The RIZIN Sons Part 6: ROAD FC

Today, we’re exploring the ROAD FC promotion headquartered in Wonju, South Korea. It is considered Korea’s largest MMA promotion. ROAD FC was founded by former Korean National Kickboxing Champion Moon Hong Jung after Korea’s other major MMA promotion, Spirit MC (featured Dong Hyun Kim, Denis Kang and Ryuichi Murata), folded in 2009. K-1 and PRIDE FC veteran Bob “The Beast” Sapp was appointed vice-president of global public relations last April. The first event with Sapp on board was ROAD FC 23. There have been 32 events in the organizations 6 years of operation.

ROAD FC 28 is scheduled to take place in Seoul, South Korea on January 31, 2016.

ROAD FC events can be seen CJ E&M in Korea. Several events are available for view over the internet and at the promotion’s own website.

ROAD FC’s TOP 5 Veteran Performers (in alphabetical order)
This section includes athletes that have competed in the promotion at least twice and are not current title holders. Additional noteworthy fighting experience has also been provided.

Seo Hee Ham 16-6 in MMA overall, 2-0 in ROAD FC, 1-1 UFC, former DEEP/Jewels Featherweight Champion and CMA/KPW Women’s Lightweight Champion

Wins over Hisae Watanabe (dec), Ishioka (twice: dec/armbar), Mika Nagano (dec), Mei Yamaguchi (dec), Naho Sugiyama (dec), Cortney Casey (dec)

Losses to Yuka Tsuji (dec), Megumi Fujii (armbar), Ayaka Hamasaki (dec), Joanne Calderwood (dec)

Kyung-Ho Kang 13-7-0-1 in MMA overall, 5-2 in ROAD FC, 2-1-0-1 in UFC, ROAD FC 2012 Bantamweight Tournament Champion, inaugural ROAD FC Bantamweight Champion

Wins over Nam Sun Kim (TKO-doc), Guangyou Ning (triangle choke), Makoto Kamaya (rear naked choke), Kil Woo Lee (TKO-corner), Min Jung Song (armbar), Shoko Sato (armbar), Andrew Leone (rear naked choke), Shunichi Shimizu (arm triangle choke), Michinori Tanaka (dec)

Losses to Kwang Hee Lee (KO-kick), Atsushi Yamamoto (dec), Shigeki Osawa (dec), Bae Young Kwon (triangle armbar), Andrew Leone (dec), Chico Camus (dec)

Soo Chul Kim 12-5 in MMA overall, 9-1-1 ROAD FC, 1-0 RIZIN FF, 2-3 ONE FC

Wins over Shoko Sato (TKO-punches), Kevin Belington (dec), Leandro Issa (TKO-punches), Montonobu Tezuka (TKO-punches), Wagner Campos (TKO-punches), Taiyo Nakahara (guillotine choke), Maike Linhares Galvao Amorim (dec)

Losses to Andrew Leone (guillotine choke), Leandro Issa (dec), Gustavo Falciroli (rear naked choke), Bibiano Fernandes (dec)

Yui-Chul Nam “The Korean Bulldozer” 18-6-1 overall, 7-0 ROAD FC, 1-2 in UFC, former Road FC Lightweight Champion

Wins over Duk Yong Jang (TKO-punches), Yeong Gwang Choi (twice – TKO-punches/dec), Woo Sung Yu (TKO-punches), Hacran Dias (dec), Rob Hill (TKO-punches), Vuyisile Colossa (twice: dec/dec), Masahiro Toryu (KO-punches), Takasuke Kume (twice: dec/dec), Kazuki Tokudome (dec)

Losses to Mikhail Malyutin (dec), Dave Jansen (dec), Adrian Pang (dec), Jadamba Narantugaalag (guillotine choke), Phillipe Nover (dec), Mike de la Torre (dec)

Doo Won Seo “The Korean Pitbull” 10-8 overall, 5-2 ROAD FC, 0-3 DEEP, 2-0 Spirit MC, 2-0 Neo Fight,

Wins over Daisuke Hanazawa (dec), Toru Harai (dec), Joachim Hansen (KO-punch)

Losses to RYO Chonan (TKO-punches), Kosei Kubota (dec), Seichi Ikemoto (heel hook), Janne Tulirinta (TKO-punches), Jake Ellenberger (TKO-doctor), Joachim Hansen (arm triangle choke), Mu Gyeom Choi (dec)

NOTE: Plenty of other high profile fighters competed under the ROAD FC banner at one time or another including Denis Kang, Roan Carneiro, Mighty Mo Siliga, Hong Man Choi, Joachin Hansen, Shungo Oyama, Choi Mu Bae, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Dong Sik Hyun, Ikuhisa Minowa, Michihiro Omigawa, Melvin Manhoef, Jeff Monson, Andrews Nakahara, Marlon Sandro, Bae Young Kwon, Emi Fujino, Takasuke Kume, Issei Tamura, Satoko Shinashi, Yusuke Kawaguchi, Zhang Lipeng, Vuyisile Colossa, Marcos Vinicius, Seung Bae Whi, Seok Mo Kim and Jae Young Kim

KSW CHAMPIONS
All of the current divisional champions are listed. Some of these guys may be headed to a promotion near you in the future.

Heavyweight Champion – this title is currently vacant. The promotion has featured fights in the heavyweight division but never a title fight. An open-weight tournament is currently underway with the semi-final round taking place on March 5th 2016.

Light Heavyweight Champion – this title is currently vacant. The promotion has featured fights in the light heavyweight division but never a title fight.

Middleweight Champion – Riki Fukuda 23-7-1 overall in MMA, 4-0-0-1 in ROAD FC
His wrestling background is extensive and includes placing 3rd in Greco-Roman division on the 2000 All-Japan College Wrestling Team, placing 2nd in Greco-Roman style and 3rd in Freestyle wrestling on the 2001 All Japan College – East Team and placed 3rd in the Freestyle Wrestling division of the 2002 All Japan College Wrestling Team. In MMA he was the 2004 Amateur Shooto Champion (91Kg) and won the DEEP Middleweight Championship in 2009. Fukuda won his ROAD FC Middleweight Championship last July by stopping Uh Jin Jeon with strikes at ROAD FC 24.

Welterweight Champion – this title is currently vacant. The promotion has featured fights in the welterweight division but never a title fight. Former ROAD FC Middleweight Champion Eun Soo Lee has dropped down in weight to compete in the welterweight division.

Lightweight Champion – A-Sol Kwon 20-8 in MMA overall, 4-1 ROAD FC
He trains out of the ROAD FC Official Apgujeong Gym (Team ONE/Doo Won Seo Gym) in Gangnam, Seoul, Korea. Kwon won his title by defeating Takasuke Kume by decision at ROAD FC 17.

Featherweight Champion – Mu-Gyeom Choi 6-4 overall in MMA, 4-2 ROAD FC
Choi trains out of the MMA Story gym in Seoul, South Korea. He won the title by defeating Bae Yong Kwon by split decision at ROAD FC 14.

Bantamweight Champion – Yun-Jun Lee 10-2 overall in MMA, 9-1 ROAD FC
Lee trains out of the ROAD FC Official Apgujeong Gym (Team ONE/Doo Won Seo Gym) in Gangnam, Seoul, Korea. He won the title by defeating Lee Gil Woo with a head kick and punches at ROAD FC 20.

Flyweight Champion – Min-Jong Song 9-7 overall in MMA, 7-4 ROAD FC
Song trains out of Team Max in South Korea. He won the title by defeating Nam Jin Jo by decision at ROAD FC 26 in a rematch of their 2014 battle that also ended in decision.

5 ROAD FC FIGHTS YOU SHOULD SEE

ROAD FC 1: Yui-Chul Nam vs. Kouta Okazawa
Nam is a beast. It’s no wonder the UFC picked him up. This is obviously his first fight in ROAD FC but he was 8-0 in Spirit MC and was a 3-time veteran of the M-1 Challenge. Okazawa spent his entire pro career in the ZST promotion (plus a win in DEEP). He never fought for ROAD FC again but he went on to spend 4 years in the Pancrase promotion.

Nam was in Okazawa’s face right from the stare down. He knocked Okazawa down with a left straight to the face to open the action. Okazawa shot in for a takedown but Nam sprawled and worked his way behind him using some impressive wrestling. From there Nam controlled their movement on the mat and kept Okazawa grounded with a mix superior movement and punches to the face. Okazawa eventually spun to guard and slapped on a triangle choke but Nam sat back in guard and escaped the submission. Nam actually laughed, landed two hard shots to the head and repositioned the pair near the cage fence. From there Nam stood up in Okazawa’s guard, blasting him with strikes until he turned to his stomach. A series of thundering rights to the head from Nam bought the ref in for the stoppage.

ROAD FC 3: Denis Kang vs. Wi Seung Bae
Kang has an extensive MMA fighting history. He went 6-1 in PRIDE Bushido (losing in the final of the 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix) and 1-2 in the UFC but the half-Korean fighter really made his name in Spirit MC promotion where he went 10-0-0-1 and won the Spirit MC Heavyweight Championship in 2004. This fight took place at the tail end of Kang’s fighting career. Bae was also a Spirit MC veteran. He went 5-1 in the promotion so he and Kang were certainly aware of each other back then.

The bout was back and forth early. Wi scored the first takedown but Kang quickly brought him to the mat and they were quickly back to their feet. After a brief exchange Wi landed a hard knee to the body that dropped Kang to his knees. The ref jumped in and waived off the bout, even raising Wi’s hand in victory. Meanwhile Kang was protesting the stoppage and a video replay showed it was an illegal knee to the groin. After several minutes the promoter entered the cage and they went at it again! That is unheard of. I cannot recall seeing a fight where the winner was declared in the ring and they still restarted the fight.

Once back in play, both fighters appeared ready to bang it out on the feet. Kang was throwing more strikes but Wi was doing more damage. A knee to the body from Wi backed Kang to the cage. Then he ate another knee to the face. A straight right landed and Kang was bleeding. Wi kept the fight on the feet while Kang did what he could to clinch and land knees. Kang did land a Superman kick that caused Wi to take a tumble but he was unfazed and continued to dominate the striking game until the end of the round.

The second round began with a stunning shot of Kang’s left eye. It was closed shut. Kang landed a hard right but ate a left hook while exiting the pocket. Kang’s striking was tight but Wi’s punches were simply harder. Kang missed on a flashing right uppercut-left hook but he scored a hard left to the head and then an uppercut moments later. Wi began sitting down on his punches and really connecting. It became a full-on firefight. Kang pressed forward and landed but Wi connected with several hooks to the body and a right hook to the face. Kang dropped for what looked to be a takedown but Wi sprawled and landed 6 knees to the head. Some knees were blocked by Kang’s gloves but enough got through to stop him in his tracks. The ref stepped in and Kang rested on his knees to clear his head. It was a great fight and one of the best I’ve seen under the ROAD FC banner.

ROAD FC 5: Kyung-Ho Kang vs. Min-Jong Song
Known as “Mr. Perfect” or “Typhoon”, Kang is a 7-year veteran of MMA and sports a record of 2-1-0-1 in the UFC. He began fighting in Spirit MC and made pit stops in DEEP, Sengoku and a variety of promotions in Japan before signing with ROAD FC in 2011. “The Running Man” Min-Jong Song is a product of ROAD FC with an 8-4 record in the promotion.

From the bell, Song rushed Kang with strikes and pressed him to the fence. Kang clinched, circled out and executed a textbook trip takedown. He landed on top in half mount and worked the position but Song escaped to his feet. Kang struggled to bring Song back to the mat and his striking was a little off in the early going. To the contrary, Song’s striking improved but neither fighter would earn points for accuracy.

Kang eventually circled behind Song and was fishing for a suplex but he jumped on his back instead. He forced Song to lean forward and support his weight while landing punches to Song’s face. He attacked Song’s right arm for an armbar and as Song bucked, Kang spun, landing with his back to the mat. He transitioned to a modified triangle choke and when the angle wasn’t there, he focused on the arm again and rolled to his stomach to keep the pressure on. I didn’t see a tap but nonetheless, the ref called a halt to the action.

ROAD FC 11: Joachim Hansen vs. Doo Won Seo
“Hellboy” Hansen is the former SHOOTO Welterweight Champion and DREAM Lightweight Champion. He lost in the semi-finals for the PRIDE FC Lightweight Grand Prix but has fought nearly 40 times in his 16-year career. The Norwegian fighter last appeared in the cage in 2014 fighting for the Superior Challenge Featherweight Championship in a losing effort. Seng doesn’t have the most impressive record but he’s won 7 of his last 9 bouts and showed the heart of a lion in this one.

Hansen opened with repeated leg and body kicks while Seo threw mostly punches. You could see early on that Seo had heavy hands. Hansen executed a slick judo throw, slamming Seo to the mat but Seo reversed position they were back to their feet. Seo appeared more confident and willing to strike in the pocket while Hansen preferred to clinch and knee. An exchange in the center of the cage saw Hansen land a solid right straight. As Hansen loaded up for a hook, he was caught with a left-right from Seo that buckled his knees. He was hurt and struggled to clinch and knee while trying to clear his head. Seo was on the attack and took Hansen down with less than a minute left in the round. With 15 seconds on the clock, Seo stood to throw strikes down into Hansen’s open guard while Hansen threw kicks up at his face. When Hansen sat up to attempt a takedown, Seo snatched his head and rolled him over for a choke moments before the sound of the bell.

Hansen came out very aggressive for Rd 2, landing kicks and knees to the body before seizing a clinch. They grappled in the fence until Seo got a takedown, landing in Hansen’s guard. Hansen worked for a series of armbar submissions from the bottom and Seo appeared to slow down. Hansen used a failed armbar attempt as a sweep and landed on top of Seo in side control. There he worked to full mount and sunk the arm triangle choke for the win.

Though he lost this bout, Seo met Hansen again a year later (at ROAD FC 15) and KO’d him just 15 seconds into the match

ROAD FC 27: Zhang Lipeng vs. Hong Young-Ki
Zhang won the 2013-2014 TUF China Welterweight Tournament. He went 2-2 in the UFC (not counting tournament competition) and was released from the promotion. After a 3-fight stint in Kunlun Fight (all wins by submission), he signed with ROAD FC last October. Hong is a 5-time veteran of ROAD FC (3-2) and fights out of the Apgujeong Gym in Seoul, Korea under Head Coach Doo Won Seo.

This was Zhang’s debut fight for ROAD FC. From the bell, Zhang caught a kick and attempted a takedown but Hong kept them standing against the fence. He eventually got the takedown and landed on top in half mount. After 30 seconds of mild activity the ref stood them up and gave Hong a penalty card. Hong – now charged up – stepped in with a front leg round kick and a series of punches but nothing landed cleanly. They continued to spar and Hong blasted Zhang with a front leg round kick to the groin. They resumed and Hong was on the attack. Zhang follows Hong’s momentum and grabbed his back. He worked for the rear naked choke but Hong was fighting it all the way. With less than 90 seconds, left Zhang sunk the choke and Hong tapped his leg as they tumbled to the mat.

Zhang’s arrival to ROAD FC gives them another internationally recognized fighter to build up and likely signals a new era for the promotion’s popularity worldwide.

NOTE: these are just 5 fights I would recommend viewing. A hardcore fan of the promotion may have a totally different list. Do you have a ROAD FC fight you think everyone should see? Let me know at jhirthmma@yahoo.com and I’ll put together another Top 5 ROAD FC Fights voted on by the readers.

NEXT UP: Japan’s Pancrase promotion

About The Author

James Hirth
Staff Writer

James Hirth has been covering combat sports in a variety of media formats (magazine, internet and radio) since the late 1990’s. He was first exposed to Mixed Martial Arts (then called No Holds Barred) when a training partner brought in a grainy VHS tape of an event called the Japan Open Vale Tudo ’94. James recalls “I’m the first person I‘m aware of who was familiar with Rickson Gracie’s fights before Royce. I saw a tape of UFC 1 a few weeks later and I was hooked”. Having done everything from in-house play-by-play and judging at live fights, ringside camera work and even cornering a fighter - in addition to previews and interviews - James has witnessed the growth of the sport. James has studied a variety of martial arts for more than 30 years. Growing up in Chicago and the youngest of 8 children, James’ oldest brother would take him Downtown to the theaters of The Loop on Saturday mornings in the late 1970’s to see martial arts films. Like many youth of that day, seeing Bruce Lee on the big screen changed his life. His brother would also introduce him to the arts of Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido where he spent 10 years training and teaching at the same academy. After receiving his Bachelors of Science in Business Operations he spent 5 years in the field of Marketing Research in The Loop. The 9-11 tragedy resulted in significant layoffs in the industry and he would return to teaching martial arts, this time for a non-for-profit organization. He spent more than a decade teaching and developing a variety of martial arts programming in multiple branches of the organization. He not only taught all ages and in more than a dozen Chicago Public Schools, but had the opportunity to train Cook County Juvenile Probation Officers and the children of local FBI agents. Now James is thrilled to bring his years of experience to The MMA Corner and Press Box Insider.