By Patrick Lujan
MACAU – November 10, 2012 will go down in the history of Guam sports. The night the island of Guam took down the great nation of China.
Guam son Jon Tuck looked like a crafty veteran in his first UFC fight Saturday night, controlling all three rounds of his lightweight bout against China’s top-rated mixed martial artist Tiequan Zhang, winning 29-28, 30-27, 29-28 in UFC Macao.
“It was a great battle for Guam against the biggest country in the world. It was a great win,” the humble 28-year-old Mangilao resident said.
“I felt I won in a lot of ways.”
That he did, controlling his shorter opponent with his jiu-jitsu prowess in the opening two rounds before displaying his stinging standup game in the final round with solid jab after solid jab. It was the first time in his 7-0 career that Tuck went beyond the first round.
“I just wanted to be smart coming out. I wanted to give an exciting show. If I couldn’t finish it in the first or second rounds, I wanted to finish it in an exciting fashion for the people watching all over the world.”
“We weren’t trying to force the fight in any direction,” Tuck’s coach Jeff Clark said. “Luckily with Jon, he’s very strong in a lot of positions so we let him decide where the fight goes because he’s strong all around, which is awesome when you have a fighter who has tools to do that.”
Entering the Octagon for the very first time in the Cotai Arena in The Venetian, Tuck walked out with the Guam flag draped over his shoulders, carrying the weight of our island against China’s top fighter.
Tuck opened the round gauging the distance before the fight went to the ground where he nearly pulled off an armbar in the second half of the round.
“I worked for that armbar and I cranked it pretty good,” Tuck said after getting medically cleared in post-fight requirements. “I wouldn’t be surprised if his arm hurts, but his defense was pretty good.”
The second round had both fighters bang away as Tuck suffered a slight cut on his forehead from a shot from Zhang. As the Chinese fans were cheering, “come on” in Mandarin, the fight went to the ground once again with Tuck taking top and back control the last two minutes of the round.
The third and final round was totally played standing up and Tuck, once again, was the sharper fighter with a steady flow of crisp right jabs with an occasional left cross to keep the Chinese at bay.
“I had to play it smart and keep him away,” Tuck added. “I was trying to bait him in so I can land my jabs.”
“My main worry was if there were biased judges,” coach Clark said. “So I wanted Jon to take him down (with two minutes to go), but he went by feel and he didn’t have to go for the takedown.”
It was obvious at the end of the fight who the winner would be as the pro-Asian crowd went silent with the exception of a few Guam fans who made it to Macau to support their top MMA fighter.
“I think he’s a phenomenal athlete and a great person,” a relieved Clark said. “There’s a lot of people I work with that I don’t respect, but he’s someone I respect as a person and a fighter.”
Clark acknowledged the ground defense of Zhang and called it ‘outstanding’. According to Guam resident Jason Iriarte who was present at the fight, “no one on Guam survives that choke when Tuck gets you from the back like that.” Zhang survived two guillotine attempts and an armbar.
NOTES: UFC announced the sold-out crowd of more than 8000 fans with a gate of more than $1.3 million…It was announced that UFC Asia will hold its next event in Japan next March, possibly Tuck’s next UFC fight….”I feel I didn’t have the right strategy tonight,” said Zhang through an interpreter during the post fight press conference. GSPN’s UFC Macao results and Tuck play-by-play…UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell and current bantamweight star Urijah Faber were part of the fight promotions…UFC fighter Jon Fitch cornered Japanese fighter Riki Fukuda in the undercard.
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