Who knew going into it that UFC: Shanghai would end up being one of the better Fight Nights of the year? Between the 3:30AM start time and the UFC's website showing half the card with the dreaded black outline of obscurity, it was easy to talk smack about this one coming up. But unlike UFC Sydney, UFC Shanghai was a treat to watch. More importantly for the UFC, the crowd inside the Mercedes-Benz Arena really seemed to enjoy it too.
You can link a lot of that to strong performances from a lot of the Chinese fighters, who stepped up and went 5-3 over the card. More importantly, the true prospects shined: Wang Guan looked great against Alex Caceres and "The Leech" Li Jingliang absolutely starched Zak Ottow. But now we have a question for the UFC: what are they going to do with this momentum?
The UFC's international plans have always been a bit too far ranging for their own good. What's the use of doing an event or maybe two in a bunch of different countries if you're not going to return until next year, if that? When it comes to Asia, why not pick a country with an appreciative crowd, some homegrown talent, and room to grow?
KSW in Poland has shown what you can do regionally with just four events a year in the same area. Can you imagine the possibilities if the UFC committed to four shows in Shanghai for 2018?
Does Anyone Still Feel Good About Bisping Stepping Up?
Oh, the heroic Michael Bisping! Offering to step back into the cage a quick 21 days after a hard fight against Georges St-Pierre. Fans appreciated the UFC and Michael's moxy when we learned he'd be replacing Anderson Silva against Kelvin Gastelum in Shanghai. That was some outside the box matchmaking to save the starpower at the top of the card. But it doesn't look very responsible in retrospect after watching Gastelum drop Bisping dead on the canvas with that huge left hand.
Slip, one, two, you're dead.#UFCShanghai pic.twitter.com/a5pLKMaw1o— Jonnyboy (@Jonnyboy_6969) November 25, 2017
There's a lot of people out there arguing that this is probably the second concussion Michael Bisping has suffered in November, following the damage he took from Georges at UFC 217. Maybe it was. And then there's those who believe Bisping wouldn't have gone down so hard from that Gastelum shot if his brain wasn't already rattled from that previous fight. That may be true too.
While doctors cleared Bisping to fight, it's not fun wondering how bad these successive incidents of head trauma were for an aging vet like Bisping. There’s a good reason turnarounds like this don’t happen very often. It certainly left a bad taste in my mouth.
My God This Magomedsharipov
Zabit Magomedsharipov Wins Sub R3#UFCShanghai pic.twitter.com/BUldu9vTJA— Jonnyboy (@Jonnyboy_6969) November 25, 2017
Zabit Magomedsharipov has made quite an impression in his two UFC fights. Two wins, two finishes, two performance of the night bonuses. Against Sheymon Moraes, he locked up a great anaconda choke that'll replay endlessly on his highlight reel ... until it's pushed off by even more slick finishes in the future, I imagine.
THIS GUY!!@Zabit_MMA puts on another spectacular performance and finishes Moraes in round 3! Unreal! #UFCShanghai pic.twitter.com/3gsxmPlmbo— UFC (@ufc) November 25, 2017
This win moves Zabit to 14-1, and if the UFC is smart they'll get him onto the televised portion of some cards and start building him up, because he could be bigger than Khabib.
Release The Crankin'
The Dominican Nightmare#UFCShanghai pic.twitter.com/erFXFZyFRZ— Jonnyboy (@Jonnyboy_6969) November 25, 2017
Anyone else notice the face crank submission unleashed by Alex Garcia in the opening bout of the televised card? At the start of the year, I suggested cranks weren't just an irksome move designed to make your opponents uncomfortable any more. We've seen a number of face crank finishes over the year as fighters with killer grips and bowling ball biceps realize cranks can get the job done.
That fact still seems to be flying under the general radar, though. But I'm calling it now: 2018 is gonna be the year of the face crank.