The Road to UFC continued this weekend following one of the best events of the year in UFC 280.

Episode 5 saw three tournament bouts. Contrary to the expectations of many, Indonesia’s Jeka Saragih moved on to the lightweight finals with a massive 1st Round KO. Also moving on to the finals are Korea’s Seung Guk Choi and China’s Zha Yi.

The Road to UFC continued right after that with Episode 6. In another, somewhat surprising, turn of events, India’s Anshul Jubli put on a sensational performance, grabbing his place in the tournament finals. Then, closing the night, were three straight 1st Round finishes from Hyun Sung Park, Rinya Nakamura and Jeong Yeong Lee. All the fights, along with the final tournament bracket and BLÜ’s predictions for the finals, are described below.

Road to UFC Episode 5

Fight #1
Keisuke Sasu def. Balajin by Unanimous Decision

Both men were throwing combos early, trying to score some points early on the cards. After a while, Balajin started to move ahead with his striking, pushing Sasu to shoot for takedowns. He landed a quick one, but then they moved back to their feet, fighting for position along the fence. Sasu was doing well for a while, then couldn’t quite stay on his feet as Balajin started to drag him down. Then, with an amazing judo throw, Sasu was the one who landed on top. The round closed on the feet, where it was then revealed that Balajin’s eye was HORRIBLY swollen. That damage was likely enough to steal the round away for Sasu.

Balajin came back in with a vengeance, lighting Sasu up on the feet, then driving him into the canvas. He was stuck in a pretty deep guillotine, but managed to sneak out of it nicely. Sadly for him, this wasn’t the only guillotine that caught his attention. A minute later, he was stuck in an even deeper one, still managing to slip out and stay on top. The control time was significant, but Sasu had some fantastic moments in the grappling at the end of the round, possibly stealing the round again.

The same thing happened in the final round, with Balajin in top position doing some damage, but Sasu locking in deep submissions from the bottom. Back on the feet though, Sasu may have done enough to steal the round away again. All three of these rounds were so close, a judge could have gone in either direction. The judges agreed with the scoring, giving Sasu the win 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.

This was a non-tournament bout, but it was still in front of UFC audiences and Dana White, making it similar to a Contender Series bout. I could see either of these men getting invited to the Contender Series, but they just don’t seem skilled enough to get a fight straight into the UFC.

Fight #2
Jeka Saragih def. Won Bin Ki by KO in the 1st Round

Saragih made a bizarre choice immediately, purposely staying behind the line, next to the fence. A little hesitant, Ki didn’t take advantage of his position instead engaging in some light standup. it was close for a bit, but Ki was starting to pull away, hitting Saragih at will. Just as it was starting to look bad for him, he landed a counter MISSILE which knocked Ki out COLD. He was asleep before he hit the canvas, giving Saragih an absolutely sensational highlight reel KO.

I don’t know how much bigger a statement on this show could be. Ki was looking like he was going to run away with the whole tourney. Instead, Saragih had one of the biggest KO we’ve seen in weeks on the real UFC cards. No matter what happens in his final fight, I think the UFC will be giving this guy some kind of opportunity in the future.

Fight #3
Seung Guk Choi def. Qiulun by Unanimous Decision

Both men were throwing some lightning quick kicks early, looking for an early KO. Choi seemed to be taking an early lead in the striking, but Qiulun had some good moment thrown in as the round went on. With a late takedown and submission attempt, plus a couple of big shots on the feet, I’d have given Choi the round on the cards.

The second round opened with some more even striking, then moving to the ground with Choi on top. Qiulun busted him open with a nasty elbow, but with all the control time and ground and pound, Choi appeared to be up 2-0.

The final round was a back-and-forth battle on the feet with both guys landing some good shots. That being said, with the more significant blows landed, it seemed as though Qiulun had won the final round. It didn’t matter though as Choi had already banked the firs two rounds. The judges agreed, all scoring it 29-28 for Choi.

Honestly, this already looked like something you’d be watching in the UFC. Both men looked great and could definitely compete there some day. Choi will be someone to look out for in the finals.

Fight #4
Zha Yi def. Koyomi Matsushima by Split Decision

Zha jumped in with an early takedown. From there though, it was Matsushima that locked in a couple of nice submission attempts. Back on the feet, both men landed a couple of HUGE shots that really caught the other’s attention. With some NASTY shots landed in the clinch and some decent moments in the round, I’d have given the opening round to Matsushima.

Zha looked to make up some ground early, landing some pretty slick combos. A couple minutes in, Matsushima then stole then momentum back, dropping Zha with a HUGE leg kick. He then threw Zha back down with an incredible judo throw. Amazingly, Zha almost submitted the submission expert, but Matsushima got out of it. He then dominated the rest of the round on the ground.

The final round quickly moved to the ground where we were treated to an absolutely sensational grappling matchup. Both men had their moments, rolling around the entire Octagon. The grappling was close, but it seemed as though Zha was landing the heavier shots in between the grappling. The scorecards were all over the place with one judge giving the win 30-27 to Matsushima and the other two giving the win to Zha.

There’s no question why this was the main event. These two were so talented, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see both of them in the UFC at some point. Given that Zha was the one who triumphed in this incredible fight, I also wouldn’t be surprised if he won the tourney.

Road to UFC Episode 6

Fight #5
Samandar Murodov def. Gian Siqueira by Submission in the 1st Round

Siqueira was using his striking early. He was trying to push Murodov back, but was quickly dragged down to the ground by that classic combat sambo style. This grappling dominance continued for rest of the round with Siqueira having a brief moment as he threatened an armbar. Just as the round was coming to a close, he locked in a nasty rear naked choke. It looked like Siqueira was going to tough it out, then, with a second left on the clock, Siqueira was forced to tap.

Once again, this was not a tournament bout, but still had the eyes of the UFC on them. While it may not have been for a contract, if it had been, Murodov would’ve locked it up and we’d be seeing him debut soon. I can tell this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this dominant grappler.

Fight #6
Anshul Jubli def. Kyung Pyo Kim by Split Decision

These fighters let it all go right away, throwing out some WILD exchanges. Jubli was the one walking forward constantly. It was even for the first while, then Jubli really started to land HARD, dropping Kim to his knees a couple of times.

The fireworks continued in the 2nd Round, this time Kim landing hard early. As the round went on though, Jubli started to let his hands go again, possibly taking the momentum back Kim went in deep on a couple takedowns, but couldn’t quite hold Jubli down. It was close, but that damage of Jubli may have added up to another round on the cards.

Jubli kept up his striking pressure early. Sadly for him, he started to slow and was taken down fairly easily. He got up, but that pace really slowed down, allowing Kim to edge ahead with his output. It seemed like a fairly standard 29-28 for Anshul Jubli, but the judges weren’t unanimous, scoring it 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28.

Going into this, I really wasn’t sure how Jubli was going to do against someone as good as Kim, but he looked fantastic. He’ll have to work on his cardio if he wants to do anything in the UFC at any point, but the skills are there.

Fight #7
Hyun Sung Park def. Topnoi Kiwram by Submission in the 1st Round

The striking seemed to start off slow… then Kiwram landed a NUKE that dropped Park on his back. Knowing there’s no reason for him to engage on the ground, he just stood there and continued to taunt him. The kicks of Kiwram were unreal. Then the tables flipped entirely. Park dragged Kiwram down, eventually taking his back. From there he finished it with a deep, nasty rear naked choke.

This is another one of those fights where I could easily see both guys making it to the UFC at some point. In fact, number one P4P fighter, Volkanovski, made the effort of staying the weekend to corner Kiwram for this fight. The striking is already there, he’ll just have to get some more grappling defence tips from ‘Volk’. As for Park, more than anything he’s proven he can handle one of the best kickboxers in the world and is a VERY impressive grappler.

Fight #8
Rinya Nakamura def. Shohei Nose by TKO in the 1st Round

Nakamura led the action immediately, dropping Nose with HUGE shots. The next few minutes were absolute chaos. Both men got SMOKED, but it was about 90% Nakamura landing bomb after bomb, dropping Nose with hooks and knees over and over. Eventually the ref had seen enough, giving the wrestler, Rinya Nakamura, a HUGE KO win.

Rinya Nakamura is an absolute terror. He’s at a level right now that could test someone on the edge of the top 15 in the UFC. That’s going to be tough to beat in the finals. I can almost guarantee we’ll be seeing this guy again.

Fight #9
Jeong Yeong Lee def. Kai Lu by TKO in the 1st Round

Both men landed a hard one early, but it was Lee’s second sequence of the fight that ended the fight. With a 46-second clean knockout like that, what else is there to say? This man is MASSIVE, built more like a large lightweight than a featherweight. His size, combined with his skill and speed, makes for an easy contract after his next fight. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he quickly made his way into the top 15 with that kind of power.

Road to UFC Tournament Results

Seung Guk Choi vs. Hyun Sung Park : Flyweight Finals
Toshiomi Kazama vs. Rinya Nakamura : Bantamweight Finals
Zha Yi vs. Jeong Yeong Lee : Featherweight Finals
Jeka Saragih vs. Anshul Jubli : Lightweight Finals

BLÜ’s Final Predictions

Seung Guk Choi vs. Hyun Sung Park : Flyweight Finals

Starting with the two men from Korea, it should be a close, technical fight. They’re both obviously familiar with each other, making it even more interesting. Based on what we saw this weekend though, I’m going to have to give the edge to Park. Park survived the striking of Kiwram, one of the best kickboxers on the planet. He then proceeded to take him down and give him his first submission loss. On the other side, Choi did very well against Qiulun, but had nowhere near the level of success of Park. I don’t know if he’ll grab another finish, but Park should be able to grab the win.

Toshiomi Kazama vs. Rinya Nakamura : Bantamweight Finals

This one is the most exciting and even matchup on paper out of all the finals. Kazama didn’t have to fight this round, so we didn’t get to see him a second time. That being said, he was one of the most impressive fighters in the opening round with his win over Keremuaili Maimaitituoheti. It has to be said though, Nakamura looked like a top 20 fighter in the UFC this weekend. With both men preferring grappling, Nakamura will likely do what he did this weekend: turn to his striking. He’s already got a slight edge on the ground, but Nakamura will likely have an even bigger edge on the feet. He should be able to dominate a decision or grab another KO.

Zha Yi vs. Jeong Yeong Lee : Featherweight Finals

Lee is similar to Nakamura in that he is already UFC level. The only difference: Lee is so powerful, skilled and smart that he could make a run for the top 15 over the next year in such a wide open division. Zha is good, but Lee is an absolute animal. Lee will more than likely grab another early finish to make his way into the UFC.

Jeka Saragih vs. Anshul Jubli : Lightweight Finals

Going into this weekend, it actually seemed almost inevitable that Won Bin Ki was going to win this tournament. Instead, he was outclassed and got SMOKED by Saragih. He’s got the power, speed and skill to finish anyone in this tournament. Jubli has a huge edge in boxing technique, making it harder for Saragih to land clean. The problem: Jubli likes to walk forward constantly and gets hit quite a bit. If he doesn’t adjust, Saragih will get an easy, easy 1st Round KO.

BLÜ’s Best of the Rest

Topnoi Kiwram and Koyomi Matsushima