TUF: China Finale Results: 10 Burning Questions Heading into UFC Fight Night 37
The Ultimate Fighter: China finale is in the books. The results are as follows:
Main Card Results
- Dong Hyun Kim def. John Hathaway by KO via spinning elbow at 1:02 of Round 3
- Zhang Lipeng def. Wang Sai by split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28)
- Matt Mitrione def. Shawn Jordan by KO via punches at 4:59 of Round 1
- Hatsu Hioki def. Ivan Menjivar by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Preliminary Card Results
- Yui Chul Nam def. Kazuki Tokudome by split decision (29-27, 27-28, 28-27)
- Vaughan Lee def. Nam Phan by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
- Anying Wang def. Albert Cheng by TKO (doctor stoppage) at 5:00 of Round 1
- Mark Eddiva def. Jumabieke Tuerxun by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Next up? UFC Fight Night 37: London on Saturday, March 8.
The card features various talented fighters from the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. Fans get to look forward to a solid lightweight scrap between Melvin Guillard and Michael Johnson and, of course, the return of Alexander Gustafsson opposite Jimi Manuwa. Past that? Eh...I guess Brad Pickett is there.
So what topics are worth discussing? Find out right here!
Will This End Up Getting Big Ratings?
"Oh, but this is a Fight Pass card! It's not going to be on TV!"
Well, it is in England!
For those who are not up to date on their international TV deals, the UFC moved from ESPN UK to BT Sport in July 2013 for U.K. fans. The results have been less than fruitful, with a viewership that has often stayed far, far away from reaching six-digit figures. Bloody Elbow broke down the situation nicely here.
This event, though, will air on Channel 5, the U.K.'s fifth-largest TV network (the American equivalent, ratings-wise, would be the CW). That opens a big, potentially profitable can of worms when it comes to the UFC's international events, which may see the UFC rekindle its on-again, off-again serious relationship with jolly ole England.
Will things get hot and heavy when viewers snuggle up to take in Gustafsson vs. Manuwa? That's something worth watching for all the British fans out there.
Will We See Fighters Getting Better Sponsorships?
Sponsorships remain a hot-button issue in MMA, and it's going to be interesting to see how it pans out in London.
The Saffiedine vs. Lim card, beyond question, was one of the teeniest, tiniest cards in UFC history. You know it, I know it, and sponsors know it...and they adjusted their willingness to throw money at fighters accordingly. Alienware wound up endorsing over half the fighters on the card, and the plain, matter-of-fact shirts you see up above were a common sight.
The TUF: China finale was a bit better, but only a bit, as we saw many fighters wearing street clothes to the weigh-ins and post-fight press conference. Compare this with, say, UFC 168—where you saw Travis Browne repping MusclePharm, Chris Weidman decked out in Bad Boy gear and so on—and it shows that things aren't quite where they should be.
So how will London be? It's by far the biggest Fight Pass card to date, but how will it stack up to Fox Sports 1 and pay-per-view cards? Will fighters be able to make ends meet, or will Dana White wind up red-faced and shouting when questioned about it next week?
How Will Dan Hardy Do as a Color Commentator?
Former welterweight title contender Dan Hardy is shelved indefinitely when it comes to getting back into the cage, but he's at least found some work outside it. Literally just outside it. Like right next to it.
He will be playing the role of Kenny Florian/Brian Stann/Stephan Bonnar/Frank Mir/(ugh) Frank Shamrock and will function as the go-to color commentator for the UFC's upcoming European Fight Night cards.
Fighters who work as color commentators can go very wrong or very right. Brian Stann is, in my humble opinion, the best color man in the UFC's stable. Meanwhile, there are ex-fighters like Frank Shamrock and Bas Rutten who...well...are not good at doing color commentary.
So how will Hardy do? It will be interesting to see.
Can Davey Grant Secure His Job with the UFC?
There are two distinct categories of TUF runners-up.
On one hand, you have your TJ Dillashaws, Michael Johnsons and Manny Gamburyans: guys who grow past The Ultimate Fighter and develop into contenders down the line. On the other hand, you have your Phillipe Novers, Tommy Speers and Mike Riccis—guys who, quite simply, don't.
So which category does Davey Grant fall into? That remains to be seen.
He has a tough test against Roland Delorme, who already has six UFC bouts to his name and a 3-3 record (more or less). It's also worth noting that Grant will be fighting in front of his hometown crowd in London.
So will he live up to the occasion as his countrymen cheer him on? Or will he end up securing an early exit back to the British circuit?
Will Gunnar Nelson Renew the Hype?
Before the UFC started its ridiculous overhyping of Erick Silva, the "next big thing" of choice was Gunnar Nelson.
The Icelander with the badass name was a guaranteed title contender. No, really!
Sure, his biggest accomplishment in MMA to date was getting Joe Silva to threaten DaMarques Johnson into taking a short-notice fight and then cut him when he couldn't make weight on four days' notice. But did you hear what Joe Rogan said? This guy must be great!
But seriously now...
Nelson is an accomplished grappler with titles in the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) and International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF). His stand-up is spotty, but he has an uncanny ability to manipulate opponents' bodies on the ground, bait his way into transitions and slither into submission attempts.
He has some of the better grappling in the welterweight division.
However, unlike the guy in the next slide, Nelson has a sneaky-good opponent in Omari Akhmedov. He is one of the many Dagestani fighters who have been storming through the American MMA scene, and he will test Nelson in every area of the cage.
So what will happen here? Can "Gunni" recapture the hearts of the UFC's brass? Or will 2012's next big thing wind up the victim of 2014's next big thing?
How Will Brad Pickett Look at Flyweight?
Brad Pickett is one of those guys the UFC really wants to see succeed. He's like a flyweight Michael Bisping. Well, except for the fact that while Bisping has been hovering just outside title contention for years on end now, Pickett has kept well clear of that mark.
Still, "One Punch" is one of the most entertaining fighters under 155 pounds, earning seven post-fight bonuses in the UFC and WEC thus far. Now entering the flyweight division, he looks to hit the reset button on his UFC career and start working toward title contention.
Unfortunately, his original opponent Ian McCall pulled out of the fight, robbing all involved parties of what would have been a legitimately critical bout in the flyweight division. Instead, he faces off with UFC newcomer and on-paper tomato can Neil Seery, a 13-9 Irish fighter who has struggled even against flimsy competition.
So can Pickett squash the guy who's being served up to him and take that first step toward legitimate title contention?
Can Melvin Guillard Make a Comeback?
Melvin Guillard has had some high highs and low lows in his career. After a 1-4 stretch, exacerbated by full-blown ronin status that threatened to end his UFC career, he bounced back forcefully by wrecking TUF 6 winner Mac Danzig. More impressively, he stopped the Ross Pearson hype train cold with a devastating (but mildly controversial) knockout.
Now coming up against Michael Johnson, the 30-year-old could be poised to recapture the magic he had when he broke off five straight wins from 2010 to 2011.
Guillard is one of the most wildly inconsistent fighters in MMA, losing fights he was supposed to win and winning fights he was supposed to lose. It's impossible to guess if he will beat Johnson.
If he does, though, that bandwagon will be rolling again. At which point, the question will likely be: How far will this go before the next crash?
Is Michael Johnson Starting a Title Run?
Michael Johnson was on a roller coaster from 2010 until 2013. He laid and prayed his way through The Ultimate Fighter Season 12 and compiled a 4-4 record through his first eight official bouts.
Then he pulled off a big upset over Joe Lauzon in what was supposed to be a squash match for the Boston native in front of his hometown crowd. Then he followed it up by wrecking Gleison Tibau. Now lined up to fight Melvin Guillard, he has a chance to add a third established, successful veteran to his resume.
Make no mistake: There are still questions regarding Johnson's skills. Beating Lauzon, Tibau and Guillard doesn't instantly make somebody into a world beater or a legitimate threat to the champ. However, with another win, it's hard to deny that he's potentially only a fight or two away from getting a title shot.
So can he do it? And what will it mean for him if he does?
We shall see!
How Will Alexander Gustafsson Look?
"But things changed the moment he bloodied Jones at UFC 165. Over the course of 25 minutes, Gustafsson became a star. And stars need a chance to shine, especially in the MMA realm, where they burn out all too quickly."
That was Bleacher Report's Jonathan Snowden, who discussed the initial news that Jon Jones was avoiding a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson, and truer words are rarely said. The entire career of a fighter goes by in a flash, and the excitement over a single exciting performance is even more fleeting.
Think about Dennis Siver's sure-to-be-legendary spin kicks in 2009 or, more recently, Edson Barboza's knockout of Terry Etim in 2012. Both of those epiphanies saw middle-of-the-pack fighters get elevated to MMA stardom.
Both of those "next big things" have faded back into anonymity since.
There is no safety net for Gustafsson, either. The only way for him to continue to be perceived as Jones' equal is to be equally dominant in the cage.
In the suddenly crowded top tier of the light heavyweight division, with Daniel Cormier looking to leapfrog him for a title fight, the Swede will need to be dominant against Jimi Manuwa to maintain his spot as next in line for the title.
If he's not, there is no guarantee that a title shot is in his future.
Can Jimi Manuwa Spoil Jones vs. Gustafsson 2?
As stated, Alexander Gustafsson needs to put on a very strong performance in London. The question then becomes: How likely is he to do so against Jimi Manuwa?
Well, it's tough to say. Manuwa is unbeaten in his MMA career, and each win has come via stoppage. The problem, though, is that all three of his bouts in the UFC have ended in less-than-decisive ways.
In fact, the only fight he legitimately "won" was opposite Kyle Kingsbury, where the doctor waved things to a close due to the middling veteran's eye swelling shut. The other two endings, against Cyrille Diabate and Ryan Jimmo, both came about due to random injuries.
Still, those three wins are no flukes, and the British striker has not lost a round in the UFC. So can he compete with Gustafsson?
It's a tough call.
Manuwa is a lethal, accurate striker, and an argument can be made that he's better than Gustafsson in that category. However, Gustafsson has a clear edge in grappling and probably has the advantage in cardio.
On the other hand, it's worth noting that "The Mauler" has returned to his native Sweden to train for this fight rather than remaining with the MMA Alliance gym, where he honed his wrestling and jiu-jitsu with the likes of Phil Davis and Jan Blachowicz.
There are more questions than answers with Manuwa, but this fight will tell us a great deal about his chances at usurping the light heavyweight top contender spot.