If you’re looking for a reason to stay up late into Saturday morning – or wake up ridiculously early – I can’t find a legit reason. The prelims of UFC Shenzhen are terrible… by UFC standards. Only three contests feature combatants with a single UFC victory, only two fighters have winning UFC records, and the most wins by any of them is two. Those wins haven’t exactly come against quality competition either.
I realize having a UFC track record doesn’t necessarily guarantee a quality contest, but there aren’t any hot prospects there either. Some may point to Anthony Hernandez, but I’m not sold on him yet as being a significant piece of the middleweight puzzle in the future.
Now, if you aren’t judging this on being the UFC event that it is, there are some serious diamonds in the rough. I’ve already mentioned Hernandez, but he is far from the only ones with promise. So why did I rip as hard on this portion of the card as I did in the previous paragraph? Well, I did throw in the caveat by “UFC standards.” If this were an LFA main card, this would be fantastic. But there is – and should be – a difference between the LFA and the UFC. That’s not me ripping on LFA. I enjoy the LFA as much as anyone. But a UFC card – yes, even the prelims – should have a distinct feel from an LFA card in quality. This one doesn’t. If you still don’t believe I’m making a good point, take a look at what time these contests are taking place and you tell me if the UFC is really all that concerned about whether you see them or not.
The prelims begin on ESPN at 3:00 AM ET/12:00 AM PT on Saturday.
- After three fights in the UFC, it’s plausible the organization has a keeper in Song Kenan. That may not sound like a big deal in the eyes of most fans, but the UFC has been digging for years to find a Chinese native who deserves to be on their roster. They’ve had some success with women – the main event of the card is proof of that – but finding men who don’t represent token roster spots has been difficult, fellow welterweight Jingliang Li being the exception. Kenan may have lost his last contest, but it was a competitive FOTN outing against Alex Morono. Kenan hits hard and continues to push hard when tired, but his defense is garbage. He’ll try to overcome longtime regional vet Derrick Krantz. Like Kenan, Krantz hits hard and doesn’t quit. However, Krantz also has a functional wrestling game and has developed a wiliness only years of experience can bring. After a 35-fight career, I’d be worried about his durability, but he is still holding up well. Thus…. Krantz via TKO of RD2
- Some of you may call me a hater for this, but I think there is a strong chance Jun Yong Park is the better prospect over the better-known Anthony Hernandez. They have a comparable quality of victories on the regional scene, but Park’s ability to counter translates better to the higher levels of MMA than Hernandez’s swarming style. Plus, in his UFC debut, Hernandez struggled with Markus Perez’s physicality… and Perez is far from the most physical middleweight on the roster. Regardless, Park isn’t the type to impose his will, preferring to work off the back foot with the occasional simple combination moving forward to look for cracks in the opposition’s defense. Hernandez does have plus power and is slick with the guillotine, but I also think a contest this closely matched should have intangibles taken into account. Hernandez has a lot more travel to do than Park and Hernandez didn’t do so well the last time he left North America. Otherwise, you’re splitting hairs on this middleweight contest. Park via decision
- It’s hard to feel encouraged by a fighter that represents the only time Louis Smolka has been emerged victorious in his last six UFC contests. Nonetheless, Su Mudaerji has a chance to win this bantamweight contest as Andre Soukhamthath likes to stand and trade fisticuffs. Well… that would be the story at the beginning of Soukhamthath’s UFC career, but Soukhamthath has discovered wrestling can supplement his powerful, low-output, standup game. Both like throwing flashy strikes, but it’s hard to feel Mudaerji has a chance given Soukhamthath’s iron chin and obvious advantage on the ground. Soukhamthath will avoid the pink slip for at least one more fight. Soukhamthath via TKO of RD1
- Da Un Jung now sits on his third opponent as it has been a bit of a carousel getting his counterpart arranged. The 25-year old Korean likes to pressure his opponent in hopes of inducing them to throw at him so he can counter. Jung doesn’t have overwhelming power, but he’s very accurate and tends to wear down his opponent with his onslaught. However, the light heavyweight’s takedown defense has been adequate at best, as dead tired opponents have been able to drag him to the mat. That’s not good news for him as the carousel stopped on 24-year old Russian, Khadis Ibragimov. Ibragimov is sloppy on the feet, but he’s dogged in his takedowns and may already be one of the better grapplers in the division. Ibragimov has also faced a much higher level of competition over his career, owning wins over former M-1 light heavyweight champion Stephan Puetz and fellow prospect Rafal Kijnaczuk. Ibragimov’s lack of time to prepare is reason to pause, but I still favor him due to the stylistic mismatch. Ibragimov via submission of RD2
- I’ve complained about this portion of the card my fair share. For all my bitching, I’ll say the lightweight contest between Damir Ismagulov and Thiago Moises is probably the best combination of evenness of matchmaking and overall quality of the fighters. Not exactly a ringing endorsement given my ripping on these prelims, but it’s something… right? Ismagulov is a former M-1 champion with a penchant for spinning kicks, though he has been more risk averse since making the jump to the UFC, attacking his opponent’s weakness and avoiding their strengths… not that I blame him. It’s simply resulted in contests that don’t pique the interest of viewers. Between the two, Moises has the most notable scalp on his record, scoring a unanimous decision over Kurt Holobaugh. The young Brazilian utilized a well-rounded approach, using takedowns, top control, and a slight edge on the feet to secure the win. It’s a tough call, but I’ll favor Moises’ youth and athleticism to overcome Ismagulov. Moises via decision
- The best way I can think to describe the bantamweight contest between Batgerel Danaa and Heili Alateng: the UFC should have stopped at 11 contests on the card rather than 12. Neither of them appear ready for the UFC, nor does it seem likely they ever will be. Some may point out Danaa has a win over Kai Kara-France on his ledger, but that was also in 2013. Danaa hasn’t kept busy with his MMA career and while Alateng has, it’s hard to point to any quality wins on his record. Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of high energy kickboxing that’s short on technique, this one should be your bag of chips. I’ll favor Alateng as he’ll have his countrymen behind him. Alateng via decision
- While I’m not sold yet, I will admit there is a strong possibility either Karol Rosa or Lara Procopio could end up being significant players in women’s bantamweight… if they remain in the division. Much like men’s flyweight, that can partially be attributed to a lack of depth, but I’ve already crapped all over this portion of the card. I have to present SOME positive with it! Nonetheless, the 24-year old Rosa has crushed some cans and had mixed results against decent competition, though her only unavenged losses have come against UFC vets. She can be inactive for long stretches too as she looks to get a read on her opponent, though she makes terrific adjustments throughout the contest one she gets that read. The 23-year old Procopio, a natural flyweight, saw her finishes dry up when she began facing decent competition, but she’s still undefeated. She prefers ground fighting, but it will be hard for her to take the fight there with the larger Rosa. Rosa via decision