At ROAD FC 20 in Seoul, South Korea, Lee Kil-Woo defends his Bantamweight title for the first time against hot prospect Lee Yoon-Jun on December 14, 2014.
As the main event, this Bantamweight Championship challenge promises to deliver an outstanding bout from two of Korea’s hot prospects. ROAD FC places more importance on exciting matches than it does on building division champions, so Kil-Woo’s extended recovery for a neck injury which delayed his defense was not an issue for the promotion.
Lee Kil-Woo, Champion
Kil-Woo won the Bantamweight title in June of 2013 as the culmination of a tournament that had him ranked in the lesser half of the competition. He was riding a string of losses to the likes of UFC fighter Kang Kyung-Ho and Japanese standout Makoto Kamaya. But, as his skills and determination grew, so did his record. Kil-Woo dispatched Hong Jung-Gi and Moon Je-Hoon in the 1-night quarter- and semifinals event.
In the Finals Championship match, Kil-Woo faced Song Min-Jong, his earlier nemesis and the contestant who’d made it through arguably the toughest bracket of the division against Alan Yamaniha and Yoon-Jun. The pair put on a fantastic effort in a three-rounder that showcased skills, heart, and endurance in spades.
In the end, it was the judges who made the call, and Kil-Woo’s hand was raised via a Split Decision because of his near knockdowns and excellent work in takedown defense. That was eighteen months ago, and Kil-Woo hasn’t seen action since. A neck injury in training almost finished his career, but excellent rehab set him on the mend and back in the gym for a full recovery.
Kil-Woo is an all-rounder who has shown that he has good power and speed in his punches and an agile grappling game with excellent takedown defense. Above all, he has tenacity and endurance.
Lee Yoon-Jun, Challenger
Yoon-Jun came into the public eye promoted as Chan Sung-Jung’s first Korean Zombie MMA product when he entered the Bantamweight Tournament, but then was unceremoniously choked out in the opening round by Song Min-Jong. However, it would be the last time he looked unsure of himself in the ROAD FC cage.
Yoon-Jun proceeded to shoot to the top of the Korean bantam- and featherweight rankings with successive wins over stiff opposition. Yoon-Jun faced current DEEP Champion Takafumi Otsuka and took the stellar wrestler to a Unanimous Decision, battering him with kicks and punches, and breaking his orbital in the process.
Yoon-Jun continued his onslaught by taking on four more opponents, alternating between the two weight divisions. He showed a very well-rounded and patient game against Makoto Kamaya and “Coro” Kosuke Terashima, winning both by decision, and he got out his brutal kicks to KO Kim Wong-Gi and Thiago Silva.
Yoon-Jun is an intelligent, calculating fighter who knows when to engage and when to retreat. At 26- years old, he’s in his prime of speed, possesses good wind, and knows how to finish. His strength is definitely his striking, specifically his kicks of which just one is capable of quickly sneaking in and pulverizing a liver.
While he hasn’t shown much grappling in the cage, his takedown defense is superb. He’s been coaching Team One at the ROAD FC Official Gym and training with excellent wrestlers, including Seo Doo-Won.
Champion Kil-Woo versus Challenger Yoon-Jun puts together two very good products developed from the strong Korean MMA community. Kil-Woo presents a non-stop affront that runs the gamut from coming in with combos to defending shoots with even more punches. He will go until the fight ends, be it a finish or the bell. Conversely, Yoon-Jun is a calculating counter puncher who can make a decision to finish with a KO or technically play for points.
The Champion’s style hasn’t changed drastically through his career, he’s simply gotten faster and stronger. To keep firmly on top of his throne, he needs to show that he’s recovered the wind and strength from before his injury, and that he’s still driven by some weird internal fire that makes him go all guns blazing to the bell. If Yoon-Jun proves too deadly on the feet, Kil-Woo might fare better on the ground – provided he can get it there.
So, the ball is in the Challenger’s court: he could simply weather the barrage and go the distance, but a win on points won’t be a good chance of taking the belt away, especially given ROAD FC’s judges’ history. Therefore Yoon-Jun will need to find the chink in Kil-Woo’s armour and look to land one of his crippling kicks. Or, he might choose o show off his developing wrestling game, if he can get through Kil-Woo’s fists. Should he fight either way, expect this to be a Fight of the Night candidate.
On paper, Yoon-Jun has the odds in his favor, having faced a higher level of opponent recently and having seen much more cage action since the Champ’s been sidelined. But Kil-Woo can’t be eliminated that easily. If he comes back in the same shape as he has when he won his belt, and has used the time off to not only recover fully but to ramp up his game against his hot prospect opponent, he’ll still be the king when the night is over.