Post-Fight Thoughts: Weili Zhang -vs- Joanna Jędrzejczyk
Although I correctly picked the winner of this fight, I feel somewhat embarrassed because I did not give this fight the respect I should have. I just took this bout for granted as a title fight with 2 very gifted athletes, but nothing more — just your average UFC title fight. Instead, what Weili Zhang and Joanna Jędrzejczyk delivered was nothing short of a near-lock for Fight Of The Year.
From the first to the final bell, both women just teed off on each other. Joanna was very successful with her jab, landing frequently but with significantly less force than her opponent. Zhang was firing back, landing with noticeably greater power, rocking Joanna on several occasions — although failing to score any knockdowns. Both women accumulated a lot of facial damage, although Joanna got the worst of it by a huge margin, as her head was rendered a smashed mess of hematomas and a broken nose.
The fight was incredibly close, but I felt Zhang was the definitive winner. The official stats had Joanna outstriking Zhang 186 to 165, but the latter did a lot more damage and maintained a similar volume. Zhang was only able to complete a single takedown and was unable to do anything with it; Joanna's takedown defence was up to its usual elite level. The clinch battle was essentially dead even, which is why the fight was 99% a kickboxing match. Weili's outright refusal to be bullied or put on the backfoot proved, once again, to be the proper foil to Joanna's style. The former champion was unable to bully Zhang and it blunted what success she did have.
This was a star-making performance for Weili Zhang, who defeated the division's most accomplished fighter and ex-champion. Joanna Jędrzejczyk endured a tough loss but seemed to take it in stride, her post-fight reaction should go a long way to offset her racially insensitive pre-fight taunting. Even in losing, Joanna was fiercely competitive throughout the whole fight — this wasn't domination by any means. Obviously this fight will exact some kind of physical toll, but I didn't think Joanna was washed before this fight and and I didn't see anything to make me reconsider that position.
I would love to see a rematch between Zhang and Jędrzejczyk, but not right away. First off, both women need a long break to recover from such a brutal contest. I would expect Zhang will face either Rose Namajunas or Jessica Andrade next, although the UFC does prioritise their maintaining their schedule over booking fights that make sense so it's possible they just run this one back anyway. I think it would be foolish and extremely greedy; in a perfect world, Zhang retains in her next defence and Joanna rolls through a tune-up fight before they do the rematch.
This was an incredible fight to watch, and easily one of the best I have ever seen. Even 12 hours later, I still can't think of an MMA fight that went 25 minutes and has as much back-and-forth action as this one. My only concern with a rematch is that the likelihood of it being anywhere near as good as this fight is incredibly small, but I am not averse to them trying. This was also a big moment for women's MMA, with this fight serving as a marker for a new high watermark for female athletes as well as the sport in general. This was truly some next level stuff.
Published: March 8th, 2020.