The first ever The Ultimate Fighter winner of China was crowned in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night Macau / TUF China Finale, but not without controversy. The welterweight finals of TUF China saw a matchup of two of the more well rounded fighters on the season, Zhang Lipeng (7-7-1) and Wang Sai (6-5-1). A close hard fought battle was contested between the two Chinese fighters, with Zhang Lipeng emerging as the winner–taking a highly disputed split decision (29-28, 29-28, 27-30) over finalist Wang Sai.
Zhang Lipeng thought he won the first two rounds, as did two of the judges (Howard Hughes and Chris Watts) scoring the bout 29-28 in favour of Lipeng.
“I think in the first two rounds, I think I did more takedowns and I also did more grappling. And my grappling skill is sort of better than Wang’s. So I think that had impressed the judges.” Lipeng said.
Despite many fans 85% and media (9 of 10 on mmadecisions.com) feeling that he had convincingly won the decision by winning the 2nd and 3rd rounds.
Also prompting UFC President Dana White to tweet this response:
Apparently MMA judging sucks worldwide. #TUFChinaFinale
— Dana White (@danawhite) March 1, 2014
However Wang Sai, although clearly disappointed–arriving at the post-fight press conference with his left hand heavily wrapped and a sling around the arm, took the defeat in stride and with much class, respecting the judges decision.
“I don’t really want to say my real feelings about how I feel about the referee’s [judge's] final judgement,” Sai said. “The only thing I want to say is, whoever steps into the octagon and to be the finalist is the true warrior. So I think all the true warriors deserves all the respect. I will try my best and be ready for the next fight.”
“Obviously I also found the reaction from the crowd was different from when the referee announced the scorecards. For me, in my life I’ve experience the similar situation before, so have a lot of other professional athletes. So as a professional athlete, I just want to say, because the decision is made by the referee, we need to respect and accept it.” Sai said.
Wang Sai was unsure if the UFC would give him a 2nd fight in the promotion after this loss, but UFC’s head executive in Asia, Mark Fischer along with matchmaker Sean Shelby confirmed the news to Sai that he would get another shot.
“If the finally UFC pick up me, I will try my best to show the best of me in the octagon. And if the UFC didn’t choose me, I still will follow my own MMA career.” Sai said.
To which Mark Fischer quickly replied, “Don’t worry we will choose you”. Met with an ovation within the room.
While Sai was unable to celebrate what would have been a victory for him, Zhang Lipeng did. On what the victory meant to him, Zhang’s goal of fighting in the UFC had been reached, in addition to the 6-figure contract.
“I was really excited because I actually made my dream happen. This was my first win in a UFC fight and now I get to fight for the UFC,” Zhang said, adding “The winner of the fight has brought up a 6-figure contract to me, and it’s really meaningful for my life.”
Zhang Lipeng and Wang Sai were no strangers to each other, both fighting on the same shows in the past and of course spending 6 weeks in the ultimate fighter house together, Lipeng showed a lot of respect for his opponent.
“Actually I’m quite excited because Wang Sai is the old generation of the MMA fighters in China, and I’m the new generation. And to fight against Wang Sai actually also improved my skills in MMA.” Lipeng said.
Primarily a grappler, Zhang Lipeng knows that he needs to become a more well rounded fighter to stay in the game.
After being asked possibly what was the longest question in UFC press conference history–a span of nearly 20 minutes. “In the future I’m going to improve my striking and Muay Thai skills”