Team Alpha Male’s Yadong Song on Saturday will make his fifth appearance under the Ultimate Fighting Championship banner, as he takes on Cody Stamann in a UFC on ESPN 7 bantamweight showcase at the Capitol One Arena in Washington, D.C. At just 21 years of age, Song has six years of professional experience under his belt. Unlike many young fighters, he pays attention to defense, and his ability to read opponents and make mid-fight adjustments already surpasses a number of his contemporaries.
Song steps into the spotlight in this edition of The Film Room.
Although he cracked the Top 15 with his knockout of Alejandro Perez in July, Song remains a relative unknown. That could soon change. Song is a brilliant combination striker, and everything is set up with a jab. He likes to stay light on his feet and leap forward with a jab while taking an angle to his left to set up the right hand. He will also use his jab as a counter and as a blinder to circle off the cage.
Song has a deep bag of tricks, but he generally relies on overwhelming opponents with pace, impeccable timing and his perfecting of some basic combos. The jab-straight-leg kick is his go-to combo, and he likes to mix it up to the head and body to keep opponents guessing and create openings in their defense. Something to note about his leading attacks: how he rarely stands and trades in the pocket and would rather leap forward with a quick two- to three-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 full power. However, Song has already figured out how to stay calm in the cage and rarely puts himself out of position defensively. That does not mean he is overly passive. He knows that sometimes he has to bite down on his mouthpiece and throw bombs in the pocket. With that said, he is smart enough to limit these chaotic exchanges and not make them the objective of the fight.
These exchanges generally come later in the fight when he is tired and ahead on the scorecards, and while they can be dangerous, it is nice to see that he will still take chances. Recall Song’s November 2018 encounter with Vince Morales. The main thing to notice in their exchanges was his defense. Both men were tired and neither landed the cleanest shots, but Song rolled with most of the strikes and blocked the others with his hands and forearms, all while landing a few punches himself.
Song is a diverse striker and has proven to be just as slick with his counters as he is with his leading attacks. His counter of choice is a looping overhand right. He dips far to his left when throwing it and occasionally follows it with a lead hook. This leaves him open for intercepting knees, but none of his opponents have managed to capitalize on this apparent weakness. Since Song 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.
In his most recent fight with Perez, Song landed a perfectly timed and placed counter right hand that sent the 30-fight veteran’s head bouncing off the canvas. If it was not for Jorge Masvidal-Ben Askren later in the event, it would have resulted in a $50,000 “Knockout of the Night” bonus. Even so, it showed that Song belongs in the Top 15 and made him the youngest ranked fighter in the UFC.
Song does not 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. Stamann is mostly a striker, but he grew up wrestling and has relied on his grappling to win fights in the past. Song is the much better striker, so expect Stamann to shoot for the hips early and often.This might be the first time we see Song tested on the ground.
Song experienced 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. Despite being dominated in that fight, he showed incredible heart and an ability to take a punch and keep on coming, all as a 16-year-old kid fighting a grown man. These experiences as a teenager have made him the well-versed and hardened 21-year-old we see today.