By: Jesse Donathan
In the minds of many, Asia is the birth place of martial arts as we know it today. With China being the home to kung fu and birth place of the mixed martial arts visionary Bruce Lee, it’s only natural the world’s premiere MMA organization takes steps to break into one of the largest martial arts markets in the world. UFC Fight Night 157 is scheduled to take place Saturday, August 31, 2019 live on ESPN+ at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China at 6 am EST. The main event will feature a UFC strawweight title fight between the champion Jessica Andrade (20-6, 7 KOs) and China’s own Weili “Magnum” Zhang (19-1, 9 KOs).
Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade claimed the UFC strawweight title by slamming the former 115-pound champion Rose Namajunas into unconsciousness at UFC 237 back in May of this year. It was a fight that saw Andrade get thoroughly out kickboxed on her feet, with “Bate Estaca” at times resembling a punching bag as she plodded forward ever so slightly, pressing the attack, but doing little in terms of offense beside catching leather with her face.
Namajunas looked good on her feet while Andrade stayed determined and disciplined, with early indications of Andrade’s ultimate game plan showcasing themselves in the first with two slam attempts against the defending champion. Though it was a clear 10-9 round for the champion Namajunas, in retrospect, it was a harbinger of things to come.
In between rounds, Andrade’s corner could be heard commending their fighter for sticking to the game plan and commenting that Namajunas was tiring in a small glimpse of how championship teams strategically plot their way to victory. In the second round, Andrade would come out noticeably more aggressive as she chased the champion around the cage; it would go on for some time like this with Namajunas exerting quite a bit of effort in circling out to create distance, keeping the aggressive Andrade off of her who was pressing the action like white on rice.
Namajunas would again find Andrade on the end of her punches, although the Brazilian showed relentless aggression in attempting to close the distance. Eventually the Brazilian’s game plan in tiring the fleet of foot Namajunas out would succeed, as the reigning champion was found with nowhere to run with her back against the cage, enabling Andrade to pick to her opponent up into the air and slam Namajunas on her head, knocking the now former champion unconscious and bringing yet another UFC championship title back home to Brazil.
It is clear Andrade possesses the ability to force her will upon her opponents in order to create the situations necessary to ultimately execute the game plan she and her team have pulled from their offensive play book. She is an intelligent fighter who can compete anywhere the fight may find itself with a nearly even spread between TKO, submission and decision victories in her professional mixed martial arts career.
While Weili Zhang may have 19 straight mixed martial arts victories to her record, she is still a relative new comer to the Octagon, with her first fight with the promotion coming just over a year ago in August of 2018. Since that time, she has rattled off three straight victories as she walks into a championship bout with a 15-time UFC veteran in the champion Jessica Andrade. “Bata Estaca” has faced the superior competition throughout her career and is the vastly more experienced fighter coming into the cage Saturday night despite Zhang having a perceived physical advantage in the size department.
With the biggest test of Zhang’s career just over the horizon, some big names in the world of women’s mixed martial arts (WMMA) have weighed in on this weekend’s coming main event. Current WWE and former UFC superstar Ronda Rousey recently took to social media in praise of the state WMMA and mentioned Zhang by name in her remarks.
“I feel like a proud mama watching how women’s MMA has grown. Women from all walks of life, from all over the world are rising to the challenge and showing the world what it means to fight like a girl. Weili Zhang is a prime example of overcoming adversity – fighting not just through the ranks, but to also get noticed and stand out. I’ve definitely taken notice.”
Anything can and often does happen in the cage. On paper, Zhang is the larger, more powerful competitor in the Octagon and it would naturally be wise to utilize those assets in game planning for championship success. While Zhang does possess the foresight and technical ability to stay mobile in the cage, she is not particularly fleet of foot and does show a propensity to become stationary at times much like a deer stuck in headlights.
With the kind of aggressiveness and pressure Andrade is capable of applying to opponents, it would be wise of Zhang to avoid situations where she is caught flat footed in the cage and thus susceptible to quick, powerful offensive attacks which have the very real possibility of the changing the face of the fight. This is a very winnable matchup for both fighters, it will ultimately come down to a battle of wits in the Octagon in a contest of who can enforce their will and game plan upon the other in the more timely and dominant fashion.
About the author: Jesse Donathan is the UFC correspondent for BoxingInsider.com and owner and editor to MMAPressRoom.com. With over 25-years following mixed martial arts, Jesse’s first published MMA reports were in 2009 and more recently his work can be found at BoxingInsider.com, Boxing.com and FightPost.co.uk. Follow Jesse on Twitter at Jesse Donathan @The_MMAPress and MMA Press Room @MMAPressRoom for his latest published works and current events.