It had to be seen to be believed.
Yair Rodriguez was responsible for one of the most incredible finishes in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, as he knocked out Chan Sung Jung with a no-look upward elbow in the fifth round of the UFC Fight Night 139 headliner on Saturday at the Pepsi Center in Denver. “The Korean Zombie” kissed the canvas in the final second of the fight. The official time was 4:59 of Round 5.
The Rodriguez lightning bolt tied a bow on a contender for “Fight of the Year,” the two featherweights having emptied themselves across 25 remarkable minutes. According to preliminary FightMetric data, they combined to land 245 significant strikes against one another, with Jung holding a slight 126-119 advantage. Rodriguez zeroed in on the South Korean’s legs with a variety of kicks and mixed in some of his patented spinning techniques but could not halt his forward progress -- until he caught the charging Jung with the fight-ending elbow.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Korean Zombie vs. Rodriguez,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Yair Rodriguez vs. Zabit Magomedsharipov: Despite a May 2017 defeat to Frankie Edgar and the period of inactivity that followed, Rodriguez’s career remains on an upward trajectory. The offensively gifted 26-year-old has now won seven of his eight fights inside the Octagon, all while showing otherworldly creativity. Beating Jung takes Rodriguez to another level at 145 pounds, even as he continues to show improvement and flesh out his skills. Magomedsharipov has rattled off 12 consecutive wins, 10 of them finishes. He last competed at UFC 228, where he submitted Brandon Davis with a second-round kneebar on Sept. 8.
Donald Cerrone vs. Justin Gaethje: Cerrone’s skills may be deteriorating, but they were potent enough to turn away Mike Perry in the welterweight co-main event. “Cowboy” established himself as the UFC’s all-time leader in wins (21), as he submitted Perry with an armbar 4:46 into the first round of their confrontation at 170 pounds. It marked the 35-year-old Cerrone’s first submission victory via armbar since he dispatched Danny Castillo with the maneuver in June 2008 and provided some welcomed momentum for his planned return to the lightweight division. Gaethje last appeared at UFC Fight Night 135 in August, when the former World Series of Fighting champion knocked out James Vick with first-round punches and snapped a two-fight losing streak.
Germaine de Randamie vs. Aspen Ladd: While she has not endeared herself to fans or the UFC over the last two years, de Randamie remains one of the sport’s premier women’s bantamweights. The Dutch kickboxer handled her business in her first appearance since February 2017, as she outstruck Raquel Pennington to a unanimous decision across three rounds. All three cageside judges scored it 30-27 for de Randamie, who improved to 5-1 inside the Octagon. One of the sports top prospects at 135 pounds, Ladd moved to 7-0 with a technical knockout of Tonya Evinger at UFC 229 on Oct. 6. The 23-year-old holds other notable victories against Lina Lansberg, Sijara Eubanks and Amanda Bobby Cooper.
Beneil Dariush vs. Drakkar Klose-Bobby Green winner: Dariush returned to the win column for the first time in more than two years, as he cruised to a one-sided unanimous decision over former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Thiago Moises. The Kings MMA rep delivered takedowns in all three rounds, applied his ground-and-pound when the opportunities presented themselves and fished for rear-naked chokes at various points. Scores were 30-25, 30-26 and 30-26, all for Dariush. Klose and Green will lock horns at UFC on Fox 31 in December.
Maycee Barber vs. Cortney Casey-Sanchez: The unbeaten Barber made an immediate splash in the UFC women’s strawweight division, as she carved up Hannah Cifers before stopping her with ground-and-pound in the second round of their encounter on the main card. Blood was spilled. Barber opened a pair of cuts with standing elbows -- one near the left eye, the other on the right side of Cifers’ forehead -- before she closed the deal with punches and elbows on the ground, the merciful end coming 2:01 into Round 2. Casey-Sanchez last competed at UFC Fight Night 135 on Aug. 25, when she was awarded a split decision over Angela Hill.