Over the weekend, Song Yadong delivered one of the best performances of his still-early UFC career, defeating Ricky Simon with a dynamic finish in the final round.
At just 25 years old, Song has already racked up an impressive string of nine UFC victories. Now, the Chinese bantamweight wants to challenge a ‘‘Top-5’’ fighter, mentioning ‘Chito’ Vera and Sean O’Malley by name.
When RADII spoke to UFC Asia-Pacific’s Senior Vice President Kevin Chang back in 2017 , he was quick to comment on Song Yadong, calling him "part of the new wave of MMA talent" in China, an example of someone "really having the entire skillset, and training it from an early age."
That assessment proved spot-on. At UFC’s first-ever event in the Chinese mainland, RADII was ringside when Song Yadong earned a first-round submission by guillotine.
A few years later, Song is picking up speed. He dominated Saturday’s fight, showcasing exceptional skills throughout the five-round headliner. His vicious left hook appeared throughout the matchup, finding home and dropping Simon at the end of the fifth round. Song finished the match with a barrage of strikes, prompting a timely TKO stoppage from Herb Dean.
ESPN scored every round in Song’s favor, and UFC Stats recorded him outpacing Simon in total strikes 102-44.
“I wanna fight top-5 fighters,” Song said, adding that no. 6-ranked Rob Font was also acceptable. “And ‘Chito’ Vera and Sean O’Malley — but probably they don’t give me Sean O’Malley, guys are protecting him. Whatever. Just top-5. My goal is to fight top-5 fighters this year.”
Song has been fighting out of Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California, training alongside greats like Urijah Faber (who himself defeated Ricky Simon in a 46-second fight in 2019).
That level of training is clearly paying off — Song looked comfortable and relaxed throughout Saturday’s event, even smiling and laughing at his own narrowly-missed strikes. That poise allowed Song to fend off seven of Simon’s nine takedown attempts, which had been one of the bigger points of speculation going into the fight.
Others in the UFC are starting to take notice. Current champion Aljamain Sterling acknowledged Song’s impressive performance, tweeting, “That dude Song is a beast frfr!”
Yadong responded in turn, foregoing the niceties with a brief statement: “Keep the belt, see you in 2024.”
For more about MMA in China and the rise of Song Yadong on the international stage, check out RADII’s original documentary, Way of the Warrior.
RADII believes in the importance of transparency in our changing world. AI-powered tools were used by our editors in the research or production of this post. All content is composed, fact-checked, and edited by our in-house editorial staff.
Cover photo via UFC
Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera
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