LAS VEGAS — Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk put themselves through the ringer Saturday night at UFC 248. In the end, the champion prevailed.
Weili (21-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) and Jedrzejczyk (16-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) stood toe to toe for five rounds, exchanging strikes and not backing down in a bout that will go down as an all-time classic, resulting in Weili winning by split decision to retain her strawweight title.
By the end of it, Jedrzejczyk was nearly unrecognizable with a bad hematoma causing her entire forehead to swell.
Jedrzejczyk opened the fight by, as promised, using a lot of movement to avoid Weili’s aggression and power. She worked well behind the jab, while Weili attacked with low kicks. The strikes came fast and furious from each side as Weili worked the body, and Jedrzejczyk teed off with combinations. Weili landed her best punch with roughly 90 seconds remaining, but Jedrzejczyk seemed to take it well and continued to fire back.
The action picked up where it left off to begin the second round. The output of both fighters was absurdly high, but Jedrzejczyk seemed to be more composed and accurate in her approach against Weili’s power shots. Weili went for the first takedown of the fight, but Jedrzejczyk shrugged it off, answered with some knees in the clinch, then evaded. Weili landed a huge punch that staggered her opponent, but Jedrzejczyk managed to shake off the cobwebs and do some work to make up the deficit of Weili’s big moment.
The leg kicks from Jedrzejczyk seemingly took a toll on Weili going into the third round. The movement and output slowed, which allowed Jedrzejczyk to pick up the pace and find her range on a less mobile target. Jedrzejczyk landed some very good strikes, both as the aggressor and the counter-striker, and Weili knew she needed something to change. Weili attempted to grapple in the final two minutes, but Jedrzejczyk’s takedown defense couldn’t be penetrated and she ended the round in striking range, but Jedrzejczyk developed a gruesome hematoma on her forehead.
With the momentum seemingly on Jedrzejczyk’s side going into the championship rounds, Weili did not appear deterred. She continued to be aggressive, but Jedrzejczyk showed to be more technical both offensively and defensively. Weili certainly found her openings, landing clean punches. Jedrzejczyk’s chin continued to hold up, though, and the pace of the fight was perfectly suiting her style. She found a strong groove going into the final round, despite having a disturbing amount of bruising on her face.
With the title hanging in the balance, both fighters came out determined to put an exclamation mark on the fifth round. Jedrzejczyk stayed true to her game plan despite awful damage to her face, stepping in the pocket and engaging Weili in a firefight. Weili’s straight punches did her well, but Jedrzejczyk appeared to be more than comfortable with the power and landed some shots that had Weili briefly on some shaky legs. Weili wouldn’t go way, though, and answered back. They kept at it down the home stretch, both landing clean to cap off an incredible 25-minute championship fight.
“We are all martial artists here,” Weili said through an interpreter in her post-fight interview. “We want to set an example for the kids. Thank you everyone.”
The women’s strawweight title bout was the UFC 248 co-main event at T-Mobile Arena. It aired on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+.
Sources from: USA Today