Song Yadong is the youngest bantamweight contender in the UFC. He didn't appear that way in a mature performance Saturday.
The 26-year-old striker used his wrestling and grappling to gain the edge late in a five-round unanimous decision (50-44, 50-45, 50-45) victory over Chris Gutierrez in the main event of UFC Fight Night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Song had won his previous three fights via finish, and this performance showed he was capable of ring generalship over 25 minutes.
"I learned a lot from this fight," Song, a native of China, said in his postfight interview.
In the UFC's official bantamweight rankings, Song came in ranked No. 7 and Gutierrez was No. 15.
The bout started as a kicking battle. Both have excellent low kicks, and each attacked the other's legs heavily in the first round. Things started to turn in the second round when Song landed a takedown. He was able to control things from top position in every round thereafter, too, including the fifth when he landed several hard elbows after capitalizing on Gutierrez rolling for a leglock to start the frame.
"I'm sorry to the Chinese fans I didn't knock him out," Song said.
In his postfight interview, Song added that he was "coming" for the title and also called out former UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan. Song vs. Yan was the desired main event for this card, but things fell through and Gutierrez took Yan's spot. Yan posted a yawning emoji on X during the bout Saturday.
"Your last fight [was boring], too," Song said in response in his postfight interview. "I know you want to fight in March. OK, let's go in March."
Song (21-7-1, 1 NC) has won two straight and five of his past six fights. The Team Alpha Male (California) product has eight UFC bantamweight wins since his debut in 2017. The only fighters with more in the division since then are former champion Aljamain Sterling, current champion Sean O'Malley and No. 1 contender Marlon "Chito" Vera, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Song is 10-2-1 in the UFC since he came in as a 19-year-old.
Gutierrez (20-6-2) has dropped two of his past three bouts. The 32-year-old Texas native, who trains out of Colorado, was unbeaten in eight straight before this current stretch.