Joanna Jedrzejczyk is bidding to become a two-time UFC strawweight champion when she challenges Weili Zhang at UFC 248 on Saturday night, but can she end the Chinese star’s 20-fight win streak and get back the belt she lost over two years ago?
Road To Weili Zhang v Joanna Jedrzejczyk
There was a time when Joanna Jedrzejczyk was considered the baddest woman on the planet, turning back challenger after challenger for her UFC strawweight title, but that incredible aura she had built up over a three-year spell was shattered by a shock defeat in 2017. Few gave Rose Namajunas much hope of beating the Polish fighter and even fewer thought that she could upstage the champion in the stand-up game, but that was exactly what ‘Thug Rose’ did, knocking out Jedrzejczyk in little over three minutes at UFC 217. Namajunas proved the victory was no upset several months later when she took the rematch via unanimous decision – a result that sent Jedrzejczyk to the back of the line of contenders.
Jedrzejczyk rebounded with a decision win over Tecia Torres and in her next outing she attempted to become a two-weight world champion for the first time by stepping up to flyweight to challenge Valentina Shevchenko for the vacant title. Moving up in weight was always going to be a challenge for the Jedrzejczyk and making it even tougher was the fact that here and Shevchenko had history – and it did not favour the challenger. Shevchenko had got the better of Jedrzejczyk in three muay thai fights earlier in their careers so it was no surprise when she dominated the stand-up game for five rounds to get the well-deserved nod from the judges.
With her dream of becoming a two-weight UFC champion in tatters Jedrzejczyk returned to the strawweight ranks for her only fight of 2019 and she got back on track with a comfortable decision victory over Michelle Waterson – a win that earned her a meeting with strawweight champion Weili Zhang at UFC 248.
Zhang is making the first defence of the title she earned last August with a 49-second blitz of Jessica Andrade. Fighting on her home soil she was desperate to put on a show for her fellow countrymen and women, and she did just that by using Andrade’s aggression against her for an emphatic victory. The champion poured forward from the opening bell but got clipped by a counter-right that rocked her and sent the Chinese crowd into a frenzy. Zhang had her opening and she took full advantage to become the first Chinese champion in UFC history, landing punches and knees to send Andrade crumpling to the canvas.
A new champion was crowned and in the process Zhang took her impressive win streak to 20 fights – a sequence that includes four wins inside the Octagon since she signed with the UFC. However, there is no denying that she now faces the toughest test of her professional career in the form of former champion Jedrzejczyk. Can Zhang cement her status as the number one strawweight fighter on the planet with a win here, or will Jedrzejczyk return to the top of the mountain by become a two-time champion? Read on for our free Weili Zhang v Joanna Jedrzejczyk UFC 248 predictions and tips…
Weili Zhang v Joanna Jedrzejczyk UFC 248 Predictions & Tips
Zhang certainly impressed with how clinically she took out Andrade to win the title last year and since arriving in the UFC she has showcased an impressive all-round game that can see her knock people out and make them submit. She is fully deserving of the ‘favourite’ tag that the bookmakers have slapped on her for this one, but for me this is the perfect opportunity to back the underdog and make a little money at the bookies’ expense.
Having gone 2-3 in her last five fights there is no disputing that Jedrzejczyk is in the worst form of her career in terms of results, but this is a woman who has repeatedly shared the Octagon with the best of the best and there was certainly no shame in her most recent defeat against Shevchenko. Zhang, on the other hand, has never faced a fighter on the level that Jedrzejczyk is at and has rarely gone beyond two rounds, so while a 20-fight win streak deserves a great deal of credit, I believe the step up in class will be too much for her here.
Zhang is not going to be taken out quickly and if she can impose her will on the fight and get inside Jedrzejczyk’s range then she could come away with the win, but I am backing the challenger to show why she is one of the finest strikers in all of MMA. Jedrzejczyk will set a relentless pace that Zhang cannot live with for five rounds. She will use her reach advantage and superb striking skills to stay on the outside, avoid the champion’s power and pick her apart to get the nod from the judges.
Zhang v Jedrzejczyk Tips: UFC 248 Fighter Predictions
Joanna Jedrzejczyk talking to BJPENN.com: “She’s the baddest women but I plan on taking back what belongs to me in the strawweight belt. I ran this division for two years and eight months. This will be a perfect night for me. She has never faced someone like me, at the very top. I went through so many five-round battles, wars. I get better with every round and I know she will try and come forward. I need to be smart in this fight to keep the pace and stay calm and make her quit round to round. Make her be tired in there. But, she can knock out people out and the thing is, she’s looking for a submission I think. She’s submitted people and she’s dangerous at everything. I’m going to be prepared for everything.”