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UFC Shenzhen predictions, preview, and analysis

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Time zones rear their ugly heads once again this Sat. morning (Aug. 31, 2019) when Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hits Shenzhen, China for some early-morning mayhem. Local Strawweight mixed martial arts (MMA) sensation, Zhang Weili, puts her 19-fight winning streak on the line in the ESPN+ main event against champion Jessica Andrade, while the promotion’s first standout Chinese fighter, Li Jingliang, faces fellow Welterweight knockout artist Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos one fight prior.

All-action Flyweights Kai Kara-France and Mark De La Rosa duke it out earlier in the show, but top Featherweight prospects, Movsar Evloev and Lv Zhenhong, were scratched after Zhenhong was felled by a fight week cut (full details here).

Our usual main card guy got stuck behind a great wall of some sort, so the job falls to me yet again. We’ve got some “Prelims” analysis for the night owls among you here and here, plus our usual gambling prognoses here.

Let’s get cracking.

115 lbs.: Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade (20-6) vs. Zhang Weili (19-1)

There seem to be plenty of possible ways to frustrate Jessica Andrade’s straightforward onslaught, but they all run into the same question: “but can you do that for five rounds?” Joanna Jedrzejczyk could, but besides her, nobody at 115 pounds has managed it for more than three. Sheer strength, tenacity, and a ludicrously deep gas tank seem to be the solution to all of what ails Andrade.

Like most of the people who face the champ, Zhang has the technical striking edge. She packs some lovely kicks and downright excellent close-quarters bruising. Thing is, she shares a wheelhouse with Andrade; her best work comes when she’s pressing forward, and for all of her standup skills, I’m not sure she or any Strawweight can meet Andrade head-on and expect to come out on top. Any momentum she finds while navigating Andrade’s haymaker barrage is constantly at risk of being upended by one of the high-amplitude slams “Bate Estaca” can bust out with seeming impunity.

Zhang using her three-inch height advantage to keep Andrade at bay while picking away with kicks is a viable strategy and perhaps the only viable one she can reliably execute. I just don’t see someone so used to being the aggressor maintaining that sort of measured approach in the face of Andrade’s inexorable advance. The first round or two should be competitive, Zhang’s technique and stopping power keeping her in the fight against her opponent’s bulldozing offense, but once the pace starts to wear on her and it turns into a brawl, Andrade’s volume and opportunistic takedowns will let her pull away and secure the win.

Prediction: Andrade via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Elizeu “Capoeira” Zaleski Dos Santos (21-5) vs. Li “The Leech” Jingliang (16-5)

Seriously, what does Zaleski Dos Santos have to do to get a ranked opponent at this point? He’s won seven straight, four via stoppage, and racked up three post-fight bonuses along the way. He’s arguably the most entertaining fighter in the entire division and they just keep pitting him against mid-tier opposition.

That’s not a knock on “The Leech,” mind; Li’s 6-1 in his last seven and is every bit the balls-to-the-wall slugger ZDS is. His brawling style seems a poor fit for this matchup, though; Li was badly hurt by Jake Matthews last year, while the Brazilian has yet to flinch from incoming fire in the Octagon. Further, Li’s wrestling generally relies more on his profound strength than his technique, meaning he’ll struggle to exploit Zaleski Dos Santos’ iffy takedown defense or keep him from scrambling to his feet when Li does manage wrangle him to the mat.

Next to the main event, this is the likeliest candidate for Fight of the Night on the card. Neither man will take a step back so long as he’s conscious. Li’s ground game and superior boxing technique give him a real shot at victory, but Zaleski Dos Santos’ edge in durability is too significant to ignore in what will almost certainly be a high-octane slugfest.

Prediction: Zaleski Dos Santos via second-round technical knockout

125 lbs.: Kai “Don’t Blink” Kara-France (19-7) vs. Mark “The Bumblebee” De La Rosa (11-2)

Kai Kara-France scored the most impressive finish of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24 with a 30-second knockout of Terrence Mitchell in the opening round, only to fall to No. 1-seed Alexandre Pantoja in the quarterfinals. After a decision loss to Tatsumitsu Wada — who recently gave Demetrious Johnson a tough out — “Don’t Blink” went on to win his last seven, including two in UFC.

He is 12-1 overall in his last 13 fights.

Mark De La Rosa — husband of Flyweight contender Montana — lost his unbeaten record in his Octagon debut against Tim Elliott thanks to TUF 24 winner’s anaconda choke. “The Bumblebee” came back to win two straight before falling to Alex Perez in Philadelphia.

Five of his six submission wins have come by rear-naked choke.

This is practically a homecoming for Kara-France, who’s spent large chunks of his career fighting in East Asia, and it looks like it’ll be a successful one. In addition to his knockout power, Kara-France has shown quality takedown defense and scrambling during his Octagon tenure, ostensibly nullifying De La Rosa’s one area of superiority. If “The Bumblebee” can’t consistently get on top and work his way to the back, then he’s at the mercy of a more technically sound and devastating striker.

De La Rosa’s chokes are an ever-present threat, but Kara-France’s considerable stand up edge and ostensible ability to keep it on the feet should earn him a comfortable victory.

Prediction: Kara-France via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Movsar Evloev (11-0) vs. Lv Zhenhong (18-6)

Evloev spent the entirety of his pre-UFC career in the M-1 promotion, where he claimed a Bantamweight title in 2017 and enjoyed three successful defenses. He made his Octagon debut in April, overpowering late replacement Seung Woo Choi on the mat en route to a unanimous decision.

Four of his seven stoppage wins have come by rear naked choke.

Lu rebounded from a 2-4 skid to win 11 of his next 12, eight of them via stoppage. He last fought on June 13th, wrapping up a kimura for his sixth pro submission win.

He steps in for Mike Grundy, who failed to secure a visa, on just over a week’s notice.

This is actually a rematch of Evloev’s second pro fight back in 2015, which saw the green Russian dominate the majority of the fight on the mat. Comparing their recent efforts, I don’t expect it to be much more competitive this go-around. Evloev’s exquisite chain wrestling still gives him in the edge in Lu’s favored clinch exchanges and the former’s striking has developed to the point where he can ostensibly dominate wherever he chooses.

Evloev just seems to be better absolutely everywhere and should win every round with relative ease through slick kickboxing and top control. Grundy would have been an intriguing style clash, seeing as he’s got the wrestling credentials to challenge Evloev in his area of expertise, but expect the Russian to make the most of this easier ask with a one-sided victory.

Prediction: Evloev via unanimous decision

Never mind, Lv somehow suffered a cut during last-minute preparations. Instead, we get...

170 lbs.: Song “The Assassin” Kenan (14-4) vs. Derrick “D-Rock” Krantz (24-11)

The top two bouts may have the most hype behind them, but this is an under-the-radar Fight of the Night contender. Both men are durable, powerful, and as game as they come. Krantz does seem to have a decent edge, however; Song’s takedown defense has failed him before and he can be outworked on the feet, as we saw in his last fight with Alex Morono.

Song generally hits hard enough to make up for the volume difference by knocking his man out with the few punches he throws, but against Krantz, whose only (T)KO loss in the last seven years came against one of the division’s hardest punchers in Vicente Luque, that doesn’t seem feasible.

Krantz is tough enough to out-slug Song on the feet and a sufficiently capable wrestler to change gears if “The Assassin” starts building momentum. Expect a slugfest until Krantz decides to take it south and bring his jiu-jitsu to bear.

Prediction: Krantz via second-round submission

125 lbs.: Wu “Mulan” Yanan (10-2) vs. Mizuki Inoue (13-5)

Mizuki Inoue is an absolute beast who’s far better than her record suggests. Her only losses since 2011 were a DQ for missing weight in a fight she won by armbar and decisions against Invicta and UFC standouts Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Alexa Grasso, and Virna Jandiroba. Plus, at just 25, she looks to be just be entering her prime.

I won’t pretend this won’t be tricky for her, though, especially since she’s stepping in on a month’s notice for the injured Luana Carolina. Though Inoue is the better boxer and submission artist, Wu figures to be significantly larger, standing four inches taller than her opponent. Inoue is a longtime Strawweight who’s recently had issues making the 115-pound limit, and whether that’s due to discipline issues or her just growing out of the division, it means she now has to deal with bigger opponents than she’s used to. Plus, Inoue’s been outworked on the feet before, though admittedly by far more polished strikers than “Mulan.”

All that said, Inoue’s technical superiority in most areas give her a variety of avenues to victory, especially since Wu’s shoddy takedown defense opens her up to Inoue’s lethal submissions. A steady diet of 1-2s from Inoue set the pace until she can wrap Wu up, drag her to the mat, and ultimately walk away with her ninth armbar finish.

Prediction: Inoue via first-round submission

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 157 fight this Saturday (click here), starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” at 3:00 a.m. ET and continuing through the main card, which begins at 6:00.

To see all we have to offer on UFC Fight Night 157: “Andrade vs. Zhang,” including heaps of news and notes, check out our comprehensive event archive right here.