MICHAEL BISPING VS KELVIN GASTELUM
Every fight is important. But if I’m looking at the career of Michael Bisping, if he loses to Kelvin Gastelum on Saturday, it does nothing to diminish what he’s done in the UFC over the 11-plus years. In fact, him stepping up to battle Gastelum just three weeks after headlining UFC 217 against Georges St-Pierre ranks high on the all-time bad ass moves list. But this isn’t an underdog situation at all for “The Count,” who already knows how to fight. At this point, he gets his cardio up, gets ready for five rounds and scraps. And his busy striking style can keep any fighter from getting into a rhythm. So what’s the key for Gastelum? Don’t get frustrated, keep smart pressure on Bisping and work in takedowns – or at least the threat of them – in order to open up holes for him to land his bombs. This is a tough fight to call, but it should be a fun one to get up early on Saturday for.
LI JINGLIANG VS ZAK OTTOW
This is one of those fights that would have been perfect for the early days of the UFC when there were no rounds or time limits because Li Jingliang and Zak Ottow have that kind of toughness to battle it out until a true winner is determined. But Saturday, there will be three, five-minute rounds, and these welterweights might need all 15 minutes to decide this one.
WANG GUAN VS ALEX CACERES
Originally scheduled to meet earlier this year, Alex Caceres and Wang Guan finally get their showdown in Shanghai and it’s an interesting matchup for sure. Wang makes his UFC debut after compiling a 19-1-1 record with 14 KOs, and while he’s on a seven-fight winning streak and all those numbers look great, he’s in with a whole different cat in Caceres. It’s almost weird to see him as the veteran now, but he is, and while he’s had his ups and downs, he always has the potential to put on a spectacular performance. We’ll see if Wang is ready for that step up in competition.
MUSLIM SALIKHOV VS ALEX GARCIA
According to Wikipedia, 85 fighters made their UFC debut in 2017 heading into Saturday’s card. The one I may be the most excited about seeing enters the Octagon for the first time this weekend, as Muslim Salikhov faces Alex Garcia. Salikhov is a human highlight reel who can and will throw all kinds of strikes, land them, and pick up knockout wins. In a stacked division getting more exciting by the minute, he’s a great addition, but don’t sleep on Garcia, who has some pretty potent power of his own that could spoil Salikhov’s debut with one punch.
ZABIT MAGOMEDSHARIPOV VS SHEYMON MORAES
Sheymon Moraes comes to the UFC with plenty of positive notices and the talent to make a dent in the featherweight top 15. But after Zabit Magomedsharipov’s UFC debut win over Mike Santiago, it’s hard to pick against him. He’s got so many tools, has a calm demeanor in there, and he’s willing to go anywhere and do anything to get the win. He’s one to watch.
SONG KENAN VS BOBBY NASH
The key in this welterweight matchup between Bobby Nash and Song Kenan may be found in the place Song spent six months of training at – the Jackson-Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque. That kind of work not only sharpened Song’s weapons, but it got him used to competing against UFC level opposition. That is invaluable as he faces the hard-nosed Michigan native.
KAILIN CURRAN VS YAN XIAONAN
Kailin Curran has not had an easy go of it in the UFC, going just 1-5 thus far. But the funny thing about this run is that she always seems on the verge of taking that next step and righting the ship. Maybe Saturday night is her time to do it against Yan Xiaonan, a fighter with only nine fights, but one with the talent and the backing of China Top Team to mark her as one to watch at 115 pounds.
SONG YADONG VS BHARAT KANDARE
Just 19 years old, making him the youngest fighter on the current UFC roster, Song Yadong has a lot of pressure on him as he makes his Octagon debut on home soil and on short notice. But the beauty of being 19 is that things like pressure often don’t register once the fight starts. But India’s Kandare does have the kind of style to take an opponent’s confidence away early, and that may just be the key to him leaving Shanghai with his hand raised.
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CHASE SHERMAN VS SHAMIL ABDURAKHIMOV
It’s a tough test ahead for “The Vanilla Gorilla,” as surging heavyweight prospect Chase Sherman faces Shamil Abdurakhimov. Russia’s Abdurakhimov has the style to stifle the best intentions of any hammer-swinging opponent, and I don’t expect him to try and reinvent the wheel in this one. So it’s up to Sherman to pepper his foe at range and then shoot in with power shots and get out before “Abrek” can get a hold of him. Otherwise, it might be a long night for the Mississippi native.
WU YANAN VS GINA MAZANY
Gina Mazany got blitzed by Sara McMann in her short notice UFC debut and didn’t get to display what she can do on fight night, so in a lot of ways this feels like her first trip to the Octagon. So expect “Danger” to pull out all the stops to show that she’s a fighter to watch at 135 pounds against a true newcomer in Wu Yanan, a hard-hitting striker who has finished six of her nine victories by knockout.
WULIJI BUREN VS ROLANDO DY
The fun part about cards like this are seeing the new faces and wondering what they’ll bring to the Octagon against more established foes. Rolando Dy is just two bouts into his UFC career, but we’ve got a taste of what he can do on fight night. That’s not the case for Wuliji Buren, who is 10-4 as a pro with a background in traditional Chinese wrestling that he may want to implement against an opponent who prefers to stand and trade if at all possible.
CYRIL ASKER VS HU YAOZONG
Henderson. Couture. Severn. Sonnen. Lindland. All UFC stars with Greco-Roman wrestling backgrounds. Octagon newcomer Hu Yaozong has a similar background. Am I moving ahead of myself before Hu even fights France’s Cyril Asker on Saturday? Yes. But that’s the fun part, right? Who knows, maybe he can follow in their footsteps. First let’s see if he moves to 4-0 this weekend.