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UFC Shanghai predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Perhaps the best thing about this event is that is that it won’t be taking up your Saturday night plans, seriously. UFC Shanghai, or UFC Fight Night 122, is a solid candidate for the worst UFC card of the year. This event is being headlined by a last-minute booking between former UFC middleweight champ Michael Bisping and top contender Kelvin Gastelum. Apart from the solid main event, there isn’t much to see here. Maybe one can find some interest in prospect Zabit Magomedsharipov’s return to the Octagon, and a couple of other fights involving fan-favorite fighters Alex Caceres and Chase Sherman.

What: UFC Shanghai (UFC Fight Night 122)

Where: Mercedes-Benz Arena, Shanghai, China.

When: Saturday, Nov. 25. The eight-fight UFC Fight Pass begins at 3:45 a.m. ET, and the four-fight main card begins at 7 a.m. ET also on UFC Fight Pass.


Michael Bisping vs. Kelvin Gastelum

I can’t say I love this booking, but I’ll say I like it a bit more than the original match up between Anderson Silva and Kelvin Gastelum, as I think it’s going to be more competitive.

At this point we know what we’re getting with Michael Bisping. He’s a very efficient striker with a diverse arsenal and one of the best gas tanks in the sport. On top of that, Bisping has a solid understanding of ground fighting and he mainly uses that defensively to either avoid submission or get back to his feet where he shines best. The Brit is also very durable and remains one of the most experienced active fighters in the UFC roster.

We also know what we’re getting with Gastelum, but I do believe he still has a good amount of room for improvement, and can surprise people with new skills every time he steps in the Octagon. Gastelum’s boxing is smooth and technical, and he can put together solid combinations. The Ultimate Fighter 17 winner also carries respectable power behind his strikes and a very reliable chin. Grappling wise, Gastelum has very good wrestling and a very solid base that can get him in advantageous positions.

Personally, I don’t think Gastelum should be fighting at middleweight. Chris Weidman proved that at 185 pounds Gastelum is undersized and can be overpowered. However, to use size against Gastelum, one must engage in grappling where size really matters. Bisping is not really a strong grappler like a Weidman or a Yoel Romero, so that won’t be the case here. I see this bout mainly contested on the feet. I think both fighters are skilled enough on the feet to put on an even fight. However, Gastelum is younger, and at this point, deals with fight wear a lot better than Bisping can. Bisping will have his good moments, I’m sure of that, but over the course of five rounds, Gastelum should get the better of the exchanges being the quicker, more powerful and durable fighter.

Gastelum could get a stoppage here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the old warhorse hangs in until the final bell in a classic gritty performance.

Pick: Gastelum

Li Jingliang vs. Zak Ottow

This fight should’t be the co-main event of a UFC card, but I’m happy Li Jingliang, probably the most successful Chinese fighter in UFC history, is getting the spotlight in his home country.

Jingliang is a very well-rounded fighter that’s very athletic. That combination can get you somewhere in the promotion, as seen in Jingliang 5-2 UFC record. The welterweight fighter is probably best on the feet, but he has decent takedowns and a pretty complete ground game.

Zak Ottow has a very similar skillset to Jingliang, but has a different style to it. Ottow can strike and can grapple. He fights very composed, and keeps up a solid pace throughout the whole fight.

I’m kind of split here, anyone can win. I like how Ottow fights more poised and in a way seems more experienced, but I think Jingliang’s wild fighting style can actually be something positive rather than a detriment. Tough call, but Jingliang will probably dictate the pace and that tends to sway judges’ perception.

Pick: Jingliang

Wang Guan vs. Alex Caceres

This should be a fun bout that could possibly get Fight of the Night bonus.

Alex Caceres is fun to watch. He’s slick with his striking and grappling, and he has a cool fighting style. His opponent Wang Guan is not particularly great at anything. Guan’s game feels unrefined, but he is very tough, physically strong for the weight class, and hits hard.

I can see a scenario where Guan outmuscles Caceres in certain positions. However, Caceres is a much more sophisticated fighter and seems to be more technically advanced in almost every area. Guan keeps his hands very low, and I see Caceres using his speed and odd angles to outpoint the Chinese fighter on the feet to win a decision.

Pick: Caceres

Muslim Salikhov vs. Alex Garcia

There could be a nasty knockout in this one, as both Muslim Salikhov and Alex Garcia bring crazy knockout power in this welterweight bout.

“The Dominican Nightmare” sometimes steps in the cage and looks like a killer, like a the next big thing thing in the division. But in other times Garcia has had very flat performances. He’s not the most consistent fighter.

Meanwhile, from what I’ve seen from Salikhov, the Russian fighter seems to be pretty consistent with his performances. Salikhov knows what he’s good at and sticks with it, he doesn’t get too complicated with the way he approaches fights. Salikhov relies a lot on short quick punches and leg kicks. When the opportunity is present, Salikhov is not afraid of letting go a haymaker.

If a game Garcia shows up, I can see him mixing up his powerful takedowns and striking to beat Salikhov in a decision. Yet, that’s still a gamble. Salikhov seems the same bet here.

Pick: Salikhov

Undercard:

Zabit Magomedsharipov def. Sheymon Moraes

Bobby Nash def. Kenan Song

Kailin Curran def. Yan Xiaonan

Yadong Song def. Bharat Khandare

Chase Sherman def. Shamil Abdurakhimov

Yanan Wu def. Gina Mazany

Wuliji Buren def. Rolando Dy

Cyril Asker def. Yaozong Hu

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