In March of 2020, UFC 248 was headlined by a middleweight championship fight between Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero. However, it was the women in the pay-per-view’s co-main event slot who stole the show.
That night’s epic strawweight title fight between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Weili Zhang was the bout that had fans throughout the MMA community buzzing the next day.
Weili Zhang took the UFC by storm after becoming the promotion’s first Chinese-born champion in 2019. She was riding a dominant 20-fight winning streak going into her first title defense against Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248, and oddsmakers had her as a slight betting favorite that evening.
On the other hand, Jedrzejczyk was the UFC’s first ever strawweight champion, who was looking to regain the title against Zhang. Jedrzejczyk, a world champion kickboxer before transitioning to MMA, had won a division-best six consecutive title fights before losing her belt in an upset loss in 2017.
The fight between Jedrzejczyk and Zhang was one that UFC President Dana White was talking about for weeks leading up to UFC 248—and it still exceeded expectations.
The pair had the third most significant strikes landed in UFC history for a single bout, totaling 351 significant strikes in five rounds. Jedrzejczyk landed slightly more strikes than Zhang, ending the fight with 196 total strikes to Zhang’s 170.
But what she lacked in volume, Zhang made up for in power. At the end of round two, the accumulation of strikes caused a tennis-ball sized hematoma on Jedrzejczyk’s forehead.
By the end of the fight, both fighters were virtually unrecognizable. Jedrzejczyk’s hematoma had swelled up even more and seemed to consume her whole forehead, while Zhang’s right eye was almost swollen shut.
The razor-close title fight ended up going all five rounds, and the judges ultimately awarded the win to Zhang in a split decision.
“I was pretty sure I got [the victory],” Zhang said through a translator in her postfight interview, ESPN reported. “It was a great performance. We are all martial artists here. We don’t want trash talking. We want mutual respect.”
At the post-fight press conference, Dana White praised both fighters for their incredible performances.
“It’s one of the best fights I’ve ever seen, period,” White said. “Right when the fight got over, I heard that they threw 800 punches, 400 each, in that ballpark. Both women were incredibly durable, kept coming forward, both of them wanted to win that belt so bad. It was one of the greatest fights ever.”
The war between Zhang and Jedrzejczyk easily earned “Fight of the Night” honors. Despite taking place in early March, some are calling it a lock for 2020’s Fight of the Year.
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