Another UFC Fight Night has come and gone and the roster is short one more regular headliner. While Chan Sung Jung — a.k.a. The Korean Zombie – ultimately came up short against Max Holloway, it was ultimately his night. It had been a while since we all saw TKZ – over 16 months – but he looked much better against Holloway than he did against Alexander Volkanovski, putting a scare into Holloway on multiple occasions. In the end, TKZ’s aggressiveness saw him run right into a right hook from Holloway that splayed out the former title challenger.
It wasn’t the loss that made for a memorable night for TKZ. It was that he announced his retirement after the fight, drawing a close to one of the more memorable careers of the last decade plus. It might be a stretch to call him an all-time great, but he was certainly one of the most entertaining to ever step into a cage or ring. His presence, even as he is past his prime, will be missed.
The win doesn’t do much for Holloway beyond adding a valuable name to his resume. With three losses to Volkanovski, he’s stuck as the division’s ultimate gatekeeper. In the case of Erin Blanchfield, it’s possible her win over Taila Santos will punch a ticket to a title shot, making her one of the biggest winners on the evening.
But who were the real winners and losers of the event? Sure, 13 UFC fighters officially had their hand raised in victory, but that doesn’t always mean they are the true winners of the night. Same with those who didn’t get their hand raised. Just like not all wins are created equal, not all losses are either. I’ll give you the lowdown on who the biggest winners and losers of the event were. I’ll limit it to three in each category, doing my best to avoid having the same combatants of a contest in both categories. Let’s dig in!
UFC Singapore Winners
Chan Sung Jung
Maybe the man didn’t walk out with his arm raised, but he did simultaneously go out on his shield and with his head held high. In fact, it could be argued this single fight may have encapsulated TKZ’s career better than any other fight. Fighting with an interesting combination of technique and reckless abandon, Jung put a real scare into a heavily favored Holloway, only to ultimately go down in flames. For his career, TKZ had some serious moments of brilliance both technically – you don’t secure a twister without technical brilliance – and of a brawling nature, only to ultimately come up short of reaching the peak.
The other factor that makes TKZ one of the biggest winners of the night is the love the crowd showed him. For years, TKZ has walked out to “Zombie” by the Cranberries. He had the crowd singing it both on his way to the cage, as well as when he was walking to the back. It’s a reminder of just how beloved the man is in the MMA community. It takes a lot of sacrifice in this sport to garner that type of response. I would like to think he found his sacrifices to be well worthwhile.
There shouldn’t be any doubts about the legitimacy of Blanchfield anymore. Given the apparent decline of Jessica Andrade, many were saying Blanchfield was rocketed to the top of divisional hierarchy too quick. Being able to hang with Santos and get an uncontroversial nod from the judges should silence any remaining detractors. Perhaps more important, it’s hard to think of anyone who has a better argument to fight for the title than she does… once Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko have settled things.
Another argument I saw in regards to Blanchfield’s win over Andrade was it was a favorable stylistic matchup for Blanchfield. That wasn’t the case with Santos. Santos was bigger, stronger, and the more skilled striker. All of that was apparent during the contest. However, like a trickle wearing down a rock base over years, Blanchfield wore down Santos with a grinding approach. It was a further sign of Blanchfield’s incredible fight IQ and confidence. Even if Blanchfield doesn’t get a title shot next, I still see her as a future champion.
Prior to this contest, it wasn’t hard to see what the UFC liked about Cortes-Acosta. The big man is a skilled athlete with the requisite toughness and durability to go far. However, he’s also exceptionally raw with some huge holes experienced fighters can take advantage of. Against Lukasz Brzeski, Cortes-Acosta didn’t exactly have a flawless performance, but he showed he’s beginning to grow more comfortable with his new sport.
What makes the victory more impressive isn’t just that Cortes-Acosta secured his first UFC stoppage; he did so against a Brzeski who was fighting a smart fight. Brzeski attacked Cortes-Acosta’s leg early and often, causing some visible damage before the round was even halfway through. While it’s still an aspect Cortes-Acosta will need to address, that he could overcome that and deliver a stoppage shortly after was impressive. The UFC still needs to handle him with care, but this was the first time Cortes-Acosta showed the ever important killer instinct the best possess.
UFC Singapore Losers
It’s rare the UFC gives fighters an opportunity to get one back. Even more rare for them to do so within the span of a few years. Spann had that rare opportunity against Anthony Smith. It isn’t like Smith has recently looked like the same guy who quickly disposed of Spann either. As the fight started, Smith still didn’t look all that great. He no longer looks like the dog that allowed him to challenge Jon Jones for the title, his body worn out after all the years of fighting. And yet… Spann still couldn’t secure the W, even if it was a controversial decision.
After his victory over Dominick Reyes, Spann declared he had turned a corner, that he was taking his training seriously. He hasn’t won a fight since. I’m not saying Spann is on his way out the door by any means, but it feels safe to say it would be foolish to expect him to rise to the level of being in title talks. To be fair, he’s a solid gatekeeper to the top ten of the division and that’s a meaningful accomplishment in itself. The issue is it appears to be at least a level lower than what Spann is capable of. 30 fights into his career, it feels safe to say Spann is what he is.
I want to give more credit to Michal Oleksiejczuk for his impressive performance in his come-from-behind win over Njokuani, but the effect of the loss for Njokuani is so much more impactful than the win for Oleksiejczuk. The former Bellator welterweight has now lost three in a row after securing two quick finishes to open his UFC career. Given his advanced age – he’s 34 – the UFC could very well decide they’ve seen enough and award him a pink slip. What makes it hurt more is he appeared to have Oleksiejczuk on the ropes.
Given the entertaining nature of his contests, there is a chance the UFC brings him back. If it was up to me, give him one more opportunity given he’s not only been competitive in those losses, he’s been in the driver’s seat at some point in each of them. The other thing Njokuani has in his favor is he’s not too deep in his UFC career, so I’d imagine his salary isn’t one they’re circling to shed. Regardless, there’s other middleweight’s on the roster I’d pick Njokuani to beat any day… and it could soon be they’ll be employed by the UFC while Njokuani isn’t.
Kinoshita just barely turned 23. It’s hard to believe he doesn’t have brighter days ahead of him. But he’s also coming off consecutive TKO losses in which he was the favorite entering the contest. That can’t be good for his confidence. In fact, it’s very possible he could be completely derailed given his youth and inexperience. I wish there wasn’t such pressure for these youngsters to get a contract early as it would do them so much better to get more seasoning, but that’s how it goes.
There are some positives to take out of Kinoshita’s loss to Billy Goff. For one, Kinoshita was undeniably winning until he wasn’t, indicating we haven’t been sold a bill of goods. The skills are there. Training at Kill Cliff, he’s at a good camp too. But confidence is a requisite for a youngster to grow and losing consecutively – his first real losses — to opponents he’s supposed to beat could very well end up setting him back severely. I hope I’m wrong.
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