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Is Joanna Jędrzejczyk ready for Weili Zhang?

02 Jan 2020

Weili Zhang is making her first return to the octagon since winning the UFC women's strawweight championship belt in her home nation of China, in Shenzen back in August.

Going up against the former and once-dominant Polish national Joanna Jędrzejczyk, I've got to say I'm absolutely pulling for Zhang in this bout. I have no doubt in my mind Zhang has this fight in the bag; she put on a blistering onslaught against Jéssica Andrade when she engaged with her in the pocket. The succession of knees after sitting into a big right hand that caught Andrade coming in spoke to what she can do with one punch and how she can pile it on when she sensed Andrade in danger. Bonus against a dangerous opponent who'd given Rose Namajunes a concussion that's sidelined her for some time.

She brings power to the game that Jędrzejczyk won't be able to match, and whilst Joanna's use of her reach and ability to keep the fight at range with a strong arsenal owes to her World Championship level Muay Thai, hasn't finished an opponent in the octagon since 2015.

On a personal level, I'm hoping Zhang can get Jędrzejczyk out so Namajunes can get back in there and have a good clean fight against the new champion. Namajunes was at the forefront of lot of psychological bullshit from Joanna in the build up to their first fight and remained stoic throughout. That could be put down to Joanna's lack of confidence in getting the fight won when the octagon door closed, but if it was it did her no favours. Namajunes got a massive first round KO on the Pole and handed her her first career loss in MMA.

Fair play to Joanna, who would then go on to lose again to Namajunes - an instant rematch (well deserved as a truly dominant champion) - by decision, but kept the levels of competition high taking on Krygyzstan's Valentina Shevchenko for a vacant UFC women's flyweight title. Again, losing a decision.

It just seems like the UFC women's strawweight division has had some top talent injected into in Weili Zhang and that she brings something fierce to the game that might stretch Joanna thin and bring out some top competition from Namajunes.

Joanna's antics leading up to the fight might be interesting to observe, as the cognitive dissonance she employs between her unique brand of humility and trying to psyche her opponents begin to take shape - either way, she'll have to employ aggressive tactics in the octagon if she's going to diminish what Zhang brings to the table.