UFC: ‘stay strong Wuhan’ rings out as Chinese fighters Yan Xiaonan, Song Kenan deliver big in Auckland
- Yan Xiaonan lands biggest win of career over Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC Auckland
- Song ‘The Assassin’ Kenan knocks out Callan Potter, as both deliver emotional tributes to China amid coronavirus outbreak
Yan “Fury” Xiaonan landed the biggest win of her UFC career in Auckland on Sunday and then said she had called on “China power” as she formally announced herself as threat to all and sundry in the strawweight division.
The Chinese fighter (12-1, one no contest) outclassed Poland’s one-time title contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-6) across three rounds to get a unanimous decision that took her run in the UFC to 5-0.
Emotions were running high for both Chinese fighters on the UFC Fight Night: Felder vs Hooker card, with welterweight Song “The Assassin” Kenan earlier knocking out Australia’s Callan Potter. before wrapping himself in a Chinese flag and screaming: “Stay strong China, stay strong Wuhan!”
Yan and Song had been forced to shift their fight camps from Beijing to Thailand for fear of the coronavirus which continues to spread across China, and the world.
The disruption – and worries over family and friends back home – took a back seat on Sunday as both fighters focused on matters in front of them inside the cage.
Yan made it 2-0 for the Chinese fighters with a devastating display of punching. The 30-year-old from Shenyang dominated the 14th-ranked Kowalkiewicz, landing her trademark power shots at will, messing up her opponent’s right eye early and overpowering her at the death. It was three 30-26’s on the judges’ scorecards, a true reflection on Yan’s control.
There were a few nervous moments in the third as Kowalkiewicz locked Yan’s leg and worked for a heel hook but the Chinese fighter used her superior strength to take top position while whacking away at any open flesh she saw.
“I’m super proud of the victory and happy with my performance. I’m happy I made everyone proud,” Yan said afterwards. “I’ll fight anybody ranked above me. I want to return in three or four months.”
Song (16-4) had said in the cage after his win there had been added pressure on the fighters coming in to New Zealand, but there was none on show has he touched up the 35-year-old Potter (18-9) at will.
“It pretty much went according to plan, avoiding the takedowns, and waiting for the chance to knock him out,” Song said. “I had a lot of different plans for this fight – but knocking him out in the first or second was one of them. I would have been ready to go all three rounds and win on points. Everything was in our plans. I will fight anyone next. I just want to keep getting better and to show my skills. That’s why I’m in the UFC.”
Hometown hero Dan “The Hangman” Hooker (20-8) set the fireworks off inside Auckland’s Spark Arena, grinding out a split decision over American Paul “The Irish Dragon” Felder (17-5) after a war of attrition to bring the event to a close. But it was the ladies who had earlier helped light the fuse.
Yan was a monster as she kept marching forward and landing her trademark heavy shots. That effort came after the veteran American veteran strawweight Angela “Overkill” Hill (12-7) had capped her sixth bout in 11 months – a new UFC record – with a grinding decision over Thai upstart Loma Lookboonmee (4-2).
The 35-year-old Hill took the fight on just three weeks’ notice and clocked up her 14th appearance in the UFC strawweight division – another record. She dealt out a lesson in cage craft to the 23-year-old Loma, emerging but still learning her own craft.
Hill’s been around for over a decade and has never looked better as she clocked up her third win on the trot.
“I think the fast turnaround keeps me out of my head,” Hill said backstage. “It keeps me focused on what’s next and not the past. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career. Sometimes that weighs heavy on me in the Octagon. Putting that behind me, I feel like I’ve emerged as a new fighter.”
And another record had fallen when Brazilian flyweight Priscila Cachoeira (9-3) shot a devastating right uppercut that left Shana “Danger” Dobson (3-4) staring at the rafters.
The 40-second knockout was the fastest yet in the UFC nascent women’s flyweight division – and Cachoeira was overcome with emotion as the bell started ringing, and she snapped a three-fight skid since joining the UFC.