A Viewers Guide – The Ultimate Fighter: China Finale Edition

The UFC is back on its travels this weekend, with Macau the Octagon’s destination for The Ultimate Fighter: China Finale. Headlining the card is a clash of welterweights as Dong Hyun Kim takes on the returning John Hathaway and the TUF:China welterweight tournament winner will be crowned as Sai Wang and Lipeng Zhang do battle in the evening’s co-main event. Elsewhere on the card we have a heavyweight bout featuring Matt Mitrione and Shawn Jordan, as well as featherweights Ivan Menjivar and Hatsu Hioki closing out the main card.

This is a fairly low key event for the UFC both in terms of promotion and name value of the fighters competing, but here are a few of the points I have taken from the matchups heading in to the event…

Kim vs. Hathaway
This is it. This is the only fight of any real relevance to its division, and even then the value it holds towards the 170lbs weight class is pretty tenuous.

Dong Hyun Kim is currently ranked at #11 in the official UFC welterweight rankings and will very much likely move up to the top ten with a win over Hathaway. Kim holds victories over Erick Silva, Nate Diaz and Matt Brown to name just a few and tends to be just the one or two victories away from mounting a title run. Whereas Hathaway, competing for the first time in the best part of 18 months, before injuries curtailed his progress was thought of as somewhat of a prospect in the division, particularly after defeating Rick Story and Diego Sanchez.

If Kim wins he will likely face off with a top 10 welterweight, but if Hathaway triumphs I imagine that the UFC would provide the Brit with a fighter in and around the top 15 to ease him back after such a long period out injured. This is a bout that will matter little in the grand scheme of things, but could well set the wheels in motion for the successful competitor.

A Worthwhile Main Card
While the rest of the fights on the main card carry no real divisional relevance, that does not necessarily mean that they are not of interest or elicit any excitement whatsoever. For instance, barring the TUF:China welterweight final, I am actually pretty keen on the rest of the main card. I do not know however, if that says more about me than it does the quality on show.

Matt Mitrione vs. Shawn Jordan is a heavyweight fight. That is enough for me. Put two big guys inside an Octagon that have shown a penchant for separating their opponent from their senses and are of a reasonable fighting standard, as both Mitrione and Jordan are, and I’m sold.

While Hatsu Hioki vs. Ivan Menjivar has the makings of an entertaining scrap, as both men are on uneasy footing with the UFC due to recent form and on their day are capable of big things.

Chalk another one up for the positivity camp.

Piss-Poor Prelims
The same cannot be said for a dire set of undercard fights.

On paper this is perhaps the most unremarkable set of UFC fights that I have seen for quite some time. Other than the Nam Phan/Vaughan Lee matchup, I struggle to recognise at least one other bout on the prelims where I am aware of both competitors preparing to head inside the Octagon before this event seemingly birthed them.

Unless you’re an MMA addict, or have very little to do on your Saturday morning, I’d give these fights a miss.

Hatsu Hioki  Drinking in the Last Chance Saloon
While I briefly referenced Hioki’s less than stellar form just above, I thought the topic was worthy of further deliberation.

Hioki entered the UFC in 2012 as the Sengoku Featherweight Champion and with only one loss on his resume since 2007. Two fights in, Hioki had defeated George Roop and Bart Palaszewski and was offered a shot at 145lbs titleholder, José Aldo. Hioki chose to decline this opportunity to further hone his craft before taking on the champ.

Hioki has not won a fight since.

Consecutive losses to Ricardo Lamas, Clay Guida and Darren Elkins have all but ruined Hioki’s chances of ever getting anywhere near the belt ever again and have left the once highly touted Japanese fighting for his job. Four defeats on the spin will almost definitely signal the end of an ultimately underwhelming UFC career for Hioki.

Not So Perfect 10
Since the UFC began ranking their fighters throughout the divisions, there has not been one fight card that the world’s leading MMA promotion has put together that has not contained at least one top 10 ranked fighter.

Until now.

That there is not one single competitor on this entire event goes to show just how undernourished the UFC’s great expansion can prove to be.

While I am grateful for the near weekly UFC event that is being provided this year, it would take a fool not to notice that the overall quality on a card has declined as a result of the need to fill so many spots. The traditionally numbered UFC events and the FOX shows tend to be spared from the largely unknown fighters or irrelevant matchups, where as the UFC Fight Night events seem to serve as schedule-fillers that carry very little interest to the casual fan, save for one or two bouts.

This is the Fight Pass era where the cards are plenty, just not exactly plentiful.

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