Chicago’s Jessica McCaskill is the New Face in Women’s Boxing
By: Rich Lopez
This past weekend in boxing, there was a passing of the torch. The highlight of this weekend was in the women’s welterweight division. Jessica “CasKILLA” McCaskill (9-2, 3 KO’s) of Chicago, defeated Cecilia “First Lady” Braekhus (36-1, 9 KO’s) of Norway.
It has been a long journey for McCaskill since the beginning of her career up until now. McCaskill, is a two-time Golden Gloves winner. She made big waves in boxing in her first title shot in 2017. In her seventh professional bout, she challenged the undefeated Katie Taylor over in London. McCaskill came up short in the fight and lost a unanimous decision, but gave the undefeated Taylor all she could handle. Due to her effort, McCaskill was given another opportunity at a title shot in her hometown of Chicago in 2018. McCaskill moved up to the super lightweight division and challenged Argentina’s Erica Anabella Farias for the WBC title. McCaskill made the most of this opportunity and won a ten round unanimous decision to win the world title. McCaskill had a phenomenal 2019. She added the WBA title in a unification bout by defeating Anahi Sanchez. Then she defeated Erica Anabella Farias in a rematch to end the year.
McCaskill is true fighter and has overcame all obstacles. She was once homeless in her childhood and she got through that. In suffering an early defeat in her career, she was able to become a world ranked fighter. After her loss to Katie Taylor, she became a world champion. Now, she is a two weight world champion. Her opponent this past Saturday was considered the best female fighter in the game today. Cecilia Braekhus had been a world champion for an astonishing eleven years and the undisputed welterweight champion for six years.
Despite being a 5 to 1 underdog, McCaskill solved the puzzle and defeated Braekhus. McCaskill along with her trainer Rick Ramos had a good game plan and they executed the plan. Throughout ten rounds, it was a tough competitive fight from start to finish. Both fighters had their moments in the fight. At the end, the scores were 95-95, 97-93, and 97-94 in favor of McCaskill by majority decision. There was some complaints of the scoring but it was not a robbery. If some fans thought Braekhus won the fight, it would have been a close one. No matter how you felt about the scoring, McCaskill fought her fight. McCaskill was the aggressor and the busier of the two fighters. Even when the two fighters clinched, McCaskill would punch in the inside and work her way out. She took advantage to rough Braekhus up. Braekhus was forced to slug it out with McCaskill and she was not able to keep her distance from the outside as usual. The judges ended up favoring the busy work rate of McCaskill. At the end, both fighters embraced each other and are true class acts.
It has been quite some time since we had a world champion from Chicago, but McCaskill has filled that void now. Not only did she become the Undisputed Welterweight Champion but she is now considered one the best female fighters pound for pound.
Simply put, the win was one of the best accomplishments in women’s boxing. Jessica McCaskill is the new face in women’s boxing.
What’s next for McCaskill?
A rematch between McCaskill and Braekhus could happen or maybe a rematch with Katie Taylor. For now, she can enjoy the moment of being the Undisputed Welterweight Champion. We look forward to her next fight on her incredible journey.
UFC Fight Night 157: Weili Zhang Stops Jessica Andrade to Claim UFC Strawweight Title
By: Jesse Donathan
For many fans in North America, UFC Fight Night 157’s 3 am EST preliminary card start time didn’t exactly tap into the hearts and minds of the mixed martial arts community. With a roster packed full of fighters many casual fans simply have never heard of, more than a few followers of the faith were at home, in the bed, dreaming of next week’s UFC 242 Nurmagomedov vs. Poirier showdown.
It only took Black Tiger Fight Club representative Weili “Magnum” Zhang 42-seconds to become the UFC’s new 115-pound Strawweight Champion in dispatching Jessica Andrade by technical knockout in front of an ecstatic Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre crowd in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China this weekend on ESPN+. It was a historical moment for Zhang and the Chinese people and a potentially lucrative one for the UFC later down the line as Asia’s largest martial arts market was just given a reason to go all in and celebrate.
The fight started off with the pugilists finding each other easily, Zhang landing a pair of inside leg kicks before circling out to re-adjust. Zhang would again work the inside leg kick, flicking her jab out in order to maintain distance and give the advancing Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade something to think about. The two would briefly stand in front of each other and trade shots, the distinct audible sound of punches finding their mark noticeable to those perceptive enough to pick up on it.
Pressing forward, looking for the kill shot, Andrade would recklessly blitz Zhang with her chin up and hands down in an ill-fated attempt to make the challenger fight off of her backfoot in retreat, catching a right hook in the process that rang the now former Brazilian champions bell.
With her back against the cage and a stunned Andrade attempting to catch her bearings, Zhang would land a knee followed up with a number of stinging elbows before securing the Muay Thai clinch and expertly transitioning between repeated knee and elbow strikes to her trapped opponent. In trouble, Andrade would attempt to flee the onslaught with Zhang giving chase in an offensive onslaught reminiscent of Vitor Belfort versus Wanderlei Silva at UFC 17.5 – Ultimate Brazil in 1998.
Chased across the Octagon with Zhang in hot pursuit, it wouldn’t take long before Andrade ran out of real estate and found herself trapped against the fence with “Magnum” looking for the finish. With Andrade helplessly crumbled on the canvas, referee Leon Roberts was forced to intervene, calling a halt to the contest and preventing the former Brazilian champion from taking any further damage in route to Weili Zhang becoming the UFC’s first Chinese champion.
For a country of 1.4-billion people that has a culture that revers martial arts like China, Weili Zhang’s victory at UFC Fight Night 157 has tremendous implications for the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization who recently opened a UFC Performance Institute in Shanghai billed as one of the largest and most advanced in the word.
China is a tremendous financial market for the organization to dip into in their quest to become a global mixed martial arts organization and with Zhang’s victory this past weekend the UFC is well on their way to dominating the Asian market. Weili Zhang offers the Chinese people a foot in the door to the world of mixed martial arts and in the process, it is entirely possible Zhang is on her way to Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor-esk superstar status should she manage to defend the belt for any meaningful period of time.
Following her UFC Fight Night 157 TKO victory, UFC President Dana White expressed an interest to have Zhang fight stateside in the U.S., prompting the newly minted champion to openly discuss the VISA problems many of her cornermen are facing in coming to the United States in a small glimpse of the red tape involved in being a professional mixed martial arts fighter. Not the first or last time such problems have surfaced in MMA, with the obligations facing UFC champions Zhang will likely be operating on a skeleton crew until the problems are ultimately ironed out for good which could take some months or even years in some cases.
UFC Fight Night 157: Jessica Andrade vs. Weili Zhang on ESPN+
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.