Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Strawweight talents Jessica Andrade and Weili Zhang will clash tomorrow morning (Sat., Aug. 31, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 157 from inside Shenzhen Universade Sports Centre Arena in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China.
Since losing to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her 2017 title shot, Andrade has put together one of the best win streaks in her division’s history. She utterly dominated a pair of top five opponents, knocked out another with a rare Strawweight one-punch knockout, and then overcame adversity to slam Rose Namajunas into oblivion (watch it). She could never win another fight — not likely — and still be remembered for this fearsome two year streak. To her credit, Zhang has been pretty perfect as of late as well. In the last five years, the Chinese athlete has won 19 straight fights, including a trio of UFC bouts against an increasing level of competition. “Magnum” is a legitimate challenger, and she’ll get her opportunity to become China’s first champion in her home country.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Rose Namajunas (UFC 237), Claudia Gadelha (UFC Fight Night 117), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC 228), Tecia Torres (UFC on FOX 28), Joanne Calderwood (UFC 205), Angela Hill (UFC Fight Night 104)
Key Losses: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 211), Raquel Pennington (UFC 191), Marion Reneau (UFC Fight Night 61)
Keys to Victory: Andrade is a 115-pound powerhouse. The Brazilian hits damn hard and throws her opponents with complete ease. Her style may be fairly straight forward and a bit predictable, but that doesn’t prevent her from overwhelming opponents with volume and attrition.
Zhang may be the first opponent who can match Andrade’s strength, but I have not yet seen evidence that she can match Andrade’s output. Generally, athletes who rely so much on power tend to require rest regardless of how much work they put towards conditioning. Somehow, Andrade combines insane raw strength with an endless gas tank — that’s not normal, but it is an advantage.
Opposite Zhang, I’d like to see Andrade commit to the body and legs while pursuing. Much like in the Namajunas bout, Zhang should be looking to avoid close range exchanges early, but it’s more difficult to keep the feet moving when the body is under duress. Once Andrade does manage to close the distance, she’ll have the wrestling match that favors her.
Zhang may do well in clinch and wrestling exchanges early, but Andrade is likely to pull ahead over time.
Key Wins: Tecia Torres (UFC 235), Jessica Aguilar (UFC Fight Night 141), Danielle Taylor (UFC 227)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Zhang is a well-rounded fighter whose best attribute is definitely her physicality and athleticism. She has a very skilled lead leg at distance, throwing lots of kicks, but Zhang often does her best work in the clinch and from top position. When Zhang lands elbows and knees from close quarters, her opponents definitely feel the effects.
For the reasons explained above, I do not believe a clinch war favors Zhang. If she winds up in the clinch — somewhat inevitable given Andrade’s winging hooks — it would be better for “Magnum” to slam home a knee to the mid-section and then work to separate.
Zhang’s path to victory in this bout is on the outside. She moves well, kicks hard with good variety, and has shown good counter punching in the past. For all her dangerous offense, Andrade is remarkably easy to hit while she wades forward. Like Namajunas and Jedrzejczyk, Zhang is unlikely to have a difficult time stinging her foe with straight shots at distance.
Here’s the real bottom line when facing Andrade: sticking her with counter shots for a few minutes or a round may be easy enough, but can you do it for 25 minutes? Jedrzejczyk could, Namajunas could not, and their respective outcomes reflected that. Zhang must keep this firmly at the forefront of her mind, otherwise she will eventually lose control of the fight.
Bottom Line: This is an excellent title fight and likely to be a lot of fun. It might even be worth waking up at 4 a.m. to watch!
Andrade just captured the title, and she’s looking to quickly begin defending her crown. Unlike the other three women’s divisions, there are actual a fair few legitimate challengers at 115 pounds. As such, her first defense is a good opportunity to let all those potential foes know that Andrade is going nowhere.
As for Zhang, she’s definitely been given a tremendous opportunity. Prior to Zhang and Song Yadong’s recent success, Chinese fighters have generally done rather poorly inside the Octagon. For Zhang to buck that trend fully and become champion in her home country would be a pretty extraordinary moment — definitely some added pressure and intrigue for this title fight.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 157 fight card right HERE, starting with the ESPN “Prelims” undercard bouts at 3 a.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time of 6 a.m. ET.
At UFC Fight Night 157, Jessica Andrade and Weili Zhang will go to war in the main event. Which woman will leave the cage strapped with gold?