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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Shanghai: Bisping vs. Gastelum – Prelims preview Part 1

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Get the scoop on the first half of the prelims of UFC Shanghai, featuring a heavyweight clash between Chase Sherman and Shamil Abdurakhimov.

Normally, I’m up for just about any UFC card. Generally, at least half of the contests are legit UFC caliber contests, even on bad cards. UFC Shanghai is the exception. Only one of the first four fights in this section would qualify to be a genuine UFC contest and there are some who would even question whether that contest qualifies. Nonetheless, if you’re crazed enough to want to view this card, I’ve got you covered… at least as much as I could. You have no idea how hard it is to find footage on some of these fighters….

The prelims begin on Fight Pass at 3:45 AM ET/12:45 AM PM on Saturday.

Chase Sherman (11-3) vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov (17-4), Heavyweight

After a rocky start to his UFC career, Sherman has turned things around with two straight wins. A big, athletic prospect with one of the more entertaining Twitter feeds in the sport, Sherman pushes a pace most heavyweights struggle to maintain. In fact, he can’t sustain it himself, usually showing signs of fatigue by the time the second round rolls around. Nonetheless, he pushes through despite his depleted gas tank. Sherman has taken more damage than he needs to as he doesn’t know what head movement is and still needs work on his footwork.

Abdurakhimov is one of the unheralded members on the heavyweight roster. Sure, he lost his last fight to Derrick Lewis when the Black Beast pounded him out in the fourth round of their contest last December, but he also had each of the first three rounds in his back pocket by relying on a strategy heavy on takedowns. Though he isn’t a bad athlete and has good size, Abdurakhimov isn’t a powerful heavyweight, needing to rely more on his technique in his takedowns and footwork to get his counter striking boxing rolling.

A fight up in the air for either competitor, I’m favoring the mechanical Abdurakhimov to secure a decision as Sherman will offer plenty of opportunities for the veteran to counter. Abdurakhimov’s chin is a question mark too, but I still see the methodical big man using a mix of striking and wrestling to get the job done. Abdurakhimov via decision

Yanan Wu (9-1) vs. Gina Mazany (4-1), Women’s Bantamweight

The UFC has struggled to find someone from China who can not only make the roster, but find enough success that the organization might be able to break into the world’s most populous country. Wu stands as good of a chance – if not better – than the rest of the hopeful candidates on this card. Pathologically aggressive, Wu swarms her opponent with strikes relentlessly, risking a depleted gas tank if she can’t find an early finish. Like most from China, she hasn’t faced much in terms of competition. At least it can be said she has one notable opponent, her lone loss coming to Yana Kunitskaya.

Mazany has two big similarities to Wu: she comes out aggressive and she hasn’t faced any notable competition outside of her UFC debut, a loss to Sara McMann earlier this year. A big and strong bantamweight, Mazany looks to body up and either wrack her opposition’s body with knees and elbow in the clinch or drag them to the ground and pound away. She is also far more measured than Wu in her energy conservation, something very much worth noting should the fight leave the first round.

This is an appropriate test for both fighters. The UFC has no clue what it has in either competitor, so why not square the two unknowns off against one another? Sound logic to me. At 21, Wu has a lot more upside than the 29-year old Mazany. She also has the benefit of fighting in a familiar region. Those small intangibles are enough to push me in favor of Wu. Wu via TKO of RD1

Wuliji Buren (10-4) vs. Rolando Dy (8-6-1, 1 NC), Featherweight

The son of a world champion boxer from the 80’s, Dy follows in his father’s footsteps as his fists are his biggest strength. He is full of heart and guts, but it hasn’t been enough to avoid losing to Alex Caceres and Teruto Ishihara in his first two UFC contests. Typically attacking in short bursts, Dy possesses underrated power and athleticism. Given his lack of credible competition prior to the contests with Caceres and Ishihara, he’s likely grown exponentially from those contests as he enters this contest as the more experienced contestant.

Buren is a mystery. It’s incredibly difficult to find footage of him outside of a powerbomb he pulled off earlier this year to finish off his opponent. It isn’t quite on the level of Rampage Jackson finishing off Ricardo Arona, but it’s a hell of a feat nonetheless. His record is littered almost equally with submission and decision victories with scant KO’s and he’s also spent some time fighting at bantamweight.

I hate these type of contests. If I want to see a fighter I know nothing about, I’ll go to a local show! I do like the flashes Dy has shown, including his improvement in the wrestling department. Without those improvements, I’d be a bit more reluctant to pick him, but he should be able to comfortably eliminate Buren. Dy via TKO of RD2

Cyril Asker (8-3) vs. Hu Yaozong (3-0), Heavyweight

Christmas is coming early this year for Asker. Badly in need of a UFC victory after being steamrolled by Walt Harris this past summer, the Frenchman is receiving a gift from the MMA gods in the form of the young and inexperienced Yaozong. Very little is known about Yaozong besides the fact he has been a pro for just over a year while none of his victories have come against opponents with a winning record. Even though he has secured stoppages in each of those fights, the youngster has a glaring hole to climb out of as he takes this contest on five days notice.

Though he doesn’t have much depth to his game, Asker has enough skills to develop into a mainstay at heavyweight. He has a bit of pop in his punches, but struggles to close distance without taking damage as his distance management is still a work in progress. Nonetheless, he has a few trips he can hit from the clinch with relentless ground-and-pound… provided he can get the fight to the ground early enough in the fight that he still has something left in the tank.

I looked to see if I could find any footage of Yaozong and came up empty handed. Hell, I was at least able to find the gif of Buren! Given that, I can’t give an honest assessment of the newcomer. However, given China isn’t exactly a burgeoning MMA hotbed, I struggle to see him being the type of can’t-miss prospect that would steamroll the experienced Asker. I expect it to be a very one-sided contest. Asker via TKO of RD1


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