UFC 170 Results: 10 Burning Questions Heading into 'TUF: China Finale'

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2014

UFC 170 Results: 10 Burning Questions Heading into 'TUF: China Finale'

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    Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

    UFC 170 is in the books. The results are as follows:

    UFC 170 Main Card

    • Ronda Rousey def. Sara McMann, TKO (Round 1, 1:06)
    • Daniel Cormier def. Patrick Cummins, TKO (Round 1, 1:19)
    • Rory MacDonald def. Demian Maia, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
    • Mike Pyle def. TJ Waldburger, TKO (Round 3, 4:03)
    • Stephen Thompson def. Robert Whittaker, TKO (Round 1, 3:43)

    Fox Sports 1 Prelims

    • Alexis Davis def. Jessica Eye, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
    • Raphael Assuncao def. Pedro Munhoz, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
    • Aljamain Sterling def. Cody Gibson, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
    • Zach Makovsky def. Josh Sampo, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

    UFC Fight Pass Prelims

    • Erik Koch def. Rafaello Oliveira, TKO (Round 1, 1:24)
    • Ernest Chavez def. Yosdenis Cedeno, split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)

    Next up? The Ultimate Fighter: China Finale. While you might be expecting a boatload of new Chinese talent from the latest international edition of the long-running reality TV series, think again. Only two fights involving cast members appear on the card, while the rest of the card is largely full of debuting fighters and middling veterans.

    Still, there is a lot to talk about, so what should you talk about on your message boards and around your water coolers? Find out right here!

How Did 'TUF: China' Do Ratings-Wise?

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    The original season of The Ultimate Fighter was a turning point for the UFC. The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 1 was a huge boon to the popularity of MMA in Brazil. Other international seasons have failed to move the meter.

    It's no secret that the most desirable market for any given business is China. If you can meet the demand, there are 1.2 billion potential customers to make your pitch to. If the UFC has anything resembling the success it had stateside or in Brazil, it means tens of millions of new customers.

    So how has The Ultimate Fighter: China gone over? Could China be the UFC's next Brazil? Will we see a The Ultimate Fighter: China 2?

Whatever Happened to Hailin Ao?

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    That strapping Chinese lad in the flame-patterned hot pants up there is Hailin Ao. Ao is one of the better Chinese mixed martial artists, and one of the few with a pre-existing fanbase. Those two things managed to get him a coaching gig opposite the UFC's token Chinese fighter, Tiequan Zhang, and had him poised to instantly become an anchor for the UFC as it looks to expand into China. 

    Then, for some reason, he left The Ultimate Fighter

    The reason? Completely, 100 percent unknown at this point. Cung Le, on the show, stated he left for "personal reasons" and it was left at that. Whether that happens to be a death in the family, illness, injury, contract dispute, disagreement with the producers, government conspiracy, alien abduction or anything else is left entirely up to wild speculation.

    Either way, it's a first in Ultimate Fighter history, and nobody knows why the heck it happened. I, personally, would like to know.

Where Did the Featherweight Finale Go?

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    I woke up this morning to put the finishing touches on this piece (outside the UFC 170 results, of course) and consulted the UFC.com website. I wound up doing a double-take.

    Apparently the featherweight finale between Jianping Yang and Guangyou Ning has been nixed. I feverishly attacked Google, asking myself how I could have possibly missed such news, and then discovered that, wait a minute, just like with Ao, a Chinese fighter has just disappeared.

    Obviously, that begs the question...what the heck happened? Jianping Yang (who you can see bust some moves above) was one of the few prospects on the show who was actually ready to jump into the thick of UFC competition (Guangyou Ning...not so much), so this is a serious loss in terms of the UFC's ability to get some return on its investment in TUF: China

    In all likelihood, the specific reasons will become known in time, so keep an eye out.

Which 'TUF: China' Fighters Will Stick?

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    I asked about the ratings a couple of slides ago. While it's not clear how well the series did on the Chinese equivalent of the Nielsen Ratings, one thing that is clear is that the UFC wasn't satisfied with the level of talent on the show. There are just two bouts that feature TUF: China cast members; the welterweight finale between Wang Sai and Zhang Lipeng and a preliminary card fight between Albert Cheng and Wang Anying.

    The featherweight finale has been scrapped. The coaches' fight isn't happening. All the other featherweights were handed their walking papers.

    This is a far cry from most seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. TUF18, for example, saw the majority of the cast get a crack in the Octagon. Seasons like TUF14 and TUF15 saw almost everybody brought back.

    That opens the door for those four welterweight cast members to impress. Will they do so? Or will they struggle mightily like many of their cohorts did?

Will Jumabieke Tuerxun Outshine the 'TUF: China' Fighters?

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    When the TUF: China cast was first announced, many were taken aback. China, indeed, has a lot of legitimate prospects...but very few of them actually appeared on the list. 

    If the UFC wanted to legitimately start scooping up Chinese talent, it wasn't going to come from the show. Enter Jumabieke Tuerxun, a genuinely multifaceted mixed martial artist the UFC is absolutely praying does better than Tiequan Zhang.

    While I can't say his name, I can say that he certainly looks like he may be able to make rumbles in either the featherweight or bantamweight division. The UFC is going to have its fingers crossed over his fight, and it hedged its bets putting him up against another newcomer, Mark Eddiva from the Philippines. 

    Can he give the UFC what it wants? A marketable, exciting and, above all, good fighter for the Chinese audience?

Can Nam Phan Save His Job?

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    I'm willing to confess this: I'm a big fan of Nam Phan. I'm a Phan fan. He was one of the better fighters on The Ultimate Fighter season 12 and has been reasonably good in most of his fights to date.

    Unfortunately, he apparently ran over Sean Shelby's dog at some point...or maybe he insulted his wife's cooking? I'm not sure, but he found himself ridiculously overmatched against Dennis Siver at UFC on Fox 5 and then against top-five Takeya Mizugaki in his bantamweight debut.

    Regardless of the reasons, Phan's 2-5 UFC record is one of the worst in the promotion, and it's hard to justify keeping him if it reaches 2-6. It finally gave him a logical opponent, Vaughan Lee, so it's now on Phan to show that he is worth keeping around.

    Will he do so? Or will he get his ticket punched for the California regional circuit?

Can Hatsu Hioki Save His Job?

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    Erik Koch isn't the only former featherweight title semi-contender falling on hard times of late. Hatsu Hioki, who earned a shot at Jose Aldo in 2012 but turned the fight down, has gone 0-3 ever since. 

    He has faced strong competition since, mind you, fighting Ricardo Lamas, Clay Guida and Darren Elkins. Still, few fighters survive a 0-4 stretch, especially ones who really don't have an especially strong fanbase. If Hioki loses again, he is almost certainly going to be debating between a return to Shooto or starting over with One FC.

    Luckily for him, he faces a beatable opponent in Ivan Menjivar. Menjivar is a wily veteran and is similarly lacking in recent success (and also likely faces the gallows with a loss). He is making his featherweight return, moving up after three years at bantamweight, meaning Hioki has a size advantage to go along with his grappling prowess.

    So can he finally get back in the win column? Or will he end up being another fighter from Japan who doesn't hack it in the UFC?

Which Heavyweight's Job Security Will Evaporate?

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    Josh Holmberg-USA TODAY Sports

    Notice a trend? 

    These sorts of gatekeeper vs. gatekeeper bouts rarely work out well for both parties.

    Precariously placed in the No. 3 spot on the card is a less-than-interesting and less-than-critical heavyweight fight between Matt Mitrione and Shawn Jordan. Both fighters are coming off devastating losses. Both have demonstrated themselves to be solid fighters, but no more than that.

    Mitrione is 1-3 over his past four but has fought some legitimate competition in Roy Nelson and Cheick Kongo (he most recently got choked out by Brendan Schaub). Jordan is a modest 4-3 between his time in Strikeforce and UFC, and he most recently got punched out by Gabriel Gonzaga. 

    Depending on how the fight plays out, Mitrione could find himself getting cut with a loss. Jordan, meanwhile, could get pushed to the brink. 

    So who will buy themselves some time?

How Will John Hathaway Look in His Return?

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    British fighters have always been a premium commodity for the UFC. Especially ones who can beat name-brand opponent. Especially with Michael Bisping one hard punch away from being forced into retirement due to his constant eye troubles and Dan Hardy shelved indefinitely.

    John Hathaway isn't the most exciting fighter, with a grinding, wrestling-focused style. The thing is, the UFC simply needs moderately successful fighters from the U.K. who can win fights. Hathaway fits that bill. Unfortunately, injury troubles have kept him out of the cage since 2012 and cost him the chance to add to the three-fight winning streak he left off with when he beat John Maguire.

    He returns to a very stiff test after a 17-month layoff; the recently dominant Dong-Hyun Kim...in a five-round main event.

    So, how will he perform? Can he knock off the surging Korean? If not, can he at least put up an exciting enough fight for fans to remember him as a guy who beat Pascal Krauss, Rick Story and Diego Sanchez?

When Is Dong-Hyun Kim Going to Get a Top-10 Opponent?

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    Kin Cheung/Associated Press

    This might draw a chorus of gasps in response, but I'll say it anyway. 

    Dong-Hyun Kim is one of the most dominant fighters in the UFC right now. He is the Chad Mendes of the welterweight division, if Mendes wasn't fed guys like Cody McKenzie and Yaotzin Meza.

    Since demolishing Sean Pierson at UFC 141, he has compiled a 3-1 record that saw him absolutely wreck Paulo Thiago (who you can see above, regretting ever putting on gloves in the first place), toss around Siyar Bahadurzada in similar fashion and, most recently, punching Erick Silva's head into the stands. The one loss was a true fluke, coming when he suffered a rib injury swimming for underhooks with Demian Maia early in Round 1 of their fight.

    Still, he currently sits at a mediocre 11th place in the rankings. Still, he finds himself against a less-established fighter who does very little to move his place in the rankings. Still, he seems blackballed when it comes to the title picture.

    Somebody needs to give Joe Silva a call, because he doesn't seem to realize that he has a contender on his hands. It's unfair for Kim, and it's unfair for whatever anonymous preliminary card fighter he will likely get matched against next.

Bonus Question: What Sponsors Will We See?

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    Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

    Pop quiz, kiddos. Who is that up there? Oh, you don't know? How about a hint...he fought on the Tarec Saffiedine vs. Hyun-Gyu Lim card.

    Still don't know? Well, that's probably because Alienware was basically the only company that sponsored fighters at the event.

    Logos on shorts, shirts and hats are a hot-button issue in MMA these days and these Fight Pass cards are actually a big cause for it. To quote our own Jeremy Botter, "three separate managers told Bleacher Report on the condition of anonymity that the difficulty of securing sponsorships for Fight Pass makes it the least attractive card placement for their fighters." Not only that, but if you read between the lines of Zach Makovsky's interview with MMA Junkie, it's hard not to feel like the UFC is basically using that fact as a threat to push fighters into accepting fights.

    Dana White's response? "It's not my f---ing problem."

    Classy. 

    This is the second Fight Pass card, so we'll see if sponsors continue to be reluctant to pay to sponsor fighters for events that nobody watches.

    (It's Tatsuya Kawajiri, by the way.)