On Saturday, South Korean fighter Dong Hyun Kim stepped into the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 37 riding high off a Hail Mary KO of Erick Silva in October, and a minute into Round 3, the “Stun Gun” sidestepped an elbow from opponent John Hathaway and executed a spinning elbow of his own. Just like that, Hathaway was off to the realm of the unconscious, and Kim had once more managed to turn a sloppy fight into a beautiful ballet of beating.
Of course, the conversation afterwards gravitated towards his future, and Kim spoke of a run at the title.
Jonathan Snowden brought a little rain to the Stun Gun parade with a piece on Bleacher Report decrying the admittedly large holes in the South Korean’s striking game.
But a title shot? A future at the top of this sport? This isn’t the road that will take Kim there. A sophisticated striker will cut a path through his striking bluster that ends right on the tip of his chin. He has found the gift of power. It’s god-given and more than a bit tantalizing. What he lacks is the skill set to deliver it effectively against the best in the world.
The old Kim was en route to a potential title shot. He may not have made it there, but it was an honest attempt, pitting his best skills against his opponent’s best. The new Kim? He’s on the path to ChrisLeben-ville. Only heartbreak and brain trauma await.
Both Kim and Snowden are wrong.
Though emboldened by his recent KO victories, Kim’s confidence is misplaced, and it’s misdirecting where he should be setting sail for. His future doesn’t lie in the Land of Champions, with its harsh climate and strictly-controlled population. Given the flaws in his stand-up defense, he’d likely never be able to firmly plant his flag upon its shores. But not every fighter needs to be a champion. For many, their greatest gift to themselves and their fans is to simply be the star of a particular UFC – and with Kim, that means more of the same.
Since there are far fewer pay-per-view events than there are those that air on FOX, FOX Sports 1 and Fight Pass, there are more opportunities for fighters’ stars to shine, and do so against competition that isn’t necessarily of the caliber that would spell certain doom against a judo black belt who throws wild punches. The sport needs Chris Lytles and Diego Sanchez’s just as much as it needs Georges St. Pierres and Chris Weidmans.
If the Stun Gun stays on his current track, swinging bolos and thrilling crowds as he battles those far from title contention, he will avoid that “heartbreak and brain trauma” Snowden spoke of (and he may even keep accumulating those precision performance bonuses).
Forget a run at the title. Kim can be – and should be – the king of UFC Fight Nights.