Welcome to the UFC: Yilan Sha

UFC octagon girls
Octagon Girls, UFC Norfolk ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Fresh of a successful UFC 262 last weekend in front of a sold-out crowd in Houston, Texas we are back in Las Vegas on Saturday night. UFC Vegas 27 is headlined between former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt going against contender Rob Font. A packed card with names like Carla Esparza, Felicia Spencer, Jack Hermansson, Ben Rothwell, and more supports the main event. There are also many up-and-comers and so far, with three promotional debuts scheduled. One of those is China’s Yilan Sha. He will take on Joshua Culibao (8-1-1 MMA, 0-1-1 UFC).

Yilan “Wolverine” Sha
Standing at 5’8″
Fighting at 145 lbs (featherweight)
Fighting out of Heilongjiang, China
Training out of Longyun MMA Gym
A pro record of 19-6
5 Submissions

How will he fare in the UFC:

Like many Chinese prospects, Sha has a lot of experience. He’s only been in MMA for five years and has fought already 25 times. Along the way, he’s fought a lot of challenging opponents.

Where Sha excels the most is his wrestling. He closes the distance very well and is really good at adjusting to cut the corner to secure the takedowns. Sha is a good enough wrestler to complete takedowns in space as his timing and speed are on point. When he closes the distance and gets his arms around guys he has the ability to slam guys or just throw other grown men around in an emphatic fashion.

On the feet, he likes to bring an active kickboxing attack but has trouble finding his range. Even with his hands, he struggles to find a home. Sha does have good striking for the most part. He has the hand speed, the power, and is a dangerous counter striker. Sha keeps his hands low, swings from the hip, and brings his hands back to his face way too slow. That all will hold him back as a good striker in the UFC.

With good wrestling, the grappling Sha has is a fantastic compliment. As soon as he gets the fight grounded he’s immediately passing guard and transitioning. Quickly and intelligently he gets into the mount with ease. His ground and pound I’d say is fight-stopping and he is a submission threat as well. Sha does lack positional control as he finds himself in a dominant position one minute and then on his back the next minute. While on his back two things usually happen. Sha either gets finished, and I don’t want to say he quits on himself but he will accept defeat when in a bad position. On the flip side, Sha off his back does very well at either exploding and regaining back top position or he will make the right adjustments with his feet, legs, and hips to create perfectly executed sweeps and reversals.

On top of everything said, Sha has potential but he will only go so far if he doesn’t improve everything on the feet. He’s still a young guy so he has all the time to improve. His wrestling alone will give guys fits and that will allow some success in the UFC. Sha has a lot of tools to go off on so he has a high ceiling.
  • Striking: C+
  • Kickboxing: C-
  • Clinch: C+
  • Wrestling: B
  • Grappling: B
  • Striking Defense: C
  • Takedown Defense: C
  • Cardio: B
  • Biggest Strength: Wrestling
  • Biggest Weakness: Striking defense

How he matches up with Culibao:

Culibao hasn’t had the best showing in his UFC career so far but he’s much better than what he’s shown. Culibao has excellent footwork, never staying still and always switching stances. He’s really good going backwards as he’s a dangerous and accurate counter striker. Joshua is always throwing a lot of volume going to the head and ripping the body as well. On the feet, he likely pieces Sha up. Before coming to the UFC Culibao had suspect takedown defense but in the UFC he hasn’t been taken down. Sha could take him down and get a quick finish but Culibao is more well-rounded and has more ways to win. I’ll take Culibao and I’m fairly confident.