We might have been forced to wait over a year for his sophomore UFC outing, but ‘The Korean Superboy’ looked absolutely exquisite on Saturday. Here's to hoping he'll be able to stick around.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
We might have been forced to wait over a year for his sophomore UFC outing, but 'The Korean Superboy' looked absolutely exquisite on Saturday in a contest that demanded the best out of him. A UFC main card debut with the backdrop of his home crowd in South Korea, Doo Ho Choi also had to face a massive step up in terms of competition as he was booked to meet Sam Sicilia.
The right hand of the Korean quickly tamed the gameness of Sicilia, who went toe-to-toe with the fan favorite as soon as the bout got underway. Choi constantly kept himself at a good range so his power hand could explode on contact with the American, and it took all of 90 seconds for him to extinguish Sicilia's fire with a thunderous right/left combination and some grounded strikes.
Doo Ho Choi doesn't even look like an MMA fighter. As he stood over the downed Sicilia, tall and proud, the contrast between the appearances of the two seemed so dramatic. It would be difficult to guess that a fully clothed Choi was one of the top prospects in MMA, but in his post fight interview 'The Korean Superboy' sounded off in a way that does not correlate with his diffident demeanor. The 24-year-old featherweight claimed he was the best fighter in the world and also declared his interest in a bout with a Japanese legend, Tatsuya Kawajiri.
It's not like we didn't have a good idea of Choi from his debut. As he made his way to the Octagon to face Juan Manuel Puig last November, he cut the figure of an unassuming guy who was calm to the point that he might not even know what he was getting himself in for. On the contrary, XFL and Jungle Fight veteran Puig had the look–the tattoos, the beard, heavily muscled–and he was almost vibrating with energy on his way out. But as we all know, appearances can be deceiving.
Although he wouldn't make his UFC debut until 17 months after his clash with Shoji Maruyama at Deep-Cage Impact in June 2013, Choi's intentions were clear from the get-go for his UFC bow in Austin, Texas. Like Sicilia, Puig met him in the center of the Octagon and immediately the Korean unleashed his patented right hand. Puig felt the charge of Choi's right hand just three times before meeting the floor. His reward for dropping to the canvas was eight more grounded shots from the debutant which brought an end to the contest in just 18 seconds.
After two spectacular UFC bouts from such a young and energetic athlete, the MMA world has every reason to be excited. It's not just the performances either, his calmness on the way to the Octagon and indeed throughout his two showcases have certainly aroused some intrigue. Based on his performance last weekend in Seoul, Choi clearly has a massive fan base and with a whole nation behind him, his ascent through the 145 lbs rankings could be very interesting. A dynamic skillset and a personality to boot, 'The Korean Superboy' could be on the verge of doing some serious business with Zuffa's top brass.
However, given last year's revelations about another Korean MMA hero, personally I'm finding it hard to entertain the curiosity I have with regard to the Gumi MMA product.
"Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung fought his way into every MMA fan's heart in his 2010 'Fight of the Year' meeting Leonard Garcia. His evolution has been a joy to watch as he battled through UFC's featherweight division all the way to a title shot against Jose Aldo in August 2013. Although he succumbed to strikes in the fourth round of their clash, there was a lot of interest around the return of the Zombie when he was scheduled to meet Akira Corassani on October 4, 2014.
Enter the South Korean military to ruin all of our fun.
Chan Sung Jung apparently put off his national service for as long as he could, but now at 28 years of age he has already been on the shelf for a year during the prime of his career and he is not due to return until next October. Now I understand that it makes sense to bring one of the nation's best combat athletes into your military fold, but surely having a South Korean become so successful in North America has its benefits for the nation.
The idea of exemptions for South Korean athletes has been floated in the past with regard to their soccer team and given the ever-growing popularity of MMA, we should hope that something will be arranged in the future. For the likes of Chan Sung Jung and now Doo Ho Choi who have captured the imagination of the international community, it seems unfair on our little sport not to give them some reprieve.
In 2002, South Korean soccer heroes Park Ji-sung and Lee Young-pyo won exemption as a prize for reaching the semifinals of the World Cup. Olympic medalists receive a similar exemption, which was won by the entire Olympic soccer team in 2012 on the back of their bronze winning efforts. To add to that, any South Korean who wins a gold medal at the Asian Games can also win an exemption.
So please South Korea, don't draft Doo Ho Choi. We are all very excited and are looking forward to watching another one of your fine countrymen go about his business in the Octagon. Don't ruin all of our fun again.