Fri. Dec 9th, 2022

Africa’s fourth champion?

In case you assumed Francis Ngannou was the only frightening Cameroonian in the UFC, perhaps you should reconsider. Undefeated Contender Series graduate, Tafon “Da Don” Nchukwi (5-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) will make his second appearance tonight at UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs. Waterson. Tafon’s dance parter will be none other than South Korea’s Jun Yong Park (12-4 MMA, 2-1 UFC). Both men are returning to the octagon after collecting impressive wins at the end 2020. 

Last December Tafon earned his first UFC victory by unanimous decision against fellow Contender Series alum Jamie Pickett.  Initially, the prospect received criticism for appearing “slow” in his Contender Series “audition” at 205 pounds. After moving to 185 pounds, the Cameroonian proved critics wrong with his fast and frequent output throughout the fight. After earning KO victories in his first four professional MMA bouts, Tafon finally proved that he’s more than capable of going the distance.

Full steam ahead

A lifelong athlete, Nchukwi didn’t start training mixed martial arts until he was in college. Still only 26 years old, the proud Africa native is making quantum leaps toward his goal of becoming UFC champion. At first glance, one undoubtably sees a power striker when looking at Tafon. Though it’s true he has the force to put his opponents to sleep, he also has great technique. There’s plenty more than what meets the eye to Tafon and his seemingly bare record. The Cameroonian went 13-1 in Muay Thai, and is every bit as skilled as he is tough and durable. 

As the bar raises, Tafon will now face an opponent with several fights under the UFC banner.  Creating his own positive momentum is “The Iron Turtle”, Jun Yong Park. Officially 9-1 in his last 10 bouts, Park will aim to extend his current winning streak to 3 in a row. Park has a similar reputation for exciting fights, as proven in his recent win against John Phillips last October. Of his 12 professional wins, all but 4 have come by knockout or submission. 

As fight night quickly approaches, our curiosity begs the question: Will the Tafon-Train continue at full speed ahead? Or, will the patience and experience of “The Iron Turtle” be enough to stop him in his tracks? Find out by catching the preliminary card tonight at 7:00 PM CDT on ESPN+.

Prospects collide

If you’re reading this before the night has begun, you’ve made it just in time. 

Situated near the beginning of an exhilarating, albeit ever-changing series of Saturday night scraps, is a must-see showdown between two young and hungry lions with something to prove. NYC’s Mike “The Lone Wolf” Trizano (9-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) will be squaring off against Slovakia’s L’udovít “Mr. Highlight” Klein (17-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC). The bout will take place at 145 pounds as the second fight on the opening card.  

Mullet Mafia

After a two-year absence from competition, Trizano is ready to return to his winning ways after suffering his first career loss to Grant Dawson (17-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) in 2019. The Lone Wolf first captured the interest of fans when he won The Ultimate Fighter Season 27 in 2018. Trizano continued to prove himself by defeating Luis Pena in a close split-decision scrap later that year. After tasting the sour smack of defeat to Dawson, the former featherweight and lightweight regional champion Trizano requires no further motivation to remind the crowds just how special he is.  

(PhotoCred: Mike Trizano (red) and Luis Pena at UFC Fight Night 139

Pride of Slovakia

As we know, it takes two to tango, and who better for the task than “Mr. Highlight” himself?  At only 26 years-old, Left-hand L’udovít Klein has already culminated 17 professional victories. All but one of those wins were earned by knockout or submission. Klein competed six times in 2017 alone, going 4-2. Though he hasn’t lost since, the Slovakian was finished in each of his two defeats; once by knockout, and another by submission. Klein is now cruising on eight consecutive wins, including a first-round knockout in his debut against City Kickboxing’s Shane Young.

This bouts contains all of the ingredients to contend for “fight of the night.” The technical kickboxing, pressure, and ranginess of Trizano matched against Klein’s increasingly diverse striking and astonishing power is a complete recipe for bad intentions.

Will the UFC’s first ever Slovak fighter steal another flashy finish for the highlight reel? Or, will The Lone Wolf emerge as the top dog in his return? Until these two prospects collide, there’s no telling who will emerge victorious.

By Jared Moehring

Growing up, I was never a big fan of other professional sports. While most kids inherited the NFL, NBA, and MLB teams rooted for by their tribes, I found joy in watching old Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies. At the age of 13 I fell in love with the sport of wrestling, and that same year I watched my first ever MMA event, UFC 151: Brock Lesnar vs Cain Velasquez. My eyes glued to the TV in awe as the smaller man imposed his superior wrestling, which ultimately led to a TKO victory for Velasquez. As they say, the rest was history; I was hooked. Throughout the years, I've grown from "casual fan" to "doesn't miss a single round from early prelims to the main event." However, when I'm not creating or indulging in fight-content here in my home of Omaha, Nebraska, I enjoy camping and and exploring various national parks and forests throughout the country. Get to know me on Instagram: @jaredmoehring, or email me with any inquiries: Cheers!