Weili Zhang successfully defended her UFC strawweight title for the first time by defeating former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the co-main event at UFC 248 on Saturday night.
The Chinese star extended her massive winning streak to 21-consecutive fights with the split-decision win over Jedrzejczyk, who failed in her second attempt at retaining the UFC gold she lost initially to Rose Namajunas.
— Spinnin Backfist (@SpinninBackfist) March 8, 2020
In a fight that will go down as one of the greatest in the division’s history, two judges scored the contest 48-47 in favour of Zhang with the other judging the same score in favour of the Polish star.
It was a classic case of power versus precision as Jedrzejczyk landed more strikes but Zhang’s caused much more damage. The Polish fighter was rocked hard in the second round but switched up her stance in the third before throwing the champion off.
Zhang ultimately turned the screw in the championship rounds, rocking the former champion in the fourth with a crippling left hook that she repeatedly landed up until the end of the contest.
The highly decorated former champion hung in there, despite suffering a massive hematoma across her entire forehead from the third round on. Still, the fight could have gone either way. Despite her trash-talking in the build-up to the contest, the former champion was full of praise for Zhang following the fight.
“She did a great job. I felt her punches,” Jedrzejczyk said as reported by ESPN.
“The swelling was bothering me. I felt it more and more, but we’re good. Congrats champ. I’m very happy we gave a good fight.”
Arguably the GREATEST fight in women's mixed martial arts history! 👏
— UFC (@ufc) March 8, 2020
The Chinese champion’s win becomes all the more impressive when you consider the path she had to take to make it to the Las Vegas showdown.
A native of Hebei, China, Zhang was forced to flee the country in early February due to the coronavirus outbreak. She spent a month in transit, relocating to Thailand before moving on to Abu Dhabi and finally to the United States.
“It took us a long time to get here because of the coronavirus back in our country, everybody knows that,” Zhang said following the win.
“It was very serious but we made it. The coronavirus is getting much better. I hope everyone stays together, we come together, we fight together, we can win this. Our country is suffering from a big tragedy right now. We’ll fight together and we’ll win it.”