Zhang Weili is a precise, focused, powerful, confident, 23-3-0, current UFC Strawweight Champion. If you haven’t already, give up a few minutes of your life to watch a video of her training. Even if you’re not a fan, you won’t be able to help enjoying how tenacious she is during her practice and recognizing how that persistence in training translates to her live fights. What I especially like is that she prepares to fight her specific opponent so well.
She took out striker Johanna Jędrzejczyk with expert striking. She won against Carla Esparza with grappling in the UFC 281 co-main event at Madison Square Garden, taking back her champion title.
The second fight she won against Johanna Jędrzejczyk is considered by many to be one the best fights, male or female, of all time. It was a great night of exciting, and sometimes shocking, MMA. All five rounds the fighters were active until the very end.
Unquestionably, Weili is an amazing fighter and disciplined athlete, yet after that exciting match she went on to lose to Rose Namajunas (a second time), after taking an exact and powerful head kick at the start of the fight. We know Zhang prepares and we know she is fast, (clearly Rose was faster), so back to those training videos…
I agree with one post fight comment I read that said she was ’pretty fixed and needed more fluidity’. To compete with Rose’s style she probably does need to stay more “loose” in her upper body and lighter on her feet. I also agree with her fans that she fights with power and strength.
So while more fluidity in her style could be advantageous for this one opponent, the other hand is that a tank is really excellent and effective at being a tank. Zhang Weili is just that. She is strong, hit’s hard and is hard to take down. Her statistics support what we are seeing. When it comes to Weili and Namajunas as opponents, it may simply be a question of the way their specific fight styles come together?
Who does the champion fight next?
While it would be refreshing to see some new opponents come up for Weili, it may not be in the near future. Another fight Jessica Andrade, who is fighting in January against Lauren Murphy in UFC 283 is being wondered about, and it would be like watching 2 mountains collide, so I’m not mad about it. They have both notably matured in their grappling and strength. A third fight with Rose was thrown out at the post fight press conference following UFC 281, which could showcase how Zhang has adapted her strategy and striking style, or could end in a humiliating third loss. Namajunas doesn’t play around in the cage.
Whoever she is matched with next I hope for nothing more than a night of good MMA.