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Road to the Finals: Wang Sai and Zhang Lipeng’s Journey to the TUF China Finale

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Wang (left) faces Zhang (right) in TUF China's Welterweight Final. Photo by Mitch Viquez/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The UFC comes to you bright and early tomorrow with the Ultimate Fighter China Finale that begins with prelims at 6:20 AM ET/3:20 PM PT and continues with main card action at 8:00 AM ET/5:00 AM PT.

For those who will be waking up early to watch, you may want to know a bit about the two men competing in the card’s co-main event.

Wang Sai and Zhang Lipeng were the first two fighters picked on the inaugural season of TUF China and ended up blowing through the competition on their way to the finals.

Wang (6-4-1) was selected first overall by Hailin Ao’s Team Flying Lions. While on the show, Wang posted a 2-0 record with wins over Wu Qize and Wang Anying.

Wang met Wu in the quarter-finals of the contest. The fight was nowhere near competitive as Wang dominated Wu on the feet and on the mat. Wu was rocked multiple times by Wang’s punches, but ultimately succumbed to a flurry of knees against the cage in the second round.

The win pushed Wang to the semi-finals where he met Wang Anying. The first round between Wang Sai and Wang Anying was largely uneventful. Both men were unwilling to commit to any of their strikes and danced around each other for a majority of the round. The second round was far more exciting as Wang Sai bullied Wang Anying to the mat where he quickly moved to mount. Wang Sai then unloaded with hard ground and pound, forcing Wang Anying to give up his back where he was submitted by a rear-naked choke.

Wang’s two wins on the show put him in the finals where he will meet Zhang (6-7-1).

Zhang’s run on the show was just as memorable as Wang’s. Zhang beat Zhu Qingxiang and Albert Cheng on his road to the finals.

Zhang’s quarter-finals bout with Zhu was very impressive. The bout started with Zhu hitting a hard double-leg takedown to put Zhang on his back. From there the men traded sweeps, submission attempts, and advantageous position until Zhang took Zhu’s back. Zhang then elicited a tapout from his opponent after landing hard ground and pound.

The win advanced Zhang to the semi-finals where he met injury replacement Albert Cheng. Cheng had lost to Dong Xin in the quarter-finals but an injury to Dong left the door open for Cheng to return. Zhang fought a very careful and calculated fight against Cheng. Zhang rocked Cheng early, but then used his clinch to dictate the pace of the fight for the rest of the first round. Zhang was able to land a takedown at the start of the second round which signaled the end for Cheng. Zhang moved to side-control where he locked up a kimura to secure his spot in the finals.

The fight between Wang and Zhang is interesting on multiple levels. Wang is easily the more skilled striker, but Zhang has proven that he can hurt his opponents with strikes. Zhang probably wants this fight to be contested on the ground, but he still is far from safe on the mat. Five of Zhang’s seven losses have come via submission which makes taking Wang to the ground a dangerous proposition.

All but bouts in the Ultimate Fighter China’s Welterweight bracket ended with a violent finish; I see this one being no different. Tune in tomorrow morning to find out who will be China’s first Ultimate Fighter.

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Daniel Reveles
Born and raised in Santa Barbara, California, Daniel Reveles' interest in Mixed Martial Arts began at the age of fourteen while attending a Fantasy Football draft at a Friend's house. That day Daniel's buddies ordered UFC 88 on Pay-Per-View featuring lauded striker and hometown hero Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell squaring off with Division One Wrestler “Suga” Rashad Evans. After seeing “the wrestler” Rashad Evans put the Ice Man out cold with an overhand right, Daniel became instantly hooked by the unpredictability of the sport. Since that moment Daniel has become well versed in Mixed Martial Arts History and has yet to miss an event. Daniel is currently studying at the University of California Santa Barbara to receive his Bachelor's Degree in Communications with hopes of becoming the next big media mogul. When he is not watching MMA or studying you can find Daniel hanging out with his family and friends or taking in a game at the lovely Dodger Stadium.