Zhang Weili wins China’s first UFC title in stunning style
Zhang Weili thrilled a Chinese home crowd with an upset knockout of UFC strawweight champion Jessica Andrade that took just 41 seconds Saturday, making her China’s first champion in the world’s biggest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion.
The experienced Andrade, who came into the fight tied for the most wins by a woman in UFC history with 11, charged the underdog Zhang from the start.
But the Brazilian ran into a barrage of punches and knee kicks from Zhang that sent her staggering to the canvas as the referee waved the fight over.
“Last year in Beijing I vowed to become the first Chinese champion, and I did it!” Zhang, 30, declared afterwards at the UFC Fight Night event in a sports arena in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
Zhang was the first Chinese fighter to even get a title shot from the UFC, which is pushing hard into a Chinese market where interest in MMA is growing rapidly.
The decision had raised some eyebrows as Zhang was only the sixth-ranked strawweight in the world, and given Andrade’s reputation for brutally seeing off opponents.
Andrade has six years’ experience in the UFC and was coming off a crushing first-round title victory in May over then-champ Rose “Thug” Namajunas of the United States.
But Zhang, who is known for her ferocious buzzsaw attacking style, never allowed Andrade to get going.
“As a Chinese person, I feel so proud,” she said.
“Today, I want to dedicate this victory to the 70th anniversary of the motherland,” she added, referring to the approaching anniversary on October 1 of the founding of Communist-ruled China.
Zhang has now won all four of her UFC fights, and has a 20-fight winning streak in all competitions.
She moves to 20-1, with that single loss coming in her first MMA bout in 2013.
Zhang trained in martial arts as a child but was inspired to enter MMA by the success of pioneering former women’s world champion Ronda Rousey, who dominated the sport for years.
The Zhang-Andrade bout was the third time this year that female fighters had topped the card at an event staged by the UFC, with one more on the horizon before the end of 2019.
Earlier this year, the UFC opened what it bills as the world’s largest MMA training and development base in Shanghai.
The center is aimed at building the UFC brand in China and at nurturing the next generation of Chinese mixed martial arts fighters, who can now draw inspiration from Zhang’s victory.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.