Bantamweight is one of the deepest and most exciting divisions in mixed martial arts. On Saturday, two top 15 fighters in the UFC bantamweight rankings will look to end 2023 with a burst of momentum when Song Yadong and Chris Gutierrez clash in a UFC Fight Night headliner.
The event was originally set to take place in Shanghai but in November it was announced the card had moved to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The announcement came shortly after Yadong and Gutierrez were announced as the headliners.
No. 15 ranked Gutierrez is looking to ensure a winning 2023 campaign when he faces Yadong. His year started with a decision loss to Pedro Munhoz. That loss snapped an eight-fight unbeaten streak, with Gutierrez's previous loss coming in his UFC debut in November 2018. Gutierrez was able to get back on the winning track in October with a decision win over Alateng Heili.
"I've let so many opportunities slip by me just never giving myself the full benefit of the doubt," Gutierrez said in an interview with UFC.com. "It was me not trusting in myself, me not believing in myself. This happened when [teammate] Jonathan [Martinez] was fighting Thomas Almeida [in October 2020]. I wasn't in the right mental space, and I said no to the fight and Jonathan went out there and got the job done and was able to catapult his career.
"He believed in himself, and I didn't have that at that time. And when this fight got offered to me, I was in the same situation and I was like, you know what, I'm ready now. Mentally. I've been through it all. I've been there, I've seen it, I felt it. At this point, it's about taking opportunities and I feel like this is an opportunity. I'm number 15 fighting number seven. What do I have to lose? Nothing."
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Yadong sits higher in the rankings, currently holding the No. 7 spot with a 9-2-1 record in the Octagon. His lone fight in 2023 was a fifth-round TKO of Ricky Simon. The win over Simon helped Yandong rebound from a September 2022 TKO loss to Cory Sandhagen. The fight with Gutierrez is Yadong's third consecutive main event.
The undercard sees some interesting matchups throughout. A pair of veteran light heavyweights look to keep their spot in the rankings when Khalil Rountree Jr. battles Anthony Smith. Rountree Jr. has won four in a row and is hoping to keep it rolling against Smith, a former title challenger who has maintained his spot near the top of the division. Smith believes a win on Saturday could put him back in the mix for the title given the state of the 205-pound division.
Let's take a closer look at the rest of the undercard with the latest odds before getting to a prediction and expert pick on the main event.
UFC Fight Night card, odds
|Song Yadong -370
|Chris Gutierrez +290
|Khalil Rountree Jr. -195
|Anthony Smith +165
|Tim Elliott -135
|Su Mudaerji +115
|Nasrat Haqparast -190
|Jamie Mullarkey +160
|Jun Yong Park -170
|Andre Muniz +145
|Kevin Jousset -155
|Kenan Song +130
- Date: Dec. 9
- Location: UFC Apex -- Las Vegas
- Start time: 10 p.m. ET (main card)
- How to watch: ESPN+
There are a lot of things working in Yadong's favor entering this fight. The fight moving to the Apex ensures a smaller Octagon, which works to cut some of the space Gutierrez likes to use as a strong kicker and counter-striker. Also, as mentioned, this is Yadong's third consecutive main event, meaning he should be the most comfortable man in a five-round fight.
As long as Yadong can take advantage of the smaller cage to force inside striking exchanges, he should have the edge. Yadong thrives in the chaos of exchanges and his work with Team Alpha Male has developed his wrestling to where he should be able to handle if Gutierrez attempts to shoot in for a takedown to slow the pace. Pick: Song Yadong via TKO3
Who wins UFC Fight Night: Song vs. Gutierrez, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC Fight Night, all from the MMA expert who profited more than $6,200 in 2022, and find out.