The UFC is poised to make a highly anticipated return to the People’s Republic of China, marking its first event in the country since the momentous occasion more than four years ago when Weili Zhang captured the strawweight title in Shenzhen. The forthcoming UFC Fight Night in Shanghai, scheduled for December 9, has now been officially designated a main event, creating a palpable sense of excitement among MMA enthusiasts.
The highlight of the Shanghai event will be a bantamweight bout featuring two top-ranked fighters within the division. The No. 7-ranked Song Yadong is set to face off against No. 14-ranked Chris Gutierrez, in a match-up first brought to public attention by the prominent MMA news outlet Spinning Backfist, which announced via Twitter:
“MAIN EVENT FOR SHANGHAI IS HERE Song Yadong vs Chris Gutierrez December 9 | Shanghai China | 135 lbs 1st source @MagicM_MMABets”
This announcement follows persistent rumors and speculative discourse within MMA communities regarding the UFC’s potential staging of an event in China before the year’s end. The organization, last week, confirmed the date and location of the UFC Fight Night event, thus setting the stage for this high-stakes encounter.
While some fan conjecture had centered around the prospect of an all-Chinese UFC title fight between notable fighters Weili Zhang and Yan Xiaonan, the reality unfolded differently. As initially reported by @MagicM_MMABets and subsequently verified, the bantamweight contest between Song Yadong and Chris Gutierrez has been solidified as the main event.
The UFC has intensified its efforts to integrate more Asian fighters into its ranks, recognizing the burgeoning talent within the continent. Among these athletes, Song Yadong stands out, second only to Zhang as the promotion’s most prominent Chinese star.
Song, known as the “Kung Fu Kid,” earned his position as the UFC’s seventh-ranked bantamweight contender following an emphatic stoppage-win against Ricky Simón in April. This victory marked Yadong’s second successive main event appearance after a valiant effort in a loss to Cory Sandhagen the previous year.
Chris Gutierrez, who experienced a setback in his UFC debut in 2018, has since exhibited a commendable undefeated streak across eight fights, until he encountered a unanimous decision loss to Pedro Munhoz earlier this year. The upcoming UFC Shanghai marks a significant milestone for the 32-year-old Gutierrez, heralding his first main event billing, a testament to his resilience as he rebounded from his loss with a victory against Alatengheili in October.
The professional records of both fighters narrate a tale of perseverance within the sport. Song Yadong’s record boasts 20 wins, including nine knockouts and three submissions. Despite never having been submitted, he has faced defeat via other means. Similarly, Gutierrez’s professional tenure has yielded 20 victories, with a balanced mix of knockouts and decisions underscoring his versatility and staying power in the division.
In the lead-up to this event, there were stirrings within the MMA news cycle about Song Yadong potentially facing former bantamweight champion Petr Yan in what would have been a marquee match-up for UFC Shanghai. However, an unforeseen turn of events led to Yan’s withdrawal from the planned fight, as disclosed by Chris Presnell of MMA Ecosystem in a tweet:
“As far as the main event on December 9th goes, there was a plan to have Song vs. Yan in that spot (hence my use of the word “targeted”), but Petr Yan is no longer in that plan. The search continues for an opponent for Song Yadong.”
In a post on Douyin, a platform akin to TikTok in China, Song Yadong corroborated the earlier plans for a bout against Yan, revealing a text from his manager which indicated Yan’s injury.
While this development occurred nearly a month prior, the confirmation of Gutierrez as Yadong’s opponent brings clarity to the headlining event of UFC Shanghai. For Song Yadong, this marks his third consecutive main event and a return to competition in his native country since 2018.
The rest of the card for UFC Shanghai features an array of talent from China and neighboring regions, such as Japan and South Korea. Notable bouts include the middleweight confrontation between Andre Muniz and Jun Yong Park, as well as the lightweight match pitting Nasrat Haqparast against Jamie Mullarkey. These fights promise to deliver compelling action and showcase the depth of the UFC’s international roster.
As the UFC solidifies its position within the global sports landscape, the return to Shanghai represents not just another event, but a reaffirmation of the organization’s commitment to growing the sport of MMA worldwide. It is an occasion that will undoubtedly see the Chinese MMA community and its fans rally behind their athletes, with Song Yadong receiving what is expected to be an exuberant reception from his home crowd as he steps into the Octagon to headline the night.
While the dream of an all-Chinese title bout remains deferred, the announcement of Song Yadong versus Chris Gutierrez as the main event has captivated the attention of the UFC’s ardent followers. This pairing pits two athletes in the prime of their careers against each other, each with a point to prove and each with the potential to ascend further in the competitive bantamweight rankings.
Song Yadong, affectionately dubbed the “Kung Fu Kid,” has not only become a marquee fighter within the UFC’s ranks but also an embodiment of the sport’s growing popularity in Asia. His journey to the top of the division has been marked by both spectacular victories and instructive defeats. With a professional record that reflects his striking power and tactical acumen, Yadong’s nine knockouts are a testament to his precision and athleticism inside the cage.
Chris Gutierrez, known as ‘El Guapo,’ has demonstrated remarkable grit in the face of adversity. His UFC tenure may have started with a stumble, but his subsequent eight-fight unbeaten run highlighted his adaptability and resilience. The fighter’s balanced record of knockouts and decisions exhibits a fighter comfortable with going the distance or ending bouts with concussive force.
The landscape of the bantamweight division is an ever-shifting terrain, and UFC Shanghai is set to be a significant marker in its evolution. The clash between Yadong and Gutierrez embodies the essence of high-level MMA competition: the relentless pursuit of excellence and the relentless drive towards championship gold.