The Bloody Elbow staff has made its picks for UFC Shenzhen, and only Anton Tabuena and Shakiel Mahjouri believe Weili Zhang will win the strawweight title from Jessica Andrade. As for the co-main event, Anton is on his own when it comes to Li Jingliang vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, as everyone else backs the Brazilian.
Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he’s going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.
Jessica Andrade vs. Weili Zhang
Anton Tabuena: Jessica Andrade is beatable, especially if her opponent remains disciplined and fights technical. But she also is probably the most powerful strawweight in the UFC roster, so the margin for error is a lot smaller for her opponents. She is also more experienced and has faced better competition, so Andrade really is the smart pick in this match up. I’m not being smart today though. I think Weili can hang both on the feet and on the ground, and on her best day, she has more than enough skill to take this belt. The question is if she can put it all together in her home country, without making those costly mistakes. I don’t know, but I’m guessing the UFC would be beyond ecstatic if my pick came true. Weili Zhang by Decision.
Zane Simon: I honestly don’t think Anton’s pick is that bad of one. Andrade is playing a heck of a fun power game but in a division where power usually isn’t the deciding factor between fighters. We already saw, in her fight against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, what happens when someone can keep up with her and keep away from her. And her early career is dotted with examples of bigger, stronger women beating her at her own game. If Zhang can keep from wearing out, and if she can stay conscious, she’s got a great chance to really compete and push Andrade physically, especially in scrambles. End of the day, I’m picking Andrade because she’s a more consistent, determined striker, and because she takes fewer bad risks both on the ground and standing. However, Zhang feels like a very ‘live dog’ to me. Jessica Andrade by decision.
Staff picking Andrade: Ed, Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Phil
Staff picking Zhang: Anton, Shak
Li Jingliang vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos
Anton Tabuena: The Leech will probably get rocked again, and we will see if he powers through, or just continues to get battered. I have a feeling it’s the former. Li Jingliang by TKO.
Zane Simon: I would love to see Jingliang once again ride out getting clubbed to out-slick Zaleski down the stretch. But… I just don’t feel it this time. Zaleski is too creative, too fast, and too dangerous everywhere for me to feel like Jingliang will either survive a big early onslaught, or be able to find safe points wrestling and grappling to gather his wits and slow the fight down. End of the day, if Jingliang gets dropped early here, I think he stays dropped. Elizeu Zaleski via KO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Much as I love the Leech, I have to echo Zane here. His resume is decent, but it’s notable that the first real fast-twitch athlete he fought in Jake Matthews was able to hurt him and keep hurting him: his toughness and ability to adapt were too constrained by the fact that he is just fairly slow and clunky. ZDS hits hard, is aggressive, and while he’s not the most devastating puncher in the division, is a nasty finisher. Jingliang can’t even rely on his traditional advantage of toughness. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos by TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Li: Anton
Staff picking ZDS: Ed, Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Shak, Phil
Kai Kara-France vs. Mark De La Rosa
Anton Tabuena: I remember watching Kai Kara-France as a teenager with a sub .500 record in Hong Kong, and it’s fun seeing him improve and end up doing well in the UFC at 26 years old. I also think he extends his win streak to eight on this event. Kai Kara-France by Decision.
Zane Simon: De La Rosa has a strong chance to take a win here. The flip side of Kara-France’s recent improvements are that he’s got a history of dropping bouts to less athletic, less technical opponents–just because the things he wants to do in the cage tend to be pretty limited. I’m still not at all convinced he actually beat Raulian Paiva last time out. If De La Rosa can create scrambles and stay competitive on the feet, he’ll likely have chances to win. However, I can’t overlook the athletic disparity. And more tellingly, the workrate disparity. Kara-France is more dynamic, hits harder, and throws a lot more. He’s also been tighter defensively in the UFC so far. That seems like too steep a hill for De La Rosa to climb, especially without a lockdown wrestling game to slow his opponent up. Kai Kara-France by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: As far as the flyweights go, this isn’t really one of the better ones. De La Rosa has improved from a dismal early start to make his high-pace boxing and grappling game work a bit better, but Kara-France was pretty fortunate to get that win over Paiva. The one thing about Rosa which stands out is that his game either seems to click or it really, really doesn’t, and there’s a decent chance that he can pull Kara-France into his game, who is somewhat formless in the way that he lets his opponent dictate terms. I guess I have to pick Kara-France just for the power and athleticism. Kai Kara-France by unanimous decision.
Staff picking Kara-France: Ed, Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Anton, Dayne, Zane, Shak
Staff picking De La Rosa:
Mizuki Inoue vs. Wu Yanan
Zane SImon: The size advantage is a huge concern, but given Wu’s general lack of technique and athletic ability, if Mizuki lost this it’d be a real blow to her career thus far. She’s clearly the better fighter, everywhere. Mizuki by submission.
Anton Tabuena: Wu missed weight and will have a pretty big size advantage… but I don’t think it will matter. Mizuki Inoue by decision.
Staff picking MIZUKI: Ed, Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Anton, Dayne, Zane, Shak, Phil
Staff picking Wu:
Kenan Song vs. Derrick Krantz
Anton Tabuena: Tough match up for him, but I think Song has potential. Kenan Song by TKO.
Zane Simon: Kind of a mirror match. End of the day, I think Krantz’s boxing is just a little too varied and fluid for Song’s one or two big shots at a time and then reset style. Either way I expect both men to slug it out until one goes down. Derrick Krantz via TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Song: Ed, Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Anton, Phil
Staff picking Krantz: Dayne, Zane, Shak
Anthony Hernandez vs. Jun Yong Park
Zane Simon: Little surprised to see everyone picking Hernandez. He’s got some variety and power, but he looked very much like a can crusher facing his first real opponent in his UFC debut. Park doesn’t have a ton of defense, but he’s a pretty nuanced counterpuncher who works well to draw out strikes with jabs and low kicks and then counter with long combinations. If Hernandez can’t just blast him immediately (Park has never been stopped yet) then I don’t think he has the technique anywhere to take this fight over. Jun Yong Park via decision.
Staff picking Hernandez: Ed, Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Anton, Shak
Staff picking Park: Dayne, Zane, Phil
Mudaerji Su vs. Andre Soukhamthath
Zane Simon: Soukhamthath is a strange sort of talent. A big puncher with a well rounded game, he tends to start slow with counter punching, before he gets his timing and really lets his combos out. Unfortunately he also has tended to fade late. So he really has a perfect 2nd round of action in between struggles. Still, Mudaerji looks like a wild strike that’s pretty quickly out of his depth against good competition. And Soukhamthath is a decent enough wrestler with some power basics when he needs to be. Andre Soukhamthath by decision.
Staff picking Su:
Staff picking Soukhamthath: Ed, Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Anton, Dayne, Zane, Shak, Phil
Da Un Jong vs. Khadis Ibragimov
Zane Simon: A battle of two men who look better in bursts than they do over the stretch of a whole fight. Ibragimov has a great high level sambo pedigree, but has been kind of a clingy grinder in his MMA career thus far. While Jong flashes some great pressure counterpunching, but seems to throw about half as often as he should to really make that style work. I’ll bet on the sambo fundamentals to carry Ibragimov through, but his habit of backing to the fence and flailing wild overhands off of it may just get him plugged over and over by Jong. Khadis Ibragimov by decision.
Staff picking Jong:
Staff picking Ibragimov: Ed, Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Anton, Dayne, Zane, Shak, Phil
Damir Ismagulov vs. Thiago Moises
Zane Simon: Moises is clearly a very powerful, dangerous fighter when he has time and space to work. He throws fast, sharp punches, hits a nice double leg, and appears to have a pretty lockdown grappling game. However, he also is very easy to back up and put on the cage and grind away on, as he tends to just hang on and not try to reverse positions. Ismagulov is likely just too good a wrestler and grinder for Moises to give up that kind of defensive gap. Damir Ismagulov by decision.
Staff picking Ismagulov: Ed, Mookie, Stephie, Anton, Zane, Shak, Phil
Staff picking Moises: Nick, Dayne
Alateng Heili vs. Batgeral Danaa
Anton Tabuena: Fun fact, Danaa has a win over a young Kai-Kara France, when they fought for Legend FC back in the day. It’s interesting how they’ve had pretty different career paths and they both still ended up on the same UFC card years later. That story aside, I think Heili has more experience and fought in better orgs (like Road FC) recently. Alateng Heili by Decision.
Zane Simon: Heili is much more technical… in moments. But those moments come at a pace of about one-per-two minutes. Basically, there’s a reason he’s lost to most of the even half-decent competition he’s faced. Danaa is wild and can get sloppy both moving forward and backward, but I at least trust him to keep a pace up and work moment-to-moment. If Heili can’t find one perfect shot to finish him, I just don’t trust him to win rounds. Batgerel Danaa by decision.
Staff picking Heili: Anton, Dayne
Staff picking Danaa: Ed, Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Shak, Phil
Karol Rosa vs. Lara Procopio
Zane Simon: This fight is bad. But Rosa at least looks like a mildly comfortable single-strike kickboxer who can sprawl and hit a takedown okay. Procopio is one of the least comfortable strikers I’ve seen on the receiving end of a UFC contract, and really only looks happy playing guard. If Rosa just keeps this fight on her feet, she probably takes it. Karol Rosa by decision.
Staff picking Rosa: Dayne, Zane, Phil
Staff picking Procopio: Ed, Nick, Mookie, Stephie, Anton, Shak
Who wins this Title Fight?
263 votes total