Three Asian standouts punched (and choked and armbarred) their way to UFC contracts Saturday in Las Vegas.
At the Road to UFC season finale, Rongzhu, Yizha, and Rei Tsuruya all joined the UFC roster after finishing their opponents inside the distance. For Rongzhu and Yizha, this is their second shot at octagon glory, while Tsuruya is now set to make the walk to the world-famous cage for the first time.
Watch video of the finishes below.
Rongzhu (China) and Shin Haraguchi (Japan) closed the show, battling for three rounds until Rongzhu locked in a tight rear-naked choke in the final Round. A fading Haraguchi had no choice but to tap, ending the fight at the 3:06 mark of Round 3.
In his previous UFC stint, Rongzhu won just one of three fights, sandwiching a TKO of Brandon Jenkins with losses to Ignacio Bahamondes and Rodrigo Vargas. He has now won four straight fights since his loss to Bahamondes in February 2022, including three Road to UFC bouts.
Yizha (China) also technically has a UFC fight under his belt, but that came in a 2023 Road to UFC final last February. He lost a split decision to South Korea’s Jeong Yeong Lee and had to fight his way back to a tournament championship opportunity. This time, he would not fall short as he caught countryman Kaiwen Li in an armbar as the two grappled on the canvas.
The official time of the stoppage was 3:03 into Round 1.
Tsuruya (Japan) almost ran out of time to find a finish in the opening round of his contest with Jiniushiyue (China), but he was relentless with his ground-and-pound and forced the stoppage with a second remaining in the frame.
Rongzhu won the season’s lightweight tournament, while Yizha and Tsuruya are featherweight and flyweight tournament winners, respectively. A fourth winner was to be crowned in the bantamweight division, but that final has been postponed after Xiao Long forced to withdraw from his fight with Chang Ho Lee due to an injury.