The UFC’s debut in mainline China is undoubtedly a big deal-hence that’s why they enlisted Anderson Silva, still the greatest mixed martial artist of all time in the eyes of the majority, to face rising star Kelvin Gastelum (13-3 1 NC, 8-3 UFC). But just a few weeks ago, Silva was popped by USADA and the UFC was desperate for someone to take his place. Enter Michael Bisping (30-8, 20-8 UFC), who just three weeks ago was in the biggest fight of his career, getting choked out and losing his UFC middleweight championship to Georges St. Pierre. But in the twilight of his career, the extra payday has proved too tempting for the former champion.
It’s hard to imagine a fighter that you would less want to fight on short notice than Gastelum, an excellent wrestle-boxer who cuts a torrid pace, which he ate up Tim Kennedy with last December, and is a big puncher despite being a small middleweight, as he showed against Vitor Belfort and Chris Weidman. Bisping is also a cardio machine, but can he have possibly recovered from his fight three weeks ago? Is he in shape to handle the constant pace of Gastelum? Will Bisping do what I have hunch he might do, and try to take Gastelum early? It’s a hell of an interesting fight, and a huge opportunity for Gastelum.
The co-main is an interesting welterweight scrap, pitting China’s Li Jingliang (13-4, 5-2 UFC) against Minnesota’s Zak Ottow (15-4, 2-1 UFC). Jingliang may be China’s best UFC fighter, a come forward brawler who is currently riding a three-fight winning streak. Ottow, who will be fighting on his fourth continent in his last four fights, is the more versatile fighter, but Jiangliang is a hard fighter to hurt and take down. We will see just how much power Ottow has.
The rest of the card is full of fights that aren’t quite UFC level, but there are still a few things worth watching. One is battle of fringe heavyweight contenders, pitting America’s Chase Sherman (Twitter’s GIF King!) versus Russia’s Shamil Abdurakhimov, an interesting clash between striker and grappler. Also, we will see the second UFC fight for Zabit Magomedsharipov (13-1, 1-0 UFC), an electrifying featherweight from Dagestan who now trains in the Mark Henry camp in New Jersey. He made a Performance of The Night debut against Mike Santiago in September in The Netherlands, and will make his second outing versus debuting Brazilian Sheymon Moraes (9-1). I can’t wait to see him.