Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back online this Saturday morning (Nov. 25, 2017) with the UFC Fight Night 122 mixed martial arts (MMA) event on Fight Pass, which features a middleweight main event between former champion Michael Bisping and Ultimate Fighter winner Kelvin Gastelum.
The co-main event pits local favorite Li Jingliang against veteran Zak Ottow in Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena. We broke down the Prelims here and here, plus the odds and betting lines right here.
185 lbs.: Kelvin Gastelum (14-3) vs. Michael Bisping (30-8)
I’m going to go ahead and assume Bisping was still concussed when he decided to take this fight. Gastelum is a horrific matchup for “The Count” thanks to his wrestling, punching power, and endless cardio that can withstand Bisping’s wilting pace.
There really is no clear avenue of victory for Bisping against an opponent he can’t outbox, outwork, or wear down. His only real edge is in his size, but he’s not going to grind Gastelum down against the fence or on the mat; he has neither the inclination nor the wrestling skill to make that work the way Chris Weidman did.
Gastelum’s ceiling at middleweight remains in question after the way he got bodied in his last fight, but he’s lethal against those who can’t bulldoze him for the entire fight. He batters Bisping in short order.
Prediction: Gastelum by first-round TKO
170 lbs.: Li Jingliang (13-4) vs. Zak Ottow (15-4)
It’s been fun to watch Li go from an agonizingly dull grappler to one of the division’s most entertaining brawlers. He’s by far the most accomplished Chinese fighter in mixed martial arts and has a surprisingly effective wrestling and grappling game to complement those iron hands of his brick fists.
Ottow, who has gone to three consecutive split decisions, is well-rounded but not spectacular in any one area, which tends to lead to close fights. He doesn’t have any particular standout skill he can use to overwhelm Li, who also figures to be the physically stronger of the two by a fair margin.
Li just figures to be too much for him. Too strong, too durable, too powerful. He outfights Ottow on the mat and on the feet before eventually finding a home for his right hand.
Prediction: Li by second-round TKO
145 lbs.: Alex Caceres (13-10) vs. Wang Guan (19-1-1)
Let’s make one thing clear: Wang deserves to be in the UFC. He’s not just here to make the local fans happy. He is a legitimately dangerous, powerful striker with a history of brutal finishes.
I’m just not sure his grappling is up to snuff.
While Wang isn’t hopeless on the mat, his takedown defense is iffy and he’s not particularly adept at getting back to his feet. For all his faults and inconsistency, Caceres is a skilled and effective grappler when he has the skill and inclination to drag people to the mat.
Now, the most recent footage I could find of Wang against a decent opponent was from 2014, so he’s had the opportunity to improve, but the grappling disparity just looks a bit too big. He holds his own on the feet until Caceres catches on that striking’s a bad idea and dominates from top position.
Prediction: Caceres by unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Alex Garcia (14-4) vs. Muslim Salikhov (12-1)
Zabit Magomedsharipov is the top prospect in this card, but Salikhov is a close second. A multiple-time Sanda world champion and the first non-Chinese fighter to be crowned “King of Kung Fu,” he’s a straight-up beast on the feet. In the last year alone, he’s knocked out two UFC veterans with spinning kicks in a combined 2:37.
Oh, and he has lights-out power in his hands because why not.
Garcia is exactly the sort of opponent he should be fighting in his UFC debut to show us where Salikhov is at in his development as a full mixed martial artist. Garcia is a physical powerhouse with overpowering wrestling and bricks in his hands, though held back by a godawful gas tank and iffy striking technique.
Salikhov looks like he can wrestle as well, though, and will have a length advantage. If he’s the kind of special talent he looks like, he should be able to starch Garcia once “The Dominican Nightmare” starts losing explosiveness.
Prediction: Salikhov by second-round KO
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 122 fight card on fight day (click here), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 3:45 a.m. ET, followed by the main card start time at 7:00 a.m. ET.
To see the rest of the UFC Shanghai line up click here.