Yadong Song is 2-0 in the UFC. (Photo: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)
Team Alpha Male prospect Yadong Song returns to the Octagon for the third time Saturday when he takes on Ultimate Fighting Championship newcomer Vince Morales at UFC Fight Night 141 in Yadong’s home country of China. Yadong found martial arts at the age of 10 when he was urged by his mother to train wushu. Two years later he found mixed martial arts and began training under Malo Hailin. He turned pro in 2013 at just 16 years-old. During this time, he worked as a security guard and street vendor, which he used as motivation to make it in MMA and one day be a champion.
Most fans probably have not heard of Yadong Song (often Romanized as Song Yadong), but he is one of the brightest young combatants on the roster and is already one of the most polished prospects in the UFC at just 20 years of age. Yadong is a brilliant combination striker and everything is set up with the jab. He stays light on his feet like a karateka and leaps forward with a jab while taking an angle to his left to set up the right hand.
Yadong doesn't have the deepest bag of tricks and generally relies on overwhelming opponents with his pace and the basics of striking rather than a multitude of options. The jab-straight, right-rear leg kick combo is his go-to move, but he will also beautifully mix up combos to the body. Something to note about his leading attacks is how he rarely stands and trades in the pocket and would rather leap forward with a quick 2-3 strike combo before getting out of range and resetting the exchange. It often takes years for young fighters to learn how to pace themselves and not throw every strike with everything they got. But at only 20 years-old, Yadong has already figured out how to stay calm in the cage at all times and rarely puts himself out of position defensively.
Yadong is a diverse striker and is just as slick with his counters as he is with his leading attacks. His counter of choice is a looping overhand right which he dips far to his left when throwing. This leaves him open for intercepting knees but none of his opponents have been able to capitalize on this opening. Since Yadong stays light on his feet, he can quickly cover distance in any direction and will often throw a retreating counter jab or lead hook when opponents advance.
Yadong went through a couple of wars early in his career, most notably against Xian Ji at One Championship 24, and his focus on defense since joining the UFC shows he is aware enough to notice his deficiencies and work on making them one of his strong suits. But despite being dominated in the fight, he showed incredible heart and ability to take a punch and keep on coming, all while being a 16-year-old kid fighting a grown man of 27.
Yadong doesn't initiate grappling exchanges often, but he does have three submission victories including one of the sickest standing guillotines in UFC history. He has proven to have decent takedown defense and scrambling ability, but it will be interesting to see how he fares against a grappling-based opponent.