Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk put on a thrilling fight tied together by an emotional retirement. Jedrzejczyk announced she was stepping away from mixed martial arts after suffering a highlight-reel knockout loss to Zhang at UFC 275.
Zhang vs. Jedrzejczyk is a recipe for thrilling violence, simple as that. Their first fight at UFC 248 ranks as one of the greatest fights in history regardless of gender. Their rematch on Saturday night was contested at the same remarkable pace.
Jedrzejczyk looked sharp on the feet in Round 1, dropping Zhang with a leg kick early. Zhang took complete control of the fight once she engaged in grappling, however. Zhang wrapped up Jedrzejczyk against the fence and mauled her with strikes. The Chinese powerhouse scored multiple takedowns and punished Jedrzejczyk with ground-and-pound. It looked momentarily like the referee might step in as Zhang reigned blows from full mount. Jedrzejczyk rejected the idea and scrambled to freedom. Jedrzejczyk landed a big blow in the closing seconds, but Zhang caught a kick and dumped Jedrzejczyk to cap off the frenetic first five minutes.
Zhang landed with impactful body shots early in Round 2 that had Jedrzejczyk sucking in wind. Jedrzejczyk shucked off a takedown attempt from Zhang but ate a stiff one-two combination. Jedrzejczyk stepped in and Zhang clobbered her with a spinning backfist. Jedrzejczyk face planted and Zhang walked away, sending the crowd into a frenzy. The knockout finish came officially at 2:28 of Round 2, a more definitive conclusion than Zhang's split decision win in 2020.
"I'm very, very happy about this fight. I told myself that I would use all my techniques to beat my opponent and I did," Zhang, through an interpreter, told Daniel Cormier in the post-fight interview. "I was very, very calm and relaxed for this fight. I told myself that I was not fighting Joanna, I was fighting myself."
Zhang (22-3) challenged UFC women's strawweight champion Carla Esparza to a title fight in neutral territory in Abu Dhabi. Zhang also expressed her admiration for Jedrzejczyk, saying that Jedrzejczyk passed the torch to her and that one day Zhang would pass it on to someone else.
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Jedrzejczyk (16-5) also spoke with Cormier post-fight. The former strawweight champion confessed that her head was still ringing as she announced her retirement from the sport.
"Dana White, UFC, I'm so sorry I let you down," Jedrzejczyk said in tears. "It's been 20 years. I'm turning 35 this year. I want to be a mom. I want to be a businesswoman. I've been training for two decades. More than half of my life. I appreciate you all. I love you guys. I love you DC."
UFC president White previously stated that the winner of Zhang vs. Jedrzejczyk 2 will fight Esparza for the strawweight title. Jedrzejczyk retires as an acclaimed former champion. She successfully defended her strawweight crown five times against Jessica Andrade, Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Claudia Gadehla, among others.