UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs. Gastelum staff picks and predictions

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs. Gastelum card in Shanghai, China.

Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images

The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs. Gastelum in Shanghai, China. Only Tim Burke and Ryan Davies are picking Michael Bisping to pull off a short-notice upset and defeat Kelvin Gastelum in the main event. As for the co-main, we unanimously agree that China’s own Jingliang Li will defeat American welterweight Zak Ottow in the co-main.

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.

Michael Bisping vs. Kelvin Gastelum

Mookie Alexander: I do not see a reasonable path to victory for Bisping aside from just repeating the Rockhold win. Gastelum is much younger, faster, hits hard, and Bisping cannot go a fight these days without getting dropped and/or badly hurt. This is a wipeout. Kelvin Gastelum by TKO, round 2.

Fraser Coffeen: There’s a strong temptation to just completely write Bisping off, but I don’t think that’s fair. There are plenty of reasons to be critical of how he handled/protected his title run, but the fact is he had a solid win streak going there with good performances. That said, Bisping has always been a guy who relies on sheer guts and determination to a degree, and with retirement looming and his long (LONG) sought after title run behind him, will he have that same fire? Gastelum is also a bad match-up for him, as Bisping has recently struggled more with the kind of physical fighters who can play Gastelum’s game. I see Gastelum applying too much pressure for the ex-champ to manage here, eventually pounding him out. Kelvin Gastelum, TKO, R3

Dayne Fox: I’m not surprised to see the staff picks lopsidedly in favor of Gastelum, but I don’t think anyone is completely counting out Bisping. After all, he is the only fighter I can think of that won a fight in which he was KO’d. In terms of actual analysis, I think Fraser hit the nail on the head. How much motivation does Bisping have left? Remember how quickly Johny Hendricksfell off the mountain top after he was no longer pursuing the title? The fact that Bisping seemed more interested in holding onto the title as long as possible as opposed to building onto his already impressive legacy indicates he doesn’t have a lot of fire in the belly. Gastelum owns all the meaningful physical advantages while having more to fight for while Bisping’s long renowned durability seems to be fading. Gastelum via TKO of RD3

Zane Simon: Left hands, handspeed, a good chin, low prep time. Sounds like a bad recipe.Kelvin Gastelum via KO round 1.

Staff picking Bisping: Tim, Davies
Staff picking Gastelum: Mookie, Bissell, Nick, Fraser, Phil, Dayne, Stephie, Zane

Li Jingliang vs. Zak Ottow

Phil Mackenzie: Everyone likes the Leech, so it’s good to see him get someone who is less of an obvious trap fight. Nash and Camacho were both power hitters who could trouble his slow starting by landing shots on his admittedly enormous head. Ottow is not a worse fighter, but he is notably less dynamic. Thus, he’s less likely to trouble Jingliang early, and once the Leech gets into his groove, he’s a crude but exceptionally powerful pressure striker who can crack to the head or work leg kicks. Ottow is tough, so Li Jingliang via unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Ottow just doesn’t commit to enough offense to likely take over a fight like this. He should have early success, everyone does against Jingliang. But, if he won’t follow up on it and just tries to have an evenly paced 3-round bout, Jingliang will adapt and start to seriously outwork him. Li Jingliang by decision.

Staff picking Li: Mookie, Bissell, Nick, Phil, Fraser, Dayne, Stephie (JANGALANG!), Tim, Zane, Davies
Staff picking Ottow:

Alex Caceres vs. Wang Guan

Fraser Coffeen: Bruce Leeroy is the more tempting pick here due to the simple nature of being the known entity. But he’s also wildly inconsistent. He tends to beat a certain level of fighter that Guan may belong to, but I would not be surprised to see Guan surprise us and show that he’s better than expected. Wang Guan, KO, R2

Phil Mackenzie: Guan is an interesting proposition: he’s a huge, powerful featherweight with a meat’n’potatoes game where he comes behind a pawing jab and cross / uppercut. His takedown defense is average at best and his game off his back is straight terrible, neither an effective sprint grappler or good at scrambling to his feet. Thus, a takedown normally translates to a lost round. Conversely, hard to know what to expect from Caceres. He can be a shockingly effective head-body combination puncher, a high-amplitude takedown threat, a vicious scrambler and ground and pounder, or an aimless and tremendously hittable spinkick merchant. If there’s a common factor, it’s that Caceres doesn’t do well faced with aggression and power (improving greatly when his opponent is backed into the fence), and Guan has both of those things. With little confidence, and caveats, Wang Guan by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: If Caceres came out and got a bodylock and threw Wang down, he could almost certainly submit him in the first round. If he decides to do what he likes to do and has a footwork based boxing contest, then he’s trading shots with someone who, wile way less creative packs way more power and fundamental technique. My guess is that Caceres looks and feels great for a round before walking right into a power right hand. Wang Guan by TKO round 2.

Staff picking Caceres: Bissell, Dayne, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Guan: Nick, Fraser, Mookie, Phil, Zane, Davies

Alex Garcia vs. Muslim Salikhov

Mookie Alexander: If you haven’t seen Salikhov fight, head over to Youtube or at least check out his KO of Melvin Guillard. Garcia clearly isn’t what he was advertised to be, an his cardio cannot hold up for any decently paced fight. He fights like a guy whose movements are heavily reliant on being an explosive athlete, and we see what that gets him against credible opposition. There’s no denying that he has scary KO power, but I don’t put much stock turning off the lights of a 97-year-old Mike Pyle. Salikhov is basically the king of spinning sh-t, and I’m excited for his UFC debut. Muslim Salikhov by KO, round 2.

Fraser Coffeen: This goes one of two ways – either a flashy Welcome to the UFC! KO win for Salikhov or a technically sound spoiling point decision for Garcia. When faced with that match-up, my tendency is to favor the spoiler. Alex Garcia, UD

Phil Mackenzie: Once again I’m in agreement with Fraser. Salikhov is a gifted counterstriker who likes to catch careless movement on the cage with spinning back kicks, but really makes his money with a quick, powerful counter right straight and overhand. His win against Deyan Topalski (his sole decision and his best recent competition) showed power and skill, but also that he struggled to initiate and didn’t have stellar takedown defense. I suspect Garcia comes out looking for a slow-paced Tristar fight punctuated by counter-takedowns, which he will find much easier to get than he did against Means or Strickland. Alex Garcia by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Garcia likes to step forward behind strikes too consistently and predictably. I think it should get him countered hard early and KO’d for it. If he survives a round, things could get seriously weird. But if his tactic is to just stalk into range and look for bombs? Goodnight.Muslim Salikhov via KO, Round 1

Staff picking Garcia: Fraser, Tim, Phil
Staff picking Salikhov: Mookie, Bissell, Nick, Dayne, Stephie, Zane, Davies

Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Sheymon Moraes

Phil Mackenzie: Like Means-Muhammad last week, this fight sticks out like a diamond in a dungheap. MSP had one of the most impressive UFC debuts we’ve seen in a minute, showcasing varied and flashy, defensively responsible striking, and a terrifying serpentine ground game. Difficult to know what we get from Moraes. He looked frankly sluggish in some of his later WSOF fights, but how much of that was due to being unhappy with where he was? Given his obvious talent, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him coming out rejuvenated. That being said, Magomedsharipov simply works at a much, much faster pace, and Moraes’s wrestling and submission defense is not bulletproof. I think MSP wears Moraes down and taps him out in a weird scramble. Zabit Magomedsharipov by submission, round 3.

Zane Simon: Love this fight. Magomedsharipov’s habit of giving ground and backing into the cage leaves him wickedly open for the kind of body attacks that Moraes loves. But Zabit is much slicker in the pocket and much more creative at range. My bet is that Moraes walks into a few too many quick counters right on the chin over the first couple rounds and eventually gets dropped and pounded out for the TKO. Zabit Magomedsharipov via TKO, Round 2.

Staff picking Zabit: Mookie, Bissell, Nick, Phil, Fraser, Dayne, Stephie, Tim, Zane, Davies
Staff picking Moraes:

Bobby Nash vs. Kenan Song

Phil Mackenzie: This should be brutal. Limited Song tape reveals a wooden striker and aggressive “regional-standard” wrestler. Nash is a big powerful athlete, whose issues in cardio and defense are unlikely to be exposed here. The only cause for concern is Leon “Coolio” Ivey Jr.’s analysis, namely that it’s imperative to observe Kenan because, Kenan be scheming, with a plan or a plot, to make it to the top. That being said, Ivey also did mention that Kenan tends to get caught. Thus, with that in mind, Bobby Nash by KO, round 1.

Zane Simon: Kenan Song doesn’t look like he’s ready for international MMA competition. Nash doesn’t strike at a high level, but he throws often and hard and has great length. Bobby Nash via KO round 1.

Staff picking Nash: Mookie, Bissell, Nick, Phil, Fraser, Dayne, Stephie, Tim, Zane, Davies
Staff picking Song:

Kailin Curran vs. Yao Xiaonan

Phil Mackenzie: I don’t wanna pick Curran anymore. “VanZant without the overwhelming athleticism” is just not a very good fighter archetype. Maybe she can outscramble or outwork Xiaonan, who has rarely gotten deep in fights and has a fairly terrible level of competition. But at least Xiaonan is aggressive and knows what she wants to do, namely punch and kick a lot, and she tends to dispose of said terrible competition in the way that a decently talented fighter should. Yao Xiaonan by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Even if Xiaonan can’t wrestle that well, she’s bigger than Albu and Albu won a decision while pulling guard the whole fight. Curran just doesn’t have the core strength to make her bully style of fighting work, and she’s way too wooden and hittable at range for a more technical power throwing range striker. Yao Xiaonan by decision.

Staff picking Curran: Bissell, Dayne, Tim, Davies
Staff picking Xiaonan: Mookie, Nick, Fraser, Stephie, Phil, Zane

Yadong Song vs. Bharat Khandare

Zane Simon: Khandare’s game looks exactly like a fighter who came up in a country without MMA. He wrestles well if you don’t know how to wrestle and strikes hard if you don’t know how to strike. Song can be caught standing and can be taken down, but rarely really easily in either case. And his own striking tools are well honed enough that he should light Khandare up if the fight stays standing. Yadong Song via KO, Round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: I kind of dig the StreetFighter vibe of this fight. China vs India? Sure, let’s go. Initially Khandare looks like he might have some decent footwork and distance maintenance, until he throws, and… it is not pretty. Song is reasonably well rounded, although a glaring lack of baseline athleticism will likely stop him from going anywhere further than this in the UFC. “Chinese Mac Danzig” is the slightly underwhelming prognosis. Yadong Song by TKO, round 2

Staff picking Song: Mookie, Bissell, Nick, Fraser, Dayne, Stephie, Tim, Phil, Zane
Staff picking Khandare: Davies

Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Chase Sherman

Mookie Alexander: This fight could be absolutely rotten. Abdurakhimov is what he is, and he is content to grind fights out in a way that no one ever wants in the heavyweight division. Sherman has a hell of a chin, pretty fluid striking (with vicious leg kicks as one of his strengths), and all that’s left is the hope that he has good enough takedown defense to win comfortably on points. I’m banking on that, because if he doesn’t, Abdurakhimov is here to remove all of the fun out of a Chase Sherman fight. Chase Sherman by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Sherman throws more than twice the volume that Abdurakhimov does and has a great chin. If Abdurakhimov wrestles him he could win, but he doesn’t wrestle that much. Chase Sherman by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Sherman’s takedown defense is the big one here. He’s come out with a more mobile, upright style lately, and if that allows Abdurakhimov in on his hips then I suspect Abdurakhimov will do what he did to Lewis. However, in the striking Sherman throws much more, and won’t be scared off by single shots like Walt Harris was. While Abdurakhimov took down Lewis on multiple occasions, it was largely off massively over-committed kicks or punches, and Sherman has gotten pretty decent at not doing that. Chase Sherman by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Abdurakhimov: Nick, Fraser, Dayne, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Sherman: Mookie, Bissell, Zane, Davies, Phil

Gina Mazany vs. Yanan Wu

Zane Simon: If Mazany can’t get takedowns she likely loses to a big, high volume striker. But she flies out of the gate looking for them, and my guess is that Wu will be just significantly unprepared enough to wrestle right away to stop that. If she can keep from getting submitted, Wu may still win just by outlasting Mazany. Gina Mazany by submission round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Mazany is big and goes for takedowns. Wu is a much better striker, but not far removed from getting slaughtered by Yana Kunitskaya with takedowns and ground and pound. No reason to really assume Mazany can’t replicate that. Gina Mazany by submission, round 2.

Staff picking Mazany: Mookie, Bissell, Stephie, Tim, Zane, Davies
Staff picking Wu: Nick, Fraser, Dayne

Rolando Dy vs. Wuliji Buren

Phil Mackenzie: I’ve said this before, but Dy strikes me as someone who underperforms due to putting far too much pressure on himself. Limited tape on Buren aside from the slam KO reveals a reasonably well-rounded and athletic wrestle-boxer. This may (may) be the stylistic matchup that Dy has been looking for: a slightly uncontrolled power striker that he should be able to counter relatively easily. Man, is he a slow starter though. Rolando Dy by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Dy has an educated left hand, throws with power, and isn’t easy to wrestle. In general he’s just a good minimalist striker. He may not be durable enough for high level MMA, nor technically deep enough/enough of a killer to take over fights easily. But, this isn’t high level MMA. Wuliji does everything okay, but nothing with any great commitment. He’s an okay wrestler if you can’t wrestle, an okay striker if you can’t strike, and an okay grappler if you can’t grapple. Rolando Dy by decision.

Staff picking Dy: Mookie, Nick, Phil, Fraser, Dayne, Stephie, Tim, Zane, Davies
Staff picking Buren: Bissell

Cyril Asker vs. Hu Yaozong

Phil Mackenzie: Asker has shown that he has little chance against decent athletes, but also that he can mop up on regional-level / bottom-end UFC talent. I can’t find any tape on Yaozong at all, but he’s been fighting for a year and his level of competition is some of the worst I’ve ever seen. No-one he’s beaten has a single win apart from by DQ, and one of them has a “spinning wheel kick and punches” loss to a 2-5 Hungarian welterweight. Cyril Asker by TKO, round 1.

Zane Simon: Asker should be able to beat a HW version of Matt Riddle that doesn’t like to wrestle. Operative being should. Yaozong could always just drop him with a wild flurry of arm punches. Otherwise, Cyril Asker by TKO round 2.

Staff picking Asker: Mookie, Bissell, Nick, Phil, Fraser, Dayne, Stephie, Tim, Zane, Davies
Staff picking Yaozong:

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