- Jessica Andrade puts her UFC women’s strawweight title on the line in the main event of UFC Fight Night 157.
- Is Weili Zhang ready for a title fight after three UFC bouts?
- Can Andrade prove her title win was not a fluke?
The UFC makes its fifth visit to China and its first trip to Shenzhen when the promotion touches down at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre Stadium for Saturday’s (Aug. 31) UFC Fight Night 157 fight card. In the main event, UFC women’s strawweight titleholder Jessica Andrade puts her 115-pound title on the line against Weili Zhang.
The main card of UFC Fight Night 157 streams on ESPN+ at 6:00 AM ET following prelims on ESPN, which begin at 3:00 AM ET.
ANDRADE VS ZHANG MONEYLINE ODDS
|Fighter||Odds (as of Aug. 26)|
Andrade was on a three-fight winning streak heading into UFC 237. In the main event of that May fight card, she entered her matchup against defending women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas as the favorite. The first five minutes of that contest did not go well for Andrade. Namajunas fought what was probably the best five minutes of her career in that round.
Things looked bleak for Andrade heading into the second stanza and then, halfway into that round, Namajunas locked on a kimura grip in the clinch. Andrade then lifted her opponent into the air. Namajunas mistakenly held onto the arm and Andrade slammed her to the mat. The impact knocked out Namajunas and gave the fight — and title — to Andrade.
Zhang joined the UFC in August 2018. At the time she was on a 16-fight winning streak. A year later, she has won 19 fights in a row after going 3-0 with the promotion. Zhang entered her most recent contest as the No. 15 ranked strawweight. She faced the No. 7 ranked Tecia Torres in that matchup. Zhang dominated the fight with her spinning techniques, takedowns and leg kicks, winning by unanimous decision. Zhang is now ranked No. 6 in the 115-pound division.
Andrade has faced some criticism regarding her win over Namajunas. Some of that is because of how dominant Namajunas was in the first round. Still more of that criticism is due to how the fight ended. The thinking there being that Namajunas lost the bout more than Andrade won the contest. Former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping went so far as to call the victory, “kind of a fluke.” I suspect Andrade will want to answer her critics with a dominant performance in China.
The pressure facing Zhang is that she is only three fights into her UFC career. That brief run might have her being looked at as the recipient of an undeserved title shot due to this fight card taking place in her native country. This fight is her opportunity to prove that she is not the beneficiary of a handout. Let’s not forget, Andrade faced that same criticism when she got her first shot at the UFC 115-pound title after three wins in the division. Andrade lost that 2017 bout to then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk by decision.
ANDRADE VS ZHANG TALE OF THE TAPE
|Jessica Andrade||Category||Weili Zhang|
|6.55||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||5.49|
|5.13||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||2.17|
|3.22||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||1.78|
|0.5||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.9|
Andrade is a pressure fighter. She attacks, looks to force her opponent to the fence and then unload with combinations. The problem with that approach is if her opponent has height and reach advantages, that foe can stop the attack with counters, especially with kicks and jabs. Andrade is very active with her striking attacks, but she also absorbs a large number of significant strikes.
The one thing the current champ did well against Namajunas was damage her lead leg. Andrade is also incredibly strong. That power allows her to score takedowns and force her opponent to the mat where she can use ground strikes or submissions to end the contest.
The thing that stands out about Zhang is her poise, composure and willingness to test herself against ever tougher competition.
The thing that stands out about Zhang is her poise, composure and willingness to test herself against ever tougher competition. She has shown good striking skills and she used kicks and spinning attacks to keep Torres away in her most recent outing.
Zhang is three inches taller than Andrade and that might allow her to keep the champ at distance. That is imperative if she hopes to win. I expect Zhang’s camp will have her ready for the aggressive style of Andrade. However, this is by far the biggest test of Zhang’s career, so it will be interesting to see just how prepared she is for a fighter such as Andrade.
There’s a lot to like about this high-pressure fight and it’s a tough one to pick. Andrade has the resume, but Zhang has shown that despite her lack of UFC experience, she could be a real threat to the title. If this fight were in Brazil I wouldn’t hesitate to pick the champion, but the fact that it takes place in Zhang’s home country of China is what I think gives her the edge.
If this fight were in Brazil I wouldn’t hesitate to pick the champion, but the fact that it takes place in Zhang’s home country of China is what I think gives her the edge.
She has to do some traveling to get to Shenzhen, but not nearly as far as Andrade will have to travel. When you add in the fact that the start time will be for the local market, that’s another strike against Andrade. The third strike is that while Andrade will have a chip on her shoulder because of the way she won the belt, Zhang will have a definite home-field advantage in this one. I’m going with the underdog on this one. I think Zhang will be the first Chinese champion in UFC history.
Pick: Zhang (+130)