Former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk promised her bid to win the strawweight title from Weili Zhang would be the greatest strawweight title fight in history. It not only cleared that bar, but may well have been the greatest fight in the history of women's mixed martial arts and one of the best title fights in any division in UFC history. In the end, Zhang was able to outlast Jedrzejczyk to take a split decision win in an epic title defense, leaving the champion in tears after the scores were announced in Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena.
By the end of the fight, Zhang was bleeding from the nose with swelling around her eyes while Jedrzejczyk's forehead sported a grotesque hematoma and her nose was twisted out of place. The violence of the fight was obvious, but the technique and pacing from both women over 25 hard-fought minutes was even better.
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Jedrzejczyk spent much of the early fight smiling when the two clashed in striking exchanges, capping off with heavy leg kicks. Zhang threw every strike seemingly with the intention of scoring a knockout, leaving almost every round up in the air on the official scorecards.
Zhang would connect clean to the chin of Jedrzejczyk, snapping the challenger's head to the side only to take a heavy series of strikes from Jedrzejczyk in return. Then, Jedrzejczyk would land a head kick only to take a series of punches in return. Those tunes would play over and over, round after round, whipping the crowd into a frenzy as the shots took clear physical tolls on both women.
After the completion of five back-and-forth rounds, the fight ended up in the hands of the judges, who scored the fight 48-47, 47-48, 48-47, giving Zhang the close split decision victory. Even the champion said she wasn't certain she had done enough to retain her title.
"It took us a long time to get here because of the coronavirus back in our country, everybody knows that," Zhang said through a translator. "It was very serious but we made it. The coronavirus is getting much better. I hope everyone stays together, we come together, we fight together, we can win this. Our country is suffering from a big tragedy right now. We'll fight together and we'll win it."
"I wasn't really sure that I got it, it was a great performance and we're all martial artists here," Zhang said through an interpreter after the fight. "We're artisans, we don't want any trash talk here, we want mutual respect. We want to set a good example for the kids."
For Jedrzejczyk, she took nothing away from Zhang, but said the swelling on her forehead played a big role down the stretch.
"You see my swelling," Jedrzejczyk said following the bout. "She did great. There was something missing but I felt all the punches and the swelling was bothering me. My head was going on and off. Congrats, champ. I'm very happy we had a good fight."