After consecutive cards in Ireland, Brazil, Australia, and Mexico, the UFC wrapped up its unofficial world tour with its first-ever stop in beautiful South Korea. The organization made its debut in the country with the action-packed UFC Fight Night 79, which emanated from the Olympic Gymnastic Arena in Seoul, and aired entirely on UFC Fight Pass.
The card, which kicked off at 5:00 am ET, was headlined by a welterweight pairing of former lightweights Benson Henderson and Jorge Masvidal, and elsewhere, featured action in seven of the UFC’s most exciting divisions. And though the lineup was hurt by the loss of a Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic vs. Anthony Hamilton heavyweight bout, and the late withdrawals of Thiago Alves and Hyun Gyu Lim, it still managed to deliver as a fun event. Crammed with stoppages, upsets, and a handful of back-and-forth wars, it will not soon be forgotten.
Here’s a recap of the action for those who missed it.
The Main Card:
Henderson Decisions Masvidal in Technical Spectacle
Originally, former lightweight champion Benson Henderson was expected to headlined the UFC’s debut in Seoul alongside Thiago Alves. When Alves withdrew from the bout with an injury however, Henderson was paired with Strikeforce staple Jorge Masvidal, who he was briefly scheduled to fight in April of this year.
Despite the last-minute shift, Seoul’s main event delivered as an excellent one.
For five rounds, Henderson and Masvidal showcased their veteran guile, clobbering each other with a combined 250 strikes. And while Masvidal found substantial success punishing Henderson with kicks across all levels, in the end, he’d simply been outworked. In five round fights, Henderson is a hard man to beat.
With this split decision victory, Henderson moves to 2-0 as a welterweight, and 11-3 in the UFC. His overall record, meanwhile, sits at 23-5. At this stage, it’s difficult to say whether his future lies at welterweight or lightweight. It’s worth noting however, that Henderson appeared to call out Georges St. Pierre post-fight, making a rather confusing reference to the former champ’s “I’m not impressed by your performance” sound bite.
In defeat, Masvidal returns to the loss column after a July KO of Cezar Ferreira. The American Top Team staple is now 29-10 overall, and 6-3 inside the UFC.
Kim Smashes Waters, Calls Out Demian Maia
Suwon’s Dong Hyun Kim was originally expected to face Jorge Masvidal in Seoul. When Masvidal stepped up to fight Benson Henderson however, Kim was paired with the gutsy Dominic Waters. Not surprisingly, Kim was pegged as a sizable betting favorite over his short-notice opponent—and these odds proved accurate.
It all started with a first-round throw. From there, “Stun Gun” assumed the crucifix position, where it was only a matter of time before he pounded out the victory.
With the win, Kim ties Jon Fitch and Matt Brown for the seventh-most wins in UFC welterweight history. He’s now 21-3 overall. Whether his post-fight call for a rematch with Demian Maia comes to fruition remains to be seen, but having defended his spot as the UFC’s 7th-ranked welterweight, it’s certainly not out of the question.
In defeat, Waters falls onto a two-fight skid, having also lost his last bout to George Sullivan. He’s now 9-4 overall, and winless in 2 UFC bouts.
Photo by Mitch Viquez/Zuffa LLC
Mina Edges Akiyama in Back-and-Forth Fight
The second bout of the main card paired undefeated Brazilian Alberto Mina with the UFC’s pound-for-pound king of sexiness, Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama. Both fighters returned after layoffs of over a year. Of course, only one fighter could make a successful return to action, and in Seoul, that fighter was Mina.
That said, Akiyama did not make it easy for him. While Mina was able to ding the Japanese-Korean in the first in the second, he had his leg painted purple by low kicks in return. And though he nearly finished Akiyama off at the end of the second he, in turn, found himself on the brink of defeat in the third, wilting under a torrent of ground-and-pound. And finally, though Mina landed the more meaningful head-strikes, he was actually out-landed 98-41 by fight’s end.
All the same, Mina emerged the victor with a split decision. The Korean fans in attendance made no secret of their disappointment with the verdict, but really, it was a fair outcome. In victory, Mina keeps his record perfect. He’s now 12-0 overall, and 2-0 in the UFC. Akiyama, meanwhile, falls to 14-6. At 40 years old, he seems to be nearing the end of his storied career.
Choi Torches Sicilia in the First
The main card was kicked off by a clash of steel-fisted featherweights. In one corner, we had Juliana Peña teammate Sam Sicilia. In the other, we had the 24-year-old Doo Ho Choi, who entered the bout as not just one of the hottest prospects in Korea, but in the fight game as a whole.
The promise of “The Korean Superboy” was on full display in Seoul. From the nascent moments of the bout, the two punchers traded with fervor. And though Sicilia did manage to connect in these furious exchanges, it wasn’t long before he deflated under the fearsome assault of his young opponent. Not a single one of the Korean’s 18 strikes was deemed insignificant.
The knockout victory, which is undoubtedly the biggest of his career, moves Choi to a fantastic 13-1, and extends his win-streak to 10. He’s now perfect in two UFC bouts. Sicilia, meanwhile, has the momentum of two straight wins snapped. He’s now 15-6 overall and 5-5 in 10 UFC bouts.
Yang Braves Adversity to Blast Collier
Seoul’s preliminary card was wrapped up by the heaviest bout of the night, which occurred in the middleweight division. In one corner we had 27-year-old Jake Collier, who entered the bout with a split decision triumph over Ricardo Abreu in his wake. In the other, we had Seoul’s own Dongi Yang, who was making his UFC return after being released by the organization in 2012.
Though he very nearly had his lights turned out in the first, Yang eventually found his way to victory, fighting through a knee bar attempt for a second round TKO.
The stoppage marks Yang’s first UFC win since he defeated Rob Kimmons in March 2011—also a second round TKO. With the win, he moves onto a three fight streak, and now stands at a strong 13-3 overall. Collier, meanwhile, returns to the loss column. He’s now 9-3 in total, and 1-2 in the UFC.
De La Torre Outguns Nam to Split Decision
The second last bout of the undercard came courtesy of the featherweight division as “The Korean Bulldozer” Yui Chul Nam mixed it up with California’s Mike De La Torre, who shares the nickname “El Cucuy” with lightweight contender Tony Ferguson.
Though Nam showed plenty of heart, De La Torre was simply the sharper man in Seoul. Over the course of the bout, he stuffed 16 of his opponent’s 17 takedown attempts, and out-landed him by a 116-41 margin in the process—which, not surprisingly, proved more than enough to earn him the judges’ favor.
The split decision triumph moves De La Torre to 14-5 in total, and 2-2 in the UFC. Nam, meanwhile, falls to 18-6-1 and is now 1-2 as a UFC fighter.
Bang Edges Kuntz in Lightweight Slobberknocker
A few days ago, Tae Hyun Bang was hovering as a rough 2-1 favorite over Leo Kuntz. Less than 12 hours before fight time however, the odds for this bout took a drastic turn, as Bang plummeted to a 7-1 dog. Needless to say, many members of the MMA community donned their detective hats, and pointed to one of two reasons for this unprecedented shift: a last-minute injury to Bang, or some kind of foul play…
Bang’s near flattening of Kuntz in the fight’s opening minutes ruled out foul play, and we may never know if the South Korean entered the fight with an injury. What is clear, however, is that a pairing of Bang and Kuntz is a recipe for fireworks.
For three rounds, the two lightweights traded missiles, mixing in guillotine and rear-naked choke attempts as they did. And though Kuntz put up a valiant fight, the judges would eventually award the hometown hero a split decision.
In victory, Bang now sits at 18-9 overall, and 2-2 in the UFC. The close loss moves Kuntz to 17-3-1 in total, and 0-2 in 2 UFC bouts.
Ham Tops Casey in Strawweight Firefight
The only women’s bout of the evening paired strawweights Seohee Ham and Courtney Casey—both of whom looked to bounce back from losses to Scottish contender Joanne Calderwood. It was a close and riveting fight.
Round one seemed to belong to Casey, who rattled Ham with a head kick in the opening minutes. Round two was far closer, as Casey continued to land the bigger shots, but Ham began to land with more accuracy. The third, finally, saw Ham’s experiential edge manifest itself, as she soundly out-landed her American opponent, staying out of danger as she did.
In the end, the judges awarded Ham a unanimous decision victory, to the roar of the Korean fans in attendance. The win is Ham’s first in the Octagon, and moves her to 16-6 overall. Casey in contrast, remains winless through two UFC bouts. She’s now 4-3 in sum.
Zhikui Elbow Injury Gives Serrano a TKO Win
The lone flyweight fight of the evening pitted China’s Yao Zhikui with Columbia’s Freddy Serrano—two fighters who, in advance of the encounter, had only seven professional bouts between them.
This one did not last long.
After being thrown through the air less than a minute into round one, Zhikui posted on his right arm, visibly dislocating his elbow as he landed. The injury left him unable to defend Serrano’s subsequent strikes, spurring on a TKO at the 44-second mark.
The win moves the 36-year-old Serrano to a modest 3-0 overall, with two of those wins having occurred in the Octagon. Zhikui, on the other hand, falls below the .500 mark with a new overall record of 2-3. He’s now 2-1 in the UFC.
Beltran Edges Guangyou in Slow Fight
The second bout of the night paired TUF China winner Ning Guangyou with Mexico’s Marco Beltran in a fun bit of bantamweight matchmaking. Unfortunately, the fight was nothing to write home about.
Over the course of the bout’s three rounds, Guangyou stalked forward, trying to land the fight-ending punch, while the rangier Beltran circled away, trying to land the fight-ending kick. Yet until the last 45 seconds of the bout, when the two fighters finally turned it on, neither had landed anything significant.
At the end of the tepid affair, the judges awarded Beltran a split decision. In victory, the TUF Latin America veteran moves to 7-3 overall and 2-0 in the UFC. Guangyou, meanwhile, loses for the first time since 2010. He’s now 5-3-1 overall and 1-1 in the Octagon.
Steele Snuffs Kim with Slam and Elbows
The UFC’s debut in Seoul was kicked off by a last-minute scrap in the welterweight division. In one corner we had Dominque Steele, who was originally scheduled to face Hyun Gyu Lim. In the other, we had new UFC signee Dong Hyun Kim—not to be confused with his main card counterpart of the same name. Both 27-year-olds entered the fight with 13-6 records.
Though the much-smaller Kim put up a valiant fight, this one was all Steele. In rounds one and two, he set up his takedowns with jarring power punches. In the opening moments of the third frame, he put a stamp on things with a massive slam and three follow-up elbows—more than enough to put Kim out cold.
The knockout win moves Steele 14-6 overall, and 1-1 in the UFC. Kim, on the other hand, falls to 13-7 and loses his UFC debut.
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