This week the UFC touches down in mainland China for the first time for their UFC Fight Night 122/UFC Shanghai card.
Anderson Silva was originally scheduled to meet Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of Saturday’s card in Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena, but Silva was removed after a potential doping violation for an out-of-competition sample collected on 26 October was flagged.
With Silva and Gastelum arguably being the only two top names on a card filled with plenty of local talent, the UFC was desperate to have a main-event worthy of their inaugural show in Shanghai.
The promotion had to look no further than Britain’s most notorious MMA star, only seven days removed from one of the toughest losses of his career, Michael Bisping looks to bounce back from losing his middleweight championship.
This bout marks the second fight in his three-fight retirement plan which he looks to end in March when the UFC touches down in London.
Bisping hopes to bounce back at UFC Shanghai after losing middleweight gold
After a legendary 17-year career in which he’s tied for the most victories in UFC history, Bisping, 38, enters the bout after being choked unconscious by the returning legend Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217; this defeat marked the end of the Brit’s reign as champion which came late in his career.
Prior to his unsuccessful title defence, ‘The Count’ was riding a five-fight win streak which included victories over the likes of MMA legend Anderson Silva, old rival Dan Henderson and the man who he dethroned for the title Luke Rockhold.
Taking this bout can be seen as either stubborn or crazy but either way like him or loathe him, one thing you cannot take away the heart that Michael Bisping has.
Gastelum burst onto the UFC scene back in 2013 when he won season 17 of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ defeating the much-hyped Uriah Hall. He then went on to win another four consecutive bouts in the promotion defeating the likes of Jake Ellenberger and Rick Story.
Since then he has experienced mix success holding a record of three wins, three losses and one no contest. The American enters the bout after being choked out by former champion Chris Weidman back in June, prior to this Gastelum defeated Vitor Belfort via first-round TKO only for the fight to be overturned after the 26-year old tested for a metabolite found in marijuana.
Gastelum no doubt possesses the better wrestling skills however with Bisping’s recognised solid takedown defence it is most likely this fight will be won and lost on the feet. His opponent has clear advantages over him holding a four-inch height and reach advantage as well as a wealth of experience. However, if Gastelum is successful he adds a former champion who held the strap only a matter of weeks ago to his resume.
Li Jingliang heads Chinese talent on show in Shanghai
In the co-main event the UFC will look to showcase China’s best MMA fighter Li Jingliang when he faces off against Zak Ottow.
The former Legend FC welterweight champion joined the promotion in 2014 starting off his career with a win against David Michaud at UFC 173 he then continued with a win-loss-win-loss pattern, he then broke this when he secured his second UFC first round KO victory, this time over Anton Zafir at the Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale.
Since then Jingliang has gone from strength to strength accumulating another KO victory when he defeated Bobby Nash before coming out on top on the judges’ scorecards against Frank Camacho in his most recent bout at UFC Fight Night 111.
Despite this fight being in favour of the local man Li, Ottow is not to be taken lightly. Since joining the promotion last year the American has remarkably been involved in three split call decisions in all of his UFC bouts. Twice he has had his hand raised including wins over Joshua Burkman on his debut and Kiichi Kunimoto in his most recent outing.
Prior to joining the promotion, Ottow has used his superior Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills to help him acquire ten submission victories and will hope he can use this to secure his first UFC stoppage victory this weekend.
Prospects Magomedsharipov and Moraes cross paths
Elsewhere on the card is a potential Fight of The Night candidate as two top prospects are pitted against one another; Zabit Magomedsharipov instantly made his mark in the UFC on his debut back in September, on his way to victory he thrilled the fans even running up the cage to throw a kick emulating that of Anthony Pettis. He eventually secured a choke out victory walking away with a bonus award.
Sheymon Moraes comes to the UFC after a successful stint with World Series of Fighting where he held a record of 4-1, his only loss came at the hands of Marlon Moraes who has impressed since signing with the promotion.
A win for both men will prove of great importance as they look to work their way up the featherweight division.