Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Strawweight kickboxers Tecia Torres and Weili Zhang will go to war this Saturday (March 2, 2019) at UFC 235 from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
A three-fight win streak in 2017 saw Torres really establish herself as a contender at 115 pounds. Unfortunately for “Tiny Tornado,” the results of her success were consecutive match ups with Jessica Andrade and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, a remarkably difficult pair of fights for anyone in her division. Now, Torres will look to rebound for her losses to two of the division’s top three athletes. Zhang last fought on Black Friday 2018, and to be more specific, she fought somewhere around 3 a.m. the following morning on a Fight Night card in China. The point here is that very few fans saw her fought, which is a real shame, as Zhang absolutely dominated a well-known veteran in one of the most impressive beatdowns I’ve ever seen. It was so dominant, in fact, that the unranked Chinese athlete has been immediately raised from the undercard for a highly-regarded opponent in Torres.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Rose Namajunas (Invicta FC 6), Michelle Waterson (UFC 218), Paige VanZant (Invicta FC 4), Felice Herrig (Invicta FC 7)
Key Losses: Rose Namajunas (UFC on FOX 19), Jessica Andrade (UFC on FOX 28), Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC on FOX 30)
Keys to Victory: Torres doesn’t exactly live up to her “Tiny Tornado” moniker at this stage of her career, as she’s no longer a wild ball of volume. Instead, Torres is a more patient kickboxer who throws tight combinations, and more recently, Torres has been quite willing to supplement her kickboxing by finishing combos with a double leg takedown.
This is a difficult match up for Torres, as Zhang is an athletic professional kickboxer with a good deal of mixed martial arts (MMA) experience too. However, Torres does have a major advantage in that she’s faced a much higher level of competition, whereas Zhang has mostly blown through over-matched opponents.
Torres is unlikely to be blown away by Zhang’s offense like past foes, which means she stands a fair chance at slowing the fight down. Specifically, I’d like to see Torres work some wrestling along the fence. Many of Zhang’s past bouts have taken place in a ring, and that’s a grueling method of fighting anyway. If Torres commits to this area where Zhang has less experience and her athleticism is less consequential, it will benefit her greatly.
Key Wins: Jessica Aguilar (UFC Fight Night 141), Danielle Taylor (UFC 227), Marilia Santos (Kunlun Fight MMA 14)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: I am extremely frustrated at my inability to find any useful information about Zhang’s combat sports background and accomplishments. Aside from mentions of a professional kickboxing career, it’s all pretty unclear. From her work inside the Octagon though, it’s quite clear to me that Zhang is a nasty striker with a physical and dangerous grappling game as well.
Fifteen of Zhang’s victories came via stoppage.
In this match up, Zhang’s size and physicality will be important advantages. She is clearly the more dangerous fighter between the two, the heavier hitter and more active submission threat. Even in a fight likely to reach the scorecards, that will be helpful.
I’d like to see Zhang focus on remaining all the way in or all the way out, as well as keeping her back off the fence. At distance, Zhang’s powerful kicks and explosive combinations should win out. If Torres looks to close forward into the pocket, Zhang proved to be very strong from within the clinch too. Should Zhang stick to those two distances as much as possible, it’s difficult to see how Torres breaks her rhythm.
Bottom Line: This is a major test for Weili Zhang.
It’s also a huge risk for Torres. Zhang looks like an incredible fighter, one ready for the title mix already. However, she’s also unranked and almost completely unknown. That’s a really bad combination for Torres, who would like to bounce back into the win column impressively here. Instead, she risks a third consecutive loss, and a win would only be especially impressive to the few people who appreciate Zhang’s talent.
Conversely, this is Zhang’s moment to break out from the ranks of the unknown. Torres is a well-regarded name at 115 pounds, a long-time contender who’s a proven tough out. Plus, Zhang is already on an impressive win streak — 18 total wins and two inside the Octagon! — meaning a top five win added on would absolutely push her into the title mix. It could even set Zhang up for a title eliminator.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 235 fight card on fight night, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
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At UFC 235, Tecia Torres and Weili Zhang will duel. Which Strawweight will earn the victory?