Zhang Weili outlasted Joanna Jedrzejczyk to retain UFC strawweight title in epic battle at UFC 248: Adesanya vs. Romero on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
After winning the strawweight title and defending it on five occasions, Jedrzejczyk used to be known as the division’s queen. After she lost the belt, Zhang arrived on the scene, adding four consecutive UFC victories and the strawweight title to her resume, which now stands at 21-1.
Jedrzejczyk wanted nothing more than to add reclaiming the UFC title to her legacy, while Zhang was looking to add Jedrzejczyk to her hit list as she makes her own mark on history. As it happened, they both left a mark in the history books.
Before the fight, Jedrzejczyk said, “The queen is back, the strawweight queen is back,” promising to reclaim the belt. Zhang promised not to let the fight go the distance.
Jedrzejczyk did not reclaim the belt, Weili did not end the fight. Instead, we were treated to one of the greatest championship fights, if not one of the great fights period, in UFC history.
Yes, there was some trash talk leading up to the fight; some tense moments, but when it came to blows, both of these athletes left everything they had in the Octagon.
Jedrzejczyk opened strong in the first three rounds, only to have Weili keep storming back in the latter half of each round. Though there were a couple takedowns, this was primarily a brutal kickboxing match.
Jedrzejczyk was the more fluent fighter with her technique, but Weili’s power and aggression more than evened out the fight. Jedrzejczyk outstruck the champion in number, but the turn of the corner came in round three when Weili struck and unleashed what instantly became a massive hematoma that spanned her opponent's forehead.
“This was bothering me. (I tried to fight through it), but it was getting more and more swollen,” Jedrzejczyk told Joe Rogan after the fight.
Rounds four and five were new territory for Weili, but she came through them with flying colors. No, this isn’t where she blew Jedrzejczyk out of the water. Far from it. This is where Weili proved her championship mettle and where Jedrzejczyk once again proved why, even in defeat, she is still one of the greatest champions in UFC history.
Weili and Jedrzejczyk only stepped up their respective games in the championship rounds, a blur of striking between them. Weili landing a crushing left hook that sent Jedrzejczyk’s nose sideway; Jedrzejczyk lighting up Weili with a left-right punch combination followed by an inside kick that nearly took out the champion’s legs.
And they didn’t stop until the final horn sounded. Both women were bloodied, bruised, contorted and distorted.
The judges awarded Zhang Weili a split decision, two of them scoring it 48-47 for her, the other scoring it the same in Jedrzejczyk’s favor.
Yes, there was a loser, but there was no shame in the outcome for either woman. Both of them proved themselves as championship athletes of the highest order, and hopefully, for us, we will see them fight again… and often.