busted up. He keeps on advancing though. Takedown attempt from Barriault now but Park defends and grabs a potential guillotine. The Canadian defends that and breaks free, landing a pair of really hard low kicks. Park’s leg looks a bit wobbly. One minute left and Barriault continues to press forward throwing low kicks. Round ends with Park landing counters on the retreat. 10-9 Barriault but 29-28 for Park overall.

Official scores are 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Jun Yong Park. Pretty solid performance from him as he seemed happy to just play the matador, landing the cleaner strikes on the advancing Barriault and clearly outgrappling him when they did get close too. Not the best fight of all time but it was decent enough.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Da Un Jung vs Mike Rodriguez

Jung looked like an interesting prospect actually, as he’d won his UFC debut quite impressively and was on an 11-fight win streak. This one looked winnable for him too as Rodriguez looked like a smaller 205lber and had gone 1-2 in the UFC to this point.

First round begins and Jung circles on the outside as they trade off with some feeler strikes. Solid right hand connects for the Korean. Rodriguez fires back with some kicks but Jung closes him down and DECKS HIM WITH A RIGHT! Rodriguez looks out before he hits the deck and Jung seals the deal with a couple of shots on the ground.

That was a brutal finish, wow. Punch sounded like a gunshot when it landed and Rodriguez was DONE. Not sure how far Jung can go in this division but it’s pretty thin on talent so I wouldn’t be shocked to see him in the top 15 in the near future.

Featherweight Fight: Doo Ho Choi vs Charles Jourdain

This was Choi’s return to action following more than two years on the shelf with injury, and interestingly the only reason he was able to take it was because the show was in Korea, as he was actually about to do his mandatory Korean military service! Jourdain meanwhile had come off a loss in his UFC debut, and so this looked like a tailor-made fight for Choi to win.

Round One and Choi walks Jourdain down from the off, looking to land his trademark big punches. Clinch from Jourdain and he digs at the body with punches, but Choi muscles free. Big combination lands for Choi in a trade and he nails the Canadian with an uppercut. Nice step-in knee from the Korean and he quickly retreats to dodge a flurry in response. These guys are SWINGING. Powerful body kick lands for Jourdain. Flying knee misses and they clinch, with Jourdain again landing body shots until they separate. Nice low kick from Choi and he follows with a left that drops Jourdain for a second. He pops back up but takes a couple more big shots, and another kick nearly takes his leg out from under him. Big right hand sends Jourdain down again and Choi pounces to follow up, but finds himself tied up in the guard. Decent punches get through for Choi and he moves into side mount, then takes the back. Jourdain uses that to get onto his knees though and stands. Wild spinning backfist lands for the Korean Superboy and he’s swinging for the KO now. Jourdain still looks a bit wobbly. He’s still swinging back though, before he gets hurt in another exchange. They clinch up aain and Jourdain separates with a spinning elbow, glances on a flying knee and then decks Choi with a short left! Choi ends the round in his guard. Wow. 10-9 Choi, but what a wild round.

Round Two and Jourdain scores with a decent body kick as Choi backs him up in the early going. Right hands connect for both men in an exchange. Another body kick lands for Jourdain. Choi’s still stalking forward though and he lands with a body shot off a faked uppercut. Jourdain is still swinging pretty wildly every time Choi steps in to land his strikes. Big right hand lands for Choi and he follows with a flurry, but Jourdain circles free and connects on a heavy flurry of his own. Huge shots land for Jourdain and he dodges a spinning backfist in response. Flying knee glances for Choi. Body kick lands for the Korean but he misses another spinning attack. Big uppercut lands for Jourdain as he comes forward, but he eats a glancing spinning backfist. Less than a minute to go now and suddenly Jourdain lands a clean left hand that freezes Choi in his tracks, then drops him with a follow-up for the finish!

Wow, that ending literally came out of nowhere. Choi basically came in with his chin a little too high and once Jourdain landed that clean killer shot, it was over. You’ve got to wonder if Choi just took too much damage in his losses to Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens in hindsight. Super-fun fight overall and a huge win for Jourdain at any rate.

Light-Heayvweight Fight: Volkan Oezdemir vs Aleksandar Rakic

This looked like a big fight at 205lbs, as Rakic was 4-0 in the UFC and had most recently taken out Jimi Manuwa in vicious fashion, while former title challenger Oezdemir had bounced back from a string of losses by taking out Ilir Latifi with some really punishing strikes. Basically if Rakic could win this one, he’d be considered a genuine title contender, and I figured he could pull it off. Interesting too to see a Swiss fighter against an Austrian fighter, as neither country is renowned for producing top UFC talent!

Round One begins and Rakic looks in amazing shape for this one. Big overhand left opens things for Rakic and he comes out firing and backs Oezdemir up. Standing guillotine attempt from Rakic follows and he really cranks it, but Oezdemir defends well and manages to force him into the fence. They jockey for position and Rakic channels his inner Marco Ruas with some foot stomps before they break. Big body kick lands for Rakic and Oezdemir fires right back with some heavy counters that don’t land cleanly. Combination glances for the Austrian. Decent left hand answers for Oezdemir and he follows with a low kick. Big exchange follows and both guys clearly have solid chins as they eat some hard shots up. Hard leg kick from Oezdemir. Single leg from Rakic puts the Swiss fighter down and he gives his back, but Rakic can’t get any hooks in. Oezdemir stands back up and Rakic shoves him into the fence, where they trade some shots before breaking away. Big trade sees both men land again. Solid leg kick from Oezdemir and he follows with another before a brief trade ends the round. 10-9 Rakic in a close one.

Round Two and Volkan pushes forward and lands another chopping leg kick. He’s really working over Rakic’s left leg and it’s reddening up. Excellent tactic from the Swiss fighter too as Rakic leans really heavily on the leg. It looks BADLY swollen now, wow. Couple of big punches land for Rakic as they exchange and Oezdemir is all marked up around his left eye. The swelling on Rakic’s leg is gross though, man. Dan Hardy’s making alien jokes about it and all sorts. High kick glances for the Austrian and he finally catches one of the kicks and dumps Oezdemir for a second. Volkan pops up and takes a couple of punches en route to the clinch, and they jockey for position before breaking free. Kick to the leg again lands for Oezdemir and he avoids a takedown. Rakic’s output has slowed down a lot. He does land a decent left hand while going backwards though. Leg kick again lands for Volkan. Seconds to go and Oezdemir lands a nice body shot. Weird moment follows as he attempts a double slap to the face, and they trade low kicks as the round ends. 10-9 Oezdemir for those kicks.

Round Three and they open with a pretty clean punching exchange with both landing. Nice counter left lands for the Austrian and he moves Oezdemir into the fence from the clinch. Nice left hand breaks for Rakic as he’s showing no ill effects of that swollen leg. Oezdemir kicks him there again but eats a couple of strikes to the body. Nice right uppercut connects for Rakic. He’s doing a good job of dodging the real power shots from Volkan too. Couple of decent punches land for Oezdemir from close range but Rakic comes back with a flush left hook. Nice left hook lands for Oezdemir. Low kick from Oezdemir but he eats a stiff left hand before they clinch up. Big combination suddenly lands for Rakic from close range but Volkan takes it really well. One minute to go and they continue to exchange. Head kick glances for Oezdemir. Left hook fires back for Rakic and he goes for a takedown, but Oezdemir defends excellently. Few elbows land inside for Oezdemir too and the round ends just as they break off. 10-9 Rakic for a 29-28.

Official scores are 29-28 Rakic, 29-28 Oezdemir, and 29-28 for a split decision in favour of Volkan Oezdemir. Not sure I’d agree with that as outside of those low kicks I felt like Rakic definitely landed the better strikes, but maybe all of the forward movement from Volkan won it for him, who knows. Decent fight with some slow points but yeah, I didn’t like that decision at all.

Featherweight Fight: Chan Sung Jung vs Frankie Edgar

Initially this would’ve seen the long-awaited clash between Jung and former title challenger Brian Ortega, but when T-City pulled out with an injury, Edgar stepped in and to be honest, the fight didn’t lose a lot of its lustre. Despite being the biggest test for the Korean Zombie in probably his whole career, I was taking him to win by knockout as I figured Frankie was getting past his best.

Fight begins and the Zombie looks substantially bigger than Edgar. Crowd are absolutely rabid for him as you’d imagine. Lot of movement from Edgar early as he dodges some jabs and then lands a leg kick. Big takedown attempt from Edgar is blocked. Exchange of right hands sees Edgar wobbled and he shoots, but the Zombie defends it. Big exchange sees the Zombie absolutely ROCK Edgar with some big punches, and down he goes! Jung pounces to look for the finish, landing a ton of punches, but somehow Frankie spins around on the ground to try to escape. Zombie gets both hooks in from a back mount, landing some heavy shots, but Edgar is just about still in this. More big shots land for the Zombie and this should probably be stopped now, but Marc Goddard lets it go on. Edgar’s just eating more and more punches though. Finally he gets to his knees with the Zombie still on his back, and manages to escape through the back door, but he’s bleeding all over the place. They stand back up and Jung nails him with another combo, causing him to stumble down, and finally Goddard stops it there.

Well, to be honest that fight went much longer than it should’ve done as Edgar just got STOMPED. Looks like his chin might be completely gone as he just folded on basically every punch that the Zombie landed cleanly, and worryingly he landed a LOT of them cleanly too. Frankie ought to consider hanging it up really as he’s got nothing more to prove, he’s pushing 40 and I wouldn’t want to see him get beaten up like this many more times.

As for the Korean Zombie though, this was a HUGE WIN and probably stands as the best of his career, definitely from a name value standpoint. Post-fight he calls out Alexander Volkanovski for a title shot and while that isn’t happening just yet, maybe it’d work later in 2020? Or shit, maybe they could do Zombie vs. Zabit on FIGHT ISLAND and make everyone happy. Hell of a way to end the night!

-Show ends with the Zombie celebrating as the crowd go insane.

Final Thoughts….

Outside of the first two fights, this show was absolutely tremendous. We got three really great highlight reel finishes, a hard-hitting fight between Rakic and Oezdemir in the co-main and one of the better brawls of the year in Choi/Jourdain. Zombie vs. Edgar was one of the more memorable knockouts of the year, too. Two thumbs up for this one, but just skip straight to Jung vs. Rodriguez to start things.

Best Fight: Choi vs. Jourdain
Worst Fight: Kang vs. Liu

Overall Rating: ***3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com