UFC Fight Night 122 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

Scott HarrisMMA Lead WriterNovember 24, 2017

UFC Fight Night 122 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

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    Michael Bisping
    Michael BispingBrandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Set your alarm clocks and prepare for the fun.

    Beginning at 3:45 a.m. ET on Saturday, November 25, UFC Fight Night 122 is the UFC's debut in mainland China. That in itself makes this an interesting event, even if the brightest stars are the ones still in the night sky. 

    Michael Bisping is easily the biggest name on a pretty pedestrian card. Three whole weeks after losing his middleweight title to Georges St-Pierre, Bisping stepped up to take on Kelvin Gastelum after Anderson Silva failed a(nother) drug test. It was an admirable move, and we'll see how it plays out for a 38-year-old fighter who openly acknowledges the end is in sight.

    The four-fight main card—which, like the rest of the card, airs exclusively on the UFC Fight Pass streaming service—does carry other intrigue, including a co-main event featuring China's pre-eminent fighter.

    Take this opportunity to get acquainted with the eight main card competitors with our staff picks from Nathan McCarter, Craig "Cookie" Amos, Steven Rondina and myself, Scott Harris. Let's get it on.  

Muslim Salikhov vs. Alex Garcia

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    Muslim Salikhov
    Muslim SalikhovCHANDAN KHANNA/Getty Images

    Nathan McCarter

    Muslim Salikhov's most notable win came earlier this year when he sent Melvin Guillard crashing to the canvas in a heap after a head kick. The video went viral, and the UFC scooped up another potential star.

    Alex Garcia is no easy out, but I'll take a flier on the newcomer. He won't have a stellar debut, but he'll show he's for real in a clear-cut, unanimous-decision victory.

    Salikhov, unanimous decision

           

    Steven Rondina

    I'm interested to see how the Sanda specialist Salikhov looks in the Octagon...but I'm not especially bullish on him. Garcia isn't really a name, but he hasn't lost to any bad fighters.

    There's a chance Salkhov can take this, but I'm expecting Garcia to bottle him up, make this an ugly clinch fight and take it on the score cards.

    Garcia, unanimous decision

          

    Craig Amos

    Garcia is an awesome fighter for about four minutes. Then things tend to go south. It's difficult to say how long Salikhov is awesome for, since only one of his 13 pro fights have made it to the first horn, but I'll back him here.

    Salikhov, TKO, Rd. 2

           

    Scott Harris

    My opinion borrows from Steven's and Craig's. There's always a lot of hype when a super-specialist makes the MMA leap. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. Sanda is one that can translate well. Salikhov is 12-1, but this is his UFC debut, so he's a bit of a question mark.

    Meanwhile, we know exactly what Garcia is: a knockout artist for one round, a smother-wrestler after that. Salikhov should be able to more than hold his own in either scenario.

    Salikhov, TKO, Rd. 3

Alex Caceres vs. Wang Guan

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    Alex Caceres
    Alex CaceresBrandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    McCarter

    The betting odds make me apprehensive about my pick, but I'll stick with Alex Caceres. "Bruce Leeroy" is more proven against some legit competition. The same cannot be said for Wang Guan. Given the odds, I'll hesitate to pick a finish, but the UFC vet should be able to pick up two of three rounds.

    Caceres, unanimous decision

           

    Rondina

    Honestly, Chinese MMA is so far behind the curve that I'm not going to buy into any of its fighters as legit until they succeed outside the country (a la Li Jingliang).

    That's not going to change here with Guan Wang, and that's certainly not going to change as he faces off with someone that is well-established like Alex Caceres.

    Caceres, unanimous decision

         

    Amos

    Nathan and Steven make a good point: China is not exactly a watershed for MMA talent, so Guan's body of work, while impressive, cannot be directly compared to Caceres'. He does own a win over Shane Young, which is heartening, but Young didn't exactly blow us away in his UFC debut.

    Given his own inconsistencies, I never thought I'd say Caceres is the safe pick, but that's what he is here, and that's why I'm taking him

    Caceres, submission, Rd. 3

          

    Harris

    Guan is a can crusher. No two ways about it. But power is power, and 12 of Guan's 16 wins came by strikes (10 knockouts, two taps to punches).

    Meanwhile, Caceres is inconsistent, lacks power and sometimes makes unwise decisions. Guan likes to pressure and cut off the cage. That could entangle Caceres in a fire fight he can't win. 

    Guan, TKO, Rd. 2

Li Jingliang vs. Zak Ottow

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    Li Jingliang (right)
    Li Jingliang (right)Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    McCarter

    At least I've heard of both participants in this fight...but that's not saying much. I'm a fan of Li Jingliang. He'll throw caution to the wind in this fight, and while that could backfire I am more in line with thinking it'll benefit him. It'll keep Zak Ottow off balance. Jingliang eventually lands a clean blow for a TKO win.

    Jingliang, TKO, Rd. 2

          

    Rondina

    Is Jingliang underrated? I think Jingliang might actually be underrated! Ottow? No, he's not underrated. He's so not underrated, in fact, that I'm going to pick him to lose in pretty decisive fashion to the Leech.

    Jingliang, unanimous decision

         

    Amos

    So, Ottow has three fights in the UFC and has gone to three split decisions. I'm therefore going to assume this fight will be close. I also assume Li takes the W in what should be a fun fight.

    Jingliang, unanimous decision

          

    Harris

    UFC brass walked the line effectively in this matchup. Ottow is a credible opponent. Almost—almost—as credible as he is beatable. That's a perfect showcase fight for Jingliang, China's best and most visible MMA fighter.

    Ottow's a wrestler with a meat-and-potatoes boxing came tacked on for completeness. Jingliang has lately earned a reputation as a banger, but he is some kind of dangerous grappler as well. If he can put Ottow on his back, watch out.

    Jingliang, submission, Rd. 2

Michael Bisping vs. Kelvin Gastelum

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    Kelvin Gastelum
    Kelvin GastelumBrandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    McCarter

    Even if Michael Bisping was on a full camp, I would favor Kelvin Gastelum. A strong grappler with big power? Not exactly Bisping's best matchup.

    The biggest question is really if Gastelum can go all five rounds if Bisping can avoid the big power shot. I believe he can in part due to his wrestling. If he gets in trouble, he'll force clinches against the fence. But I still like him to finish.

    Gastelum, TKO, Rd. 2

            

    Rondina

    Bisping doesn't seem to be especially motivated for this fight, but I'm not ready to buy into Gastelum as a top-end talent quite yet. He'll make it ugly, sure, but I expect Bisping to do what he does best and outland his less-experienced opponent en route to a clean decision win.

    Bisping, unanimous decision

          

    Amos

    Bisping deserves tons of credit for stepping up to face Gastelum mere weeks after being choked unconscious and losing his middleweight title. That said, the only victory he's going to achieve in this fight is a moral one. Gastelum is quicker and more powerful, and he has a stronger wrestling game to mix in with his offense. 

    Gastelum, TKO, Rd. 2

           

    Harris

    Gastelum has an underrated gas tank, so I don't see Bisping outlasting him. Gastelum has more power and better wrestling. He probably can't take Bisping down at will, but he can get the job done more often than not.

    Most important, though, is Bisping's laissez-faire approach to all this, treating the fight like a working vacation and all but admitting the fight doesn't matter much to him. If the fight doesn't matter much to you, the fight usually has a way of figuring that out.

    Gastelum, TKO, Rd. 3