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Song Yadong: China’s Rising Tide

After another commanding win over Chris Gutierrez, Song Yadong has set his sights toward the top of the bantamweight division.  The young prospect has had ups and downs throughout his career so far, but now looks to be on form.  Can he become the next UFC champion out of China?

Image – Sherdog

Song just faced an interesting stylistic challenge in Gutierrez.  Chris’s reach and versatile kicking game make it difficult to close the distance on him.  As a result, Song struggled at times to enter the pocket safely.  However, Song adjusted masterfully and used his grappling to control several rounds.  On the feet, he absorbed Chris’s strikes without issue and took advantage of his few opportunities to rock Gutierrez.  

As Song continues to rise the ranks, he will face far tougher challenges.  In his fight with Cory Sandhagen, Song performed admirably, but lost via doctor’s stoppage.  Yadong has rebounded nicely since then, but he will have to be at his best to continue winning.   His speed and power might be unmatched in this division.  However, he does tend to leave himself open to strikes.  While his chin has remained solid thus far, he will want to minimize his defensive openings moving forward.  He could take another slicing elbow, seen in the Sandhagen fight, or worse, get knocked out. 

Image – Asian MMA

After the fight, Song called out Petr Yan, a former champion.  It’s certainly an exciting call-out and would be an action-packed fight.  Based on trends alone, one might favor Song.  Yadong now carries significant momentum with wins over Gutierrez and Ricky Simon.  Yan, on the other hand, has suffered three consecutive losses.  A close inquiry, however, casts doubt on this narrative.  Yan’s losses against former champion Aljamain Sterling and current champion Sean’O Malley were both razor close, controversial decisions.  And while Yan lost a lopsided contest against Merab Dvalishvili on the scorecards, he successfully defended the vast majority of Merab’s takedown attempts in a nonstop 25 minute affair. 

Stylistically, both Yan and Song prefer to box in the pocket.  While Song likely has the edge in pure athleticism, Yan appears to be the more technically and fundamentally sound striker.  Both have shown to be well versed in the grappling realm as well.  

Interestingly, Song also boasts a win over current title challenger Chito Vera.  There is no doubt that on paper, Yadong can compete with anyone.  Still just 26 years of age, he could potentially improve even more over the coming years.  With his sharp fighting skills and improving English, he could become one of the UFC’s most exciting international superstars.

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