UFC Fight Night 122 on Saturday in Shanghai marked the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first ever event in mainland China; and with plenty of victories for hometown fighters, it seems it all went picture perfect, including a vicious knockout in the main event that may help usher in the new guard for the middleweight division.
Ushering in the New Guard
Michael Bisping made the walk to the Octagon just three weeks after being tossed from the middleweight throne by Georges St. Pierre and took on “The Ultimate Fighter 17” winner Kelvin Gastelum in the main event. Bisping got off to a promising start by utilizing crisp boxing and fast footwork, but it proved to be a short night for the former champion. Midway through the first round, Gastelum managed to slip a straight shot from Bisping and land a crushing left hand that had “The Count” out before he hit the canvas.
The decisive win helped Gastelum bounce back from a stoppage loss to former middleweight champion Chris Weidman in July. Afterward, Gastelum made it clear he is setting his sights directly on the top of the division. With St. Pierre’s next move as newly crowned champion unclear, Gastelum took to the mic to plead his case for a title bout against current interim champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 221 in February.
The knockout marked two stoppage losses in a row for Bisping, and “The Ultimate Fighter 3” winner appears headed for retirement in 2018. Before and after facing Gastelum as a short-notice fill-in for Anderson Silva, the 38-year-old Brit showed interest in making his final appearance at UFC Fight Night 127 on March 17 in London.
Standing Out from the Masses
Jingliang Li proved worth of his co-main event booking, as he finished Zak Ottow in the first round of their contest at 170 pounds. Li’s counterstriking was the key to victory: He excelled at slipping Ottow’s punches and landing hard shots of his own.
Midway through the first round, Li eluded a right hand from Ottow and answered with a hard counter hook that sent the Milwaukee native crashing to the mat. It did not take long for referee Herb Dean to call an end to the action, as Li rained unanswered shots while Ottow clung to his leg. In the aftermath, Li jumped into the crowd to embrace his wife and child. The 29-year-old has won four fights in a row, finishing three of them.
Meanwhile, Guan Wang made a successful promotional debut, as he took a somewhat controversial split decision from “The Ultimate Fighter 12” alum Alex Caceres. Wang appeared to dominate much of the fight and displayed a diverse standup game, rocking Caceres with a standing elbow early in the first round. Now 17-1-1, Wang finds himself on a five-fight winning streak. The sky seems to be the limit for the Chinese featherweight.
Elsewhere, Alex Garcia picked up his fifth UFC win with a second-round rear-naked choke submission on the highly touted Muslim Salikhov. Garcia was a step ahead from the start, and it quickly became evident that he was the superior grappler. The Tristar Gym rep went for takedowns early and often, and they proved to be the deciding factor. In the second round, Garcia managed to secure back control, cinched the choke and prompted the tapout. The Dominican-born Garcia has alternated wins and losses in each of his last six appearances and will look to build on his newfound momentum the next time out.
Top featherweight prospect Zabit Magomedsharipov recorded his second win since joining the UFC in September. He controlled Sheymon da Silva Moraes through two rounds, as he utilized superior grappling and crushing ground-and-pound before locking in an anaconda choke during a transition in the third. Post-fight, Magomedsharipov called out Yair Rodriguez for a bout in early 2018 … Kenan Song made a strong first impression by knocking out Bobby Nash in near record time on the undercard, landing a crushing counter right hand that had the American turtled on the mat. Song smashed away with punches until Dean stopped the fight 15 seconds into the first round … The debuting Xiaonan Yan was awarded a well-earned unanimous decision against Kailin Curran in a preliminary encounter at 115 pounds. On a six-fight winning streak, Yan has not lost a fight since Sept. 16, 2010 … Yadong Song picked up an early submission in his first Octagon appearance, as he took out Bharat Khandare with a guillotine choke. With a minute left in the first round, Song dropped Khandare with a crushing shot and quickly jumped on the guillotine for the tapout.