Can’t keep a good lad down!
Less than one month after losing his Middleweight title, Michael Bisping will return to the cage on Saturday (Nov. 25, 201&) when he takes on Kelvin Gastelum in Shanghai, China. In UFC Fight Night 122’s co-featured fight, China’s most successful mixed martial arts (MMA) export, Li Jingliang, faces Zak Ottow, while Alex Caceres welcomes Wang Guan to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Alex Garcia opens Fight Pass’ main card against the King of Kung Fu, Muslim Salikhov, who has knocked out two UFC veterans with spinning kicks in his last two fights.
We’ve got seven “Prelims” undercard matches to reward those willing to wake up at 3:45 a.m. ET. Here are the first four, which include four debuting UFC competitors.
135 lbs.: Yadong Song vs. Bharat Khandare
Nineteen-year-old Yadong Song (10-4) enters UFC as one of its youngest competitors, but brings with him four years of professional MMA experience. His current 3-1 run includes a decision over 13-4 Edgars Skrīvers and a good-looking first round knockout in 2016.
He steps in for the injured Pingyuan Liu on a week’s notice.
The first India-born fighter to join UFC, Bharat Khandare (5-2) racked up four submission wins and one (technical) knockout under the Super Fight League banner, fighting at both Bantamweight and Featherweight. The much more experienced Ahmed Faress proved a bridge too far, though, and submitted the wrestling specialist partway through the first round.
Three of his five stoppage wins have come in the first round.
Khandare is a physical powerhouse with strong wrestling and legitimately nasty work from top position, but I’m getting serious Karlos Vemola vibes. His striking is simply nowhere near polished enough to set up takedowns against quality opponents. Anyone with above-average footwork and distance management should be able to keep him swinging at air and charging into a pair of waiting underhooks.
Liu arguably fits that bill. Song does not.
“The Terminator” has power, speed and pretty much nothing else. He’s easy to hit, not terribly sharp with his striking, and not much of a wrestler. Unless he can catch Khandare coming in with something nasty, he’s going for a ride. With maybe three years of good training and careful matchmaking, Song could be UFC-worthy, but not yet. Khandare hits a high-amplitude slam before transitioning to mount and pounding away for the finish.
Prediction: Khandare via first-round technical knockout
265 lbs.: Chase Sherman vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov
Chase Sherman (11-3) stumbled out of the gate in UFC, getting jabbed to pieces by Justin Ledet and knocked into oblivion by Walt Harris in his first two appearances. “The Vanilla Gorilla” has since asserted himself as one to watch with a Fight of the Night slugfest against Rashad Coulter and decision over Polish veteran Damian Grabowski.
All but one of his ten knockout wins have come in the first round.
Shamil Abdurakhimov (17-4) had his own issues in his debut, a ground-and-pound stoppage loss to Timothy Johnson, but handily out-struck Anthony Hamilton and Walt Harris to earn a main event slot opposite Derrick Lewis. Despite early success, “Abrek” eventually slowed down and succumbed to “The Black Beast’s” devastating ground-and-pound.
He will give up two inches of arm and leg reach.
Sherman has undoubtedly improved in recent fights, showing a reasonably fluid striking style instead of the plodding headhunting from before. Stylistically, though, he’ll struggle with “Abrek,” who thrives against slower, come-forward sluggers with his footwork and long-range kicks.
The one caveat is that Abdurakhimov seems to wilt when things stop going his way, but he’s got enough gas in the tank for three good rounds and Sherman isn’t a good enough wrestler to mash him on the mat the way Lewis did. Abdurakhimov picks him off at range in a fight that’ll likely be closer on the scorecards than it is in the cage.
Prediction: Abdurakhimov by split decision
135 lbs.: Yanan Wu vs. Gina Mazany
Bouncing between Bantamweight and Featherweight, Yanan Wu (9-1) reeled off seven wins before running into future Invicta champion Yana Kunitskaya in the latter’s native Russia. She put the loss behind her with two stoppage wins in China, the most recent of which took place in March.
Six of her nine stoppage wins have come by form of knockout.
Gina Mazany (4-1) — who fell short against Julianna Pena on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20 — stepped up on short notice to face Sara McMann in February after Liz Carmouche withdrew with an injury. Things quickly took a turn for the worse as Mazany not only missed weight, but tapped to an arm triangle just 74 seconds into the first round.
She will give up three inches of height to Wu.
Wu is aggressive, powerful and fun to watch. The issue is that she’s totally unproven — of her nine wins, only two came against an opponent with a win on their record (Meng Bo, who was 1-0 when they first met and 1-1 the second time). The one time she faced a legitimate Bantamweight, Kunitskaya dominated her on the mat.
Mazany’s record isn’t much better, but Wu’s struggles on the mat against Kunitskaya don’t fill me with confidence, although Wu does do some good work from top position herself. This comes down to whoever hits the first takedown; I say it’s Mazany, who puts her away with ground-and-pound late in the first.
Prediction: Mazany via first-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Wuliji Buren vs. Rolando Dy
Following an undefeated (6-0) start to his MMA career, Wuliji Buren (10-4) hit a rough patch that saw him go 1-4, including three stoppage losses. He has since won three straight, two by submission and one by slam.
He has submitted four opponents and (T)KOd another two.
Rolando Dy (8-6-1) made his name in the PXC promotion, taking standout Kyle Aguon to a pair of split decisions during his run. His UFC career hasn’t been quite as successful, suffering a technical knockout loss to Alex Caceres before dropping a close decision to Teruto Ishihara thanks to a point deduction for low blows.
“Dy Incredible” has knocked out and submitted two opponents apiece.
It’s hard to get a bead on Buren. The most recent fight of his I could find, a split decision loss to Dong Gyu Kim, he did so little that technical analysis is difficult. What I do know is that he’s lost to lesser fighters than Dy, often by stoppage, and doesn’t seem to have the power to crack his foe’s shaky chin.
Dy was a point deduction away from drawing with Teruto Ishihara — he’s not elite and doesn’t seem to have the potential to be, but he is a legitimately skilled striker with improving takedown defense. He roughs Buren up on the feet on his way to a decision victory.
Prediction: Dy via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Fight Night 122 “Prelims” undercard matches to preview and predict tomorrow, capped off by arguably the best Featherweight prospect in the world against a top-tier Muay Thai competitor. See you there, Maniacs!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 122 card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 3:45 a.m. ET right on through the main card that starts at 7 a.m. ET.