UFC 248: Zhang Retains Against Jedrzejczyk In An Instant Classic

On the same night Jon Jones v. Alexander Gustafsson from UFC 165 was announced it would enter the UFC Hall of Fame, another bout made its case for that honor. In one of the greatest bouts in women’s MMA history, Weili Zhang defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 to retain her UFC Strawweight Title. The judges scored the bout a split decision (48–47, 47–48, 48–47) for Zhang.

“It was a great performance,” Zhang stated after the fight. “We’re all martial artists here. We don’t want any trash-talk here in the octagon. We want mutual respect. We’re all martial artists, we all want to set an example for the kids. We are the champions.”

If you missed the contest that took place inside the T-Moble Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, words don’t do it justice. Both fighters put it all on the line, as their literal blood, sweat and tears painted the octagon. In Zhang’s (21-1) first title defense and her first time in championship rounds, the UFC’s first-ever Chinese champion had a tough task against the former Strawweight Queen in Joanna. Many were wondering if Zhang was the real deal. On a 2-3 run prior to this bout, however, what kind of Joanna would we see?

It turns out, both were extremely motivated to prove doubters wrong.

Throughout the entire bout, both warriors were striking one another with such precision. Joanna (16-4) used her distance and reach advantage to strike frequently, as she has been known to do. Zhang, however, was able to throw counter punches and when they landed, it hurt. You could see Joanna’s eye feeling the effects. At the end of round one, you could already tell we had something special on our hands.

By round two, Zhang was utilizing her kicks to smack the chest of Joanna. Both were starting to get creative and landed a plethora of shots. Joanna tried some leg kicks of her own. Both ended up in the clinch and were striking one another with elbows. Zhang tried the first takedown of the night, but Joanna, like most of the night, was able to power through. Known for her power, which was on display during media workouts earlier in the week, Zhang landed vicious rights to Joanna.

Round three is where we realized where this fight would be in the history books.

Zhang’s coach carried her to her corner, but she seemed OK. For as much reach as Joanna had, Zhang pressed forward and would not budge. Zhang utilized keg kicks that were starting to swell up Joanna’s leg. That wasn’t the only thing that was swelling up for Joanna, as she suffered from a huge hematoma on her forehead.

Round three ended with a series of rights and leg kicks that wowed the crowd with each shot.

Rounds four and five were going to be tricky for Zhang, who never entered the championship rounds before. While she did falter at times, as a result of Joanna being used to the extra time while champion, Zhang was starting to feel the pressure. Both were exchanging with shots that continued to have the crowd on their feet. They then moved around one another across the cage, looking for any sort of advantage. Joanna, with her hematoma growing and Zhang bleeding from the face, were ready to go for one more round.

The fifth round started right away with Joanna’s nose appearing to be broken from a shot by Weili. Joanna returned the favor with a few left hooks that rocked Zhang, but the champion kept on pressing forward. The round ended with a spinning back fist by Joanna after Zhang missed a spinning kick.

The fight could have gone either way, but it was Zhang, who Dana White has pushed to the moon, who walked out the winner.

“She (Zhang) did great,” Joanna stated after the fight. “Congrats champ, I’m very happy that we gave you a good fight. We both put on a hell of a performance.”

Here’s something extremely interesting about this fight: Joanna and Zhang matched with one another when it came to significant strikes in three rounds. Round one saw both hit 30, 38 in round three and 40 in round four. In total, Zhang landed 165-of-408 significant strikes (170 total) while Joanna landed 186-of-350 (196 total).

Zhang is now 5-0 in the UFC. There were concerns of her even making it to the event due to the coronavirus affecting her travel schedule. Dealing with adversity, Zhang managed to do it all. As for Joanna, she is 2-4 in her last six fights. It is unknown what the UFC has in store for the pride of Poland.

On the eve of International Women’s Day, both fighters put on a performance that will never be duplicated. It goes beyond women’s MMA. Joanna and Weili stole the show, and could be in the running for Fight of the Year, perhaps even Fight of the Decade.

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