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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Shanghai: Bisping vs. Gastelum - Prelims preview part 2

Get the scoop on the latter half of the preliminary action at UFC Shanghai, highlighted by up-and-coming featherweight prospects Zabit Magomedsharipov and Sheymon Moraes.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Santiago vs Magomedsharipov Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

On a card with so many unknown fighters due to lack of footage, I’ve had a hard time getting up for this card. However, there was one fight that I had highlighted as soon as I saw it and it wasn’t the main event. Sure, Michael Bisping and Kelvin Gastelum should make for a good fight, but the featherweight contest between Zabit Magomedsharipov and Sheymon Moraes is what really excites me. I know there is only a single UFC contest to be found between them, but they’ve shown enough at the various levels of competition they have participated in the create a stir… particularly Magomedsharipov.

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

Zabit Magomedsharipov (12-1) vs. Sheymon Moraes (9-1), Featherweight

Magomedsharipov caused quite a stir upon his UFC debut in September, fighting with a combination of creativity and aggression that has fans and analysts drooling at his potential. His 6'1" frame naturally creates issues for his opponents looking to close the distance, though Magomedsharipov still has a way to go before he masters keeping his distance. He does have an aggressive clinch, primarily focusing on using his knees, but can also threaten to take the fight to the ground with trips and throws. What caught everyone’s eye was his agile spinning attacks and creative use of his environment, jumping off the cage for his attack ala the Showtime Kick.

Moraes doesn’t have a lot of hype coming into the UFC, but many believe he should. The only loss on his ledger is to former WSOF bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes with wins over Luis Palomino and former UFC vet Robbie Peralta. The 27-year-old is for real. A Muay Thai striker with excellent elbows and knees in close quarters, Moraes’ lightning fast kicks serve as a dangerous alternative to opponents who want to keep the fight at a distance. He conserves energy well, allowing for his explosive bursts of offense over the course of the fight.

Both Magomedsharipov and Moraes possess the ability to develop into featherweight contenders in the near future. Though everyone is going to be picking Magomedsharipov – including me – I’d be slow to give money to the bookie as Moraes’ raw power and Magomedsharipov’s defensive holes could make for an explosive upset. Regardless, Magomedsharipov is quite powerful himself, has shown a bit more ability on the ground, and is more likely to land the greater volume. Regardless of who wins, I’d recommend catching this contest on a card that’s mostly worth skipping. Magomedsharipov via decision

Kenan Song (11-3) vs. Bobby Nash (8-3), Welterweight

Song is one of the fighters I mentioned earlier that there isn’t a lot of footage available of. The Chinese fighter is a great indicator of the lack of depth in finding Chinese natives for the UFC as he is riding a two-fight losing streak upon his UFC entry. Primarily a wrestler with a number of choke victories, Song paws with a jab a lot, but doesn’t throw enough volume to be effective on the feet. Even if he did, his technique is very stiff.

Nash has shown all of the skills to be a player in the UFC except for one very important trait: a chin. If he can keep his opposition from touching him up, he has the requisite power, killer instinct, and defensive wrestling to be a top-notch action fighter. Nash’s aggression has come back to bite him in the ass as he tends to begin gassing out by the second round, which helps explain why his back-to-back KO losses came in that round. He has shown some powerful takedowns of his own which he may want to utilize with more regularity given the sensitivity of his chin.

While Song isn’t without talent, he is also very raw and not ready for the UFC. Nash’s chin is doomed to hold him back, but Song doesn’t look like he has the requisite tools to expose that weakness. Don’t be too surprised if Nash finds a choke stuffing a takedown attempt from Song, but a KO/TKO seems like a more likely method of victory for the American. Nash via KO, RD1

Kailin Curran (4-5) vs. Xiaonan Yan (7-1, 1 NC), Women’s Strawweight

Don’t ask me why, but the UFC refuses to give up on Curran. For all of the physical skills the 26-year old has shown, a 1-5 record in the UFC is still a 1-5 record at the end of the day. That isn’t to say Curran is helpless. She has a lot of tools to work with. She shows good form in her punches, a deep gas tank, endless supplies of toughness, and a continually developing clinch offense. Curran just doesn’t have any concept of defense, nor does she possess an idea of how to effectively transition from one phase to another. If she could have every fight devolve into a brawl, she stands a much better chance.

Fortunately for her, Yan is about as pure of a brawler as you will find at strawweight. It isn’t simply that she packs a lot of power with a sturdy chin, though she does possess those qualities. She has sound punching technique and pulls out the occasional side kick from time to time as well. However, Yan has shown an aversion to wrestling to the point that I can’t recall her going to the ground at any point. It doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened; there imply isn’t a lot of footage.

Going purely off their results on film, Yan would be the easy pick as she has come out on top far more than Curran. However, Curran has also faced some decent competition while two-thirds of Yan’s opponents were either making their professional debuts or had only a single contest under their belt. Curran being fed to the wolves has to start paying off at some point and I see it benefitting her here against the first woman from China signed to the UFC. Curran via decision

Yadong Song (10-4, 1 NC) vs. Bharat Khandare (5-2), Bantamweight

Khandare will be the first fighter from India to step foot in a UFC cage. That would explain why the UFC would sign an unheralded prospect who hasn’t won an official MMA contest since 2013. Otherwise, he has no business being in the world’s premier MMA organization. Mostly a wrestler, Khandare’s striking is very stiff and raw, showing little potential upside outside of a lanky frame that could prove efficient at striking from range. Instead, look for Khandare to make every attempt to get his opponent to the ground.

Aggression is the name of the game for Song. About as pure of a brawler as you find in the modern era of MMA, Song doesn’t understand the concept of feeling out an opponent, looking to take their head off with his heavy hooks. He doesn’t have the power to make this style work at the highest level, but there doesn’t seem to be anything to indicate he’ll change that up heading into this contest. One thing Song does have going for him: he’s shown a deep gas tank despite employing an exhausting style.

In the traditional sense, the smart pick in a contest like this is to pick whoever can best control where the fight goes and that would be Khandare. However, there is another school of thought that the aggressor will overwhelm the tentative fighter. Khandare hasn’t shown me enough on the feet to make me believe he can scare off Song’s attack and I see him getting clipped by one of Song’s hooks at some point, leading the youngster to finish off Khandare either with ground strikes or a submission. Song via TKO of RD2