Abu Dhabi hosted for the first time on Sunday ‘Road To UFC’, with the series’ semi-finals taking place at Etihad Arena.
The tournament, launched in Singapore in June, is designed to showcase the best young MMA talent in Asia, who vie for a contract with the promotion.
Featuring athletes at flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight, “Road to UFC” began with 32 competitors – eight in each division – before being halved for the semi-finals in Abu Dhabi. On Sunday, there were two episodes, with eight fighters advancing to the final, where one from each division will eventually be offered a UFC contract.
Details regarding the win-and-advance competition’s finals, to take place on the preliminary card of a UFC Fight Night, have yet to be confirmed, although they are expected for South Korea in early February.
On Sunday, the highlight of the earlier Episode 5 was undoubtedly Indonesian lightweight Jeka Saragih’s first-round knockout of Ki Won-bin. Other winners from the day’s opening instalment were Yi Zha and Choi Seung-guk, and Keisuke Sasu in a non-tournament bout. Those fights all went to decisions.
“I’m very happy because I executed all the game plan that my coach gave me,” Saragih said. “We trained it, it’s not a lucky punch – we drilled it, we got it. I’m very happy because I just proved that Indonesian fighters have very good quality. After this I’m going to rest for a little bit and then start training so I can finish my opponent in the final.”
Saragih will meet India’s Anshul Jubli in the showpiece, after the lightweight came through a thrilling encounter with Kim Kyeong-pyo.
Elsewhere in Episode 6, flyweight Park Hyung-sung defeated Topnoi Kiwram by rear-naked choke in Round 1 to move to the final against Choi Seung-guk. Meanwhile, Yi Zha will take on Lee Jeong-yeong in the featherweight decider, while Japanese bantamweight Rinya Nakamura faces compatriot Toshiomi Kazama after the latter’s bout against Kim Min-woo was cancelled.