The UFC has its first Chinese champion and a brand-new star in a crucial market.
Performing in her home country, Zhang Weili destroyed Jessica Andrade with a barrage of blows at the very outset and Andrade was not able to recover. The TKO finish came at just 42 seconds of the first round in the main event of UFC Shenzhen. Zhang became the first UFC champion from China and only the second UFC titleholder ever born in Asia. It was the second-fastest stoppage in UFC strawweight history.
“My name is Zhang Weili!” Zhang said afterward in English. “I’m from China. Remember me!”
Andrade crowded Zhang early and got hit with several nasty combinations for her efforts. Zhang landed a big right elbow in the clinch, then a huge right cross that wobbled Andrade.
When she saw Andrade in trouble, Zhang poured it on. She landed more elbows and multiple hard knees to the body in the clinch. When Andrade separated, Zhang followed up with more punches and referee Leon Roberts had to step in to stop it.
Zhang came in ranked No. 6 in the UFC’s official strawweight rankings. She is the second-lowest-ranked women’s fighter to win a UFC title after Holly Holm (No. 7) when she beat Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in 2015.
Zhang (20-1) has won 20 straight fights, including all four of her UFC bouts. She has not lost since her pro MMA debut in 2013. Zhang, 30, has finished two of those four UFC victories and 17 of her 20 wins overall.
China has been a focal point as the UFC continues to expand internationally. In June, the promotion opened up a $13 million, 93,000-square-foot Performance Institute in Shanghai, where it hopes to develop talent in the region. Now, the UFC has a champion in Zhang who can help it secure a foothold in the country.
Andrade (20-7) had a four-fight winning streak snapped. The Brazilian slugger won the title by beating Rose Namajunas via slam knockout at UFC 237 in April. This was her first title defense. Andrade, 27, is 7-2 in the UFC strawweight division after moving down from bantamweight and is tied for the most wins among women in UFC history.
“I wasn’t able to perform as I wish, but hopefully I get a chance to fight her again somewhere else or here in China,” Andrade said through an interpreter.
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