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UFC 248 Fighter Profile – Zhang Weili

Will the road to strawweight gold remain through Hebei, China this weekend?

Photo Credit: Erik Vercuzdo - Las Vegas Review-Journal

A history maker regardless of result this weekend in ‘Sin City’. Chinese native, Zhang ‘Magnum’ Weili looks to extend an already impressive legacy – as she tackles the division’s greatest ever champion. Last August on home soil – Weili managed to finish champion, Jéssica Andrade inside forty seconds – becoming the first mixed-martial-artist from Asia to carry Octagon gold. As title challenges go – it was rather comfortable for Weili, as she clipped the Brazilian in an opening-frame firefight.

In the co-main event of UFC 248 – Weili meets Joanna Jędrzejczyk in her first attempted title defence – and most definitely the sternest challenge of her almost picture-perfect career. The heavy-hitting striker and accomplished grappler is pitted against one of the best all-round standup-specialist the roster has to offer. The Hebei native has managed other Octagon wins over Tecia Torres, Jessica Aguilar, and Danielle Taylor since her Octagon debut back in 2018 – but Jędrzejczyk certainly represents her most dangerous threat to date.

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With Weili – the striking ability is most certainly prevalent in terms of power for the division – but she really poses a threat to Joanna with her often underrated offensive grappling. The Hebei native has submitted previous foe, Jessica Aguilar, with a taught armbar in the UFC – adding to her previous six submission triumphs. Many point to Weili’s stoppage over Andrade recently, but I believe there’s more to that finish than initially meets the eye.

A fantastic performance nonetheless – Weili manages to stop the incumbent champion in just forty-two seconds. From the opening exchange, it was clear we had a firefight on our hands. Weili tags Andrade early – and with the typical Brazilian Chute Box style, Andrade looks to fire back right away, and subsequently gets clipped. Taking nothing away from her performance, but the possibility for Jędrzejczyk to fire back as aggressively as Andrade did is simply unlikely.

In the opening stages of her title challenge against Andrade – we also see the utilisation of calf kicks from Weili. If she can find range and chop the lead leg of Joanna while the Pole gauges timing for the opening two frames – it gives the China native a huge advantage once Jędrzejczyk gets comfortable in this fight. Failure to set an early pace during the opening round or two from Weili causes some concern for me given Joanna’s expertise at dictating the pace for the three remaining rounds.

Weili has only dropped one professional defeat in her twenty-one fight career – her professional bow. She’s just five fights deep into her Octagon stint come Saturday night – but we must take a look at her prior competition. The former Kunlun Fight strawweight champion hasn’t faced the sternest competition let’s be perfectly honest. In her fourteenth walk, she welcomed a 2-0 opponent to battle. In her twelfth professional fight, she faced a 4-0 competitor.

Alas, you can only face the next opponent standing opposite you – but Joanna Jędrzejczyk presents the most legitimate threat to Weili’s seven-year undefeated streak. She’s certainly the most posied striker available to Weili at this moment in the strawweight ranks, while the Hebei native poses a huge challenge both in terms of stature and ability to stop the fight with a single strike. Conceivably – this pairing is one of the best stylistic options the promotion can make at 115-pounds today.

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