by Vito Basile
UFC 248 features two title defenses: the men’s middleweight division, and the women’s strawweight division. Both Weili Zhang, and Israel Adesanya are fresh in terms of being champion, but don’t let that fool you. Both rose to champion status in such a convincing manner that their title reigns will have some longevity. In this match-up, Zhang takes on former women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejcyzk in a 5 round bout defending her belt.
Jedrzejcyzk (16-3) was, and still is, one of the best female fighters in the UFC. She’s fought all the best in her division, like Valentina Schevchanko, the current flyweight champion (135LBS). She also fought Rose Namajunas twice; the first match ended Jedrzejcyzk’s title run with a first round TKO, and the second went five rounds, but Namajunas ultimately took the decision. She’s also fought Jessica Andrade, another former strawweight champion, and beat her. Clearly, Jedrzejcyzk isn’t afraid of the big stage. She’s 2-3 in her last five fights, three of which were title fights, and she went 0-3 in those.
Despite her recent struggles, Jedrzejcyzk still dominates against lesser opponents while still competing and giving herself a chance to win against the best opponents. She loves to trash talk before fights and play mind games with her opponent, which she’s already been doing with Zhang. She did apologize for her remarks during Super Bowl week in Miami where she posted an edited image of her and Zhang, with herself wearing a gas mask, captioned with laughing face emoji’s. This was a reference to Zhang’s home country of China and the coronavirus outbreak in recent months. Jedrzejcyzk quickly deleted the post, and apologized after Zhang responded, but don’t think Zhang is going to forget about that post. Zhang may have that on her mind during the fight, and she’s probably going to want to punish Jedrzejcyzk.
Jedrzejcyzk has great cardio, and she’ll use it to her advantage. She’s a well-rounded fighter; I would say that she’s more of a technician, but she has decent power, coming into the fight with four KOs. Where she thrives, though, is in her clinch game, utilizing her Muay Thai background of elbows and knees. Jedrzejcyzk will stand up and fight with the best of them if she has to, she has great takedown defense, and above average grappling. She has to use volume in this fight force Zhang to get aggressive and tire out.
Zhang (20-1) has an impressive 4-0 record in UFC fights. Her toughest opponent has been Tecia Torres, a seasoned UFC veteran like Jedrzejcyzk who’s fought many in the women’s strawweight division. Zhang’s title shot came against former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade, who defeated Rose Namajunas for the title a year ago. Zhang put on an impressive performance, dominating the hard-hitting Andrade and bombarding her with knees and elbows, dropping hooks from everywhere, and eventually KO’ing her in the 1st round.
Zhang comes from a kickboxing background, which we saw in the Andrade fight. She’s is a very patient fighter who picks her shots with precision. Andrade made the mistake coming out overly aggressive, trying to overpower Zhang and finish her off, but she stayed patient and when Andrade started to tire and make mistakes, Zhang pulled her in and made her pay with knees and elbows.
Zhang’s striking is impressive, landing 47% of her strikes. She’s very strong, so look for her to stand in there and keep this a kickboxing match. Zhang also excels in her takedown defense, and hasn’t been taken down yet in her UFC career. She’s not much of a grappler, but when she does get a takedown, she tries to position herself for a submission. Of her 17 wins, 10 have come by way of KO and 7 have come by way of submission.
In her fight with Andrade, Zhang really impressed me, showing that she’s a force to be reckoned with. She has all the tools to succeed in the UFC and reign supreme as strawweight champion. I think Zhang will end this fight early and punish Jedrzejcyzk for her insensitive remarks. Jedrzejcyzk only shot in this fight is to KO her, otherwise Zhang is going to dominate quickly.
My prediction: Zhang by KO in the 1st
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