UFC Fight Night 165: The Real Winners and Losers
Rather than close out the decade with a massive pay-per-view in Las Vegas or New York City, the UFC did so with a modest card in the South Korean port city of Busan, which had a yawn-inducing 2 a.m. ET start time on ESPN+.
While Saturday's card was a bit of a strange choice for the last of the decade, it featured plenty of notable names and meaningful fights.
In the main event, beloved featherweight contender "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung picked up an effortless-looking first-round TKO victory over former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who stepped in on short notice to replace the injured Brian Ortega.
In the co-main event, Swiss knockout artist Volkan Oezdemir reaffirmed himself as one of the light heavyweight division’s best with a razor-thin split decision win over Aleksandar Rakic.
Elsewhere on the card, we witnessed huge victories from prospects like Charles Jourdain, Da Un Jung and Cyril Gane and more established names like Kyung Ho Kang and Alexandre Pantoja.
But who came out on top on this decade-ending UFC card? And who will enter the new year with the taste of defeat on their tongue?
Let’s take a closer look at the action in Busan and figure out what really happened.
Winner: Korean MMA
The South Korean fighters on the UFC Fight Night 165 bill didn't get a clean sweep, but they came close.
Of the seven Koreans on the card, only two lost: "The Korean Superboy" Doo Ho Choi and Dong Hyun Ma. The remaining five all picked up victories—and impressively so.
The importance of this card for the South Korean MMA scene extends well beyond the numbers, though.
The success the hometown fighters had on this card proved that the country is without a doubt one of the world leaders in term of MMA talent. Within its borders, you'll find top contenders like the main event winner, The Korean Zombie. You'll find experienced talents like Kyung Ho Kang, who defeated Liu Pingyuan in the main card opener. And perhaps most importantly, you'll find sizzling prospects like 26-year-old light heavyweight Da Un Jung, now 13-2, who decimated the highly regarded Mike Rodriguez on the main card.
No matter how you swing it, the UFC's stop in Busan was a big night for MMA in South Korea, and the country should most definitely be mentioned among other power players like the United States, Brazil and Russia when we discuss breeding grounds for high-level MMA talent.
Loser: Deviating from the Plan
Frankie Edgar had a plan.
The former lightweight champion was scheduled to drop down to bantamweight for a fight with Cory Sandhagen at the UFC's January 25 card in Raleigh, North Carolina. When Ortega was forced off Saturday's card with an injury, however, Edgar broke from this plans and stepped in to fight The Korean Zombie on short-notice.
This change of plan did not pay off for the American. In fact, it went disastrously, as he was melted by first-round punches in what looked like an exceedingly easy night of work for his foe.
To make matters worse, this is not the first time Edgar has changed his plans and gotten stung as a result. In March 2018, he was scheduled to fight Max Holloway for the UFC title. When Holloway was forced out of the fight with a leg injury, Edgar boldly accepted a short-notice fight with Ortega and was knocked out in the first round.
Fighters who will fight anybody at any time hold a special place in fans' hearts, but it's hard not to wonder how different the past few years of Edgar's career would look if he stuck to his original plans more often.
Loser: Every Heavyweight Not Named Ciryl Gane
French heavyweight prospect Ciryl Gane failed to score a finish in Busan, besting Canadian adversary Tanner Boser by unanimous decision. Somehow, though, his going three rounds made him even scarier than another finish would have.
We already knew Gane could finish fights. He proved that with the submissions over Raphael Pessoa and Dontale Mayes he locked up in his first two UFC bouts and the knockouts he produced before he arrived in the promotion. His win over Boser proves that he's got great cardio too, which is a crucial quality for the men who populate the heavyweight division.
With impressive submission chops, unbelievable knockout power and a solid gas tank, Gane looked even more like a fighter who can do everything, which is a worrying thought for his fellow heavyweights.
Expect the Frenchman, now 6-0 overall, to start getting big opportunities in his next few fights—provided the UFC matchmaking team can convince people to step into the cage with him.
Winner: The Flyweight Division
Henry Cejudo has relinquished the UFC flyweight title, clearing the way for Joseph Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo to fight for the vacant belt on February 29—but that's not all that's going on in the division.
The UFC Busan undercard feature a high-stakes flyweight bout between ranked contenders Alexandre Pantoja and Matt Schnell. This fight delivered fireworks for the short time it lasted, as the pair pelted each other with heavy artillery until Pantoja put an end to things with a knockout in the final minute of the first round.
As the fight world prepares for a new dynasty under a new flyweight king, this fight was a perfect reminder of how fun this criminally underappreciated division can be when it's at its best. It also reestablishes Pantoja, who recently lost a decision to Figueiredo, as a legitimate contender in the UFC's lightest men's weight class.
By all accounts, it was the perfect aperitif for the flyweight fun to come in 2020.
Winner: American Hardcores
UFC on ESPN+ 23 was not an easy card to watch for fight fans in North America. With an undercard start time of 2 a.m. ET and a main card start time of 5 a.m. ET, this one was not for the casual fans who only tune in for Conor McGregor and Jon Jones pay-per-views. This one was for the hardcore fans.
Those who were brave enough to set their alarms and load up on coffee in for this early morning card were well rewarded, as the event delivered plenty of memorable action.
From the undercard war between Pantoja and Schnell to the main card finishes from Da Un Jung and Charles Jourdain, it had everything a fight fan wants—even if a few of the fights were a little slow.
Hopefully the hardcore fans who woke up early for this one don't regret it too much as they attempt to stay awake for Saturday's Bellator card.
UFC Fight Night 165 Full Card Results
Chan Sung Jung def. Frankie Edgar via first-round TKO (3:18)
Volkan Oezdemir def. Aleksandar Rakic via split decision
Charles Jourdain def. Doo Ho Choi via second-round TKO (4:32)
Da Un Jung def. Mike Rodriguez via first-round KO (1:04)
Jun Yong Park def. Marc-Andre Barriault via UD (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Kyung Ho Kang def. Liu Pingyuan via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
Ciryl Gane def. Tanner Boser via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
Seungwoo Choi def. Suman Mokhtarian via unanimous decision (29-26, 29-26, 29-25)
Omar Morales def. Dong Hyun Ma via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 29-28)
Alexandre Pantoja def. Matt Schnell via KO (punch) at 4:17 of R1 | Watch finish
Raoni Barcelos def. Said Nurmagomedov via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Amanda Lemos def. Miranda Granger via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:43 of R1
Heili Alateng def. Ryan Benoit via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)