It was as if Kyung Ho Kang and Teruto Ishihara had made a personal pact to make up for the fact the crowd in Melbourne was denied their big main-event fight on Saturday night.
The bantamweights threw down with reckless abandon in a short and wild bout at UFC 234, letting the fans at Australia’s Rod Laver Arena forget awhile about the canceled Robert Whittaker-Kelvin Gastelum fight.
South Korea’s Kang rallied from an early knockdown and went on to submit his Japanese foe via rear-naked choke at 3:59 of the opening round.
Ishihara got Kang’s attention fast when he dropped him early with a big overhand left. But Kang cleared the cobwebs, got to his feet, and the brawl was on. Defense was an afterthought as the duo engaged in a firefight.
“ It hurt very much, but I knew I had to fight back to win,” Kang said.
Kang started getting the better of things, though, including a big knee and a series of uppercuts in the clinch. When he finally succeeded in dropping Ishihara, Kang got his opponent’s back and improved his position until he got the tight RNC. Ishihara went out rather than tap as referee Herb Dean waved things off.
With the victory, Kang (15-8, 1 NC) now won four of his past five bouts.
“Last couple years, my wins have been split decisions,” Kang said after his 13th career victory via finish. “Now, I get knockouts or submissions.”
Ishihara (10-7-2) has now dropped three in a row.