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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Shanghai: Bisping vs. Gastelum – Main card preview

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Get the scoop on the main card of UFC Shanghai, featuring action fighter Li Jingliang welcoming Zak Ottow to China in the co-main event.

If I’m being honest with myself, I try to give these cards a positive spin. Not because I’m trying to kiss the UFC’s ass. What good is that going to do me? It’s because I love this sport and that passion often leads to me being blinded by the positives being presented to me. For that, I apologize if I have ever led any reader astray.

So am I finding many positives in this card? Not really. It isn’t that there isn’t any potential in these main card fights. There certainly is. Li Jingliang has consistently been in knock-down, drag-out slugfests. His opponent Zak Ottow? Um… not so much. The other two contests feature newcomers who have looked good on the regional scene, but they have also faced subpar competition for someone making a jump to the UFC. I won’t make any promises given the card will be occurring when most people would be sleeping. You know what I mean?

The main card begins on Fight Pass at 7:00 AM ET/4:00 AM PT on Saturday.

Li Jingliang (13-4) vs. Zak Ottow (15-4), Welterweight

Jingliang has developed a bit of a cult following as he has evolved into one of the more exciting members of the roster. I say evolved as he was nicknamed The Leech prior to coming into the UFC for his tendency to latch onto opponents and grind away at them… hardly an exciting brand. He still shows signs of that fighter every now and then, but the takedowns are more of a change of pace than the center of his strategy now. Now, Jingliang prefers to throwdown, displaying a strong chin, a sound jab, and low kicks to feel out his opponent before launching powerful hooks at his opponent.

Ottow is more of a grappler. The ironic thing is that he has been able to find success despite an inability to get the fight to the ground with regularity. What he has resorted to is an attack heavy on low kicks and short, technical punching combinations. However, Ottow lacks much pop in his fists – only two TKO victories on his resume – which has led to a tendency to be in close contests. If he can get the fight to the ground, Ottow showed extensive submission skills on the regional scene, but as we’ve already stated, he’s had trouble getting the fight to the ground.

Ottow doesn’t have a lot of plus physical skills, but he is extremely intelligent. However, he also hasn’t faced a brawler like Jingliang who can knock his block off. Thus, I’ve gone back and forth in my head on this one many times. Given Jingliang has the greater finishing abilities while still maintaining a good chance of pulling out a decision victory, I’ll favor the Chinese representative. Jingliang via TKO of RD3

Wang Guan (16-1-1) vs. Alex Caceres (13-10, 1 NC), Featherweight

Guan has been one of the best talents – if not the best – in China for a number of years. A sizeable featherweight at 5’11”, Guan utilizes a lot of pressure, slowly advancing with a series of fakes and feints while threatening with his jab. Once he gets his opponent against the fence, he’ll unleash his powerful straight punches, finishing them off on the ground with aggressive ground-and-pound if he can’t finish them off on the feet. It’s very basic and simple, but it has worked for him thus far.

Caceres is a good opponent to test Guan’s style against at the UFC level as the rail-thin Caceres can be bullied, but he’s just as capable of pulling out a submission off his back or a spinning back-fist out of nowhere to knock his opponent silly. Caceres’ boxing in the pocket is better than advertised as well due to recent improvements in his footwork and head movement, making himself more difficult to hit cleanly. If he gets too comfortable, Caceres tends to get cocky and lose concentration, giving up a big takedown or eat a heavy shot. The base of Caceres’ offense is still his variety of kicks from range, from simple low kicks to spinning back-kicks, Caceres throws to all levels.

Caceres’ unpredictability and inconsistency makes it difficult to predict who wins the standup war, but he should have a firm advantage on the ground due to his submission and scrambling abilities. Add that to his experience against a higher level of competition gives him the edge. It is a Caceres contest, so anything can happen, but I’ve got to pick someone…. Caceres via decision

Muslim Salikhov (12-1) vs. Alex Garcia (14-4), Welterweight

The only non-Chinese Wushu Sanda world champion, Salikhov isn’t your typical prospect. Most Russians enter the UFC with a sambo background with most of their experience coming in the eastern European block. Salikhov enters with most of his contests contested in China with four of his last five contests being won by some variation of a spinning technique. He’s been training with both Mark Henry and ATT over the last little while, so you know the former professional kickboxer is getting some good coaching to fill in the blanks as the 33-year old continues to make the transition to full-time MMA.

Garcia poses an interesting challenge for the newcomer. A bulldozer of a man at just 5’9″, few can match the natural power possessed by the Dominican import. However, just about everyone in the division has shown a deeper gas tank. Garcia tends to expend a lot of energy early with his explosive bursts of punches and his wrestling. The easy way to sum it up: he can secure an early finish as easily as anyone, but Garcia is prone to giving up the fight should it go past a single round. To be fair, Garcia showed improved stamina in his last appearance against Tim Means, though there is still room for improvement.

I know most are going to be picking Garcia as he is the experienced UFC fighter that fans recognize. His wrestling will give Salikhov a lot of problems and Garcia’s one-punch power will prevent Salikhov from completely dominating on the feet. However, Garcia has also flagged badly down the stretch, lowering his guard almost completely in the final round. Plus, Salikhov’s unpredictability and strike variety make him that much more of a wild card. Since I feel I can’t trust Garcia, I’ll go with the newcomer. Salikhov via KO of RD3


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