A rather low-key UFC event last night from Houston held under the shadow of Sunday’s massive Super Bowl in the same city turned out some super action of its own.
The main event saw the return of “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung after more than three years away from the sport while serving in the South Korean Military. There were many questions regarding how such a stint would affect his performance, but he answered them swiftly, showing that ring rust was not a factor for him, knocking out opponent Dennis Bermudez at 2:49 of the first round. Bermudez was in the fight right up until the moment he wasn’t, rocking Jung with some early shots that Jung later admitted were harder than what he was used to in sparring, but served as a reminder of what it’s like to be in a UFC cage.
Bermudez told media at the post-fight press conference that he felt the stoppage may have been “a little early” and would have liked more of an opportunity to defend himself, but didn’t go so far as to dispute the decision made by referee Herb Dean.
Zombie, as he asked TV announcers Jon Anik and Brian Stann to call him, earned a $50,000 performance bonus for the win.
Another quick knockout came earlier on the main card when Marcel Fortuna scored a first-round knockout of Anthony Hamilton. Fortuna was making his UFC debut and, as a natural light-heavyweight, was giving up nearly 50 pounds to the much larger Hamilton. Fortuna dropped Hamilton with a flush punch that sent Hamilton face first to the canvas. Fortuna walked away without as much as follow-up shot, earning his $50,000 bonus.
The main card opener earned Fight of the Night honors and a future Strawweight Title shot for Jessica Andrade. Andrade earned straight 30-27 scorecards against a returning and much improved Angela Hill. Andrade got the best of Hill and rocked her several times, but Hill put on a gutsy performance and went toe-to-toe with Andrade, who UFC President Dana White said would “absolutely” get the next crack at dominant champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Last night’s show was short on star-power but, as is often the case, made up for it with exciting fights and convincing finishes.
Hiscoe’s Analysis: Save for what I thought was a dreadful fight between Volkan Oezdemir and Ovince St-Preux, last night’s show was a very enjoyable TV card. They had the usual pacing issues in the first half of the show, but that is par for the course for UFC Fight Nights right now. I was really curious what three years in the Korean Military would do to a man whose day job is to beat other men senseless. It was either going to make him or break him, and it looks like the time away made Korean Zombie a better fighter, and the years away from the constant loop of training, sparring, and fighting, may have added years onto his career in the end. Korean Zombie is a fan-favorite and could work his way up to another title shot with one or two more performances like he put on last night.
Felice Herrig’s call out of either Paige VanZant or Michelle Waterson was a smart move on her part. They are probably the two most high profile strawweight contenders right now so she’ll stay on the radar if she can get one of those fights. I don’t expect Herrig to get a rematch with VanZant as it won’t do much for VanZant, whom they should try to protect somewhat, to beat Herrig again and the risk of VanZant losing to Herrig is too big to make the fight worthwhile. Herrig vs. Waterson is something I can get onboard with though since it looks like Jessica Andrade is getting the title shot after some rumblings Waterson could be next in line. It’s a relatively low risk fight for Waterson who can seal a title shot with a win, but if Herrig does pull off a win, it will cement her as a top tier strawweight.
SUNDAY NOTEBOOK ITEMS…
-Last night’s event drew 8,119 fans to the Toyota Center in Houston, Tex. with a live gate of $611,133.
-At last night’s post-fight press conference, Dana White said that Korean Zombie’s win “sealed the deal” for the promotion’s return to South Korea. UFC visited Korea once in November 2015. “Ari (Emanuel) and I have been talking about going to Korea, so I think tonight he sealed the deal,” White said.
NOW CHECK OUT YESTERDAY’S UPDATE: suSATURDAY NEWS DIGEST 2/4: Holly Holm chimes in on whether she “broke” Ronda Rousey when she KO’d her (w/Cervanes Analysis)
(MMATorch’s Daily News Digest features the top story of the day with added analysis, plus smaller tidbits in the News Notes section. Mike Hiscoe, who writes the News Digest Sundays through Thursdays, has a background in film criticism and previously wrote for the DVD Town and Movie Metropolis websites. His passion for Mixed Martial Arts goes back to 2005, but it was in the promotion for UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie that he really got hooked.”This is my house, I build it,” is still among the all-time great UFC promos. You can follow Mike on social media under the tag @mikehiscoe. He now provides his experienced writing and perspective on live MMA events for MMATorch.)