Right after back again-to-back again “Female Fighter of the Year” wins for Amanda Nunes in MMA Junkie’s once-a-year awards, the No. 1 women’s pound-for-pound fighter on the earth took some time off in 2020 to start a loved ones, opening the door for yet another name to ascend to the best of the activity for the earlier calendar yr.
And even though stalwarts this sort of as Bellator women’s featherweight champ Cris Cyborg and UFC women’s flyweight titleholder Valentina Shevchenko each individual built genuine bids for that honor, MMA Junkie finally went in a various course.
The Much East.
Chinese strawweight Zhang Weili (21-1 MMA, 5- UFC) fought just after in 2020, but it also happened to be MMA Junkie’s “Fight of the Yr.” It’s the very first time a women’s fight has attained that award, and the bout is broadly regarded as 1 of the finest UFC title fights of all time.
The UFC strawweight champion defended her title for the initial time at March’s UFC 248, and it arrived against the lady who helped create the division in “The Strawweight Queen,” Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The 5-spherical battle was an epic come upon, superior-paced from commence to end. The two put together to land extra than 350 strikes over the 25-minute encounter.
Jedrzejczyk’s gnarly hematoma will be the lasting image in quite a few people’s minds of this historic clash, but the excitement inside of Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena won’t soon be neglected by everyone in attendance that night. The fight was even on all 3 judges’ scorecards heading into the fifth round, and the two females pressed on as a single would hope with a UFC belt on the line. In the stop, judges Michael Bell and Derek Cleary awarded Weili the final spherical, therefore handing her a split determination win in a bout that you simply did not know the outcome of right up until Bruce Buffer bellowed out “and however.”
But there was extra to this moment than just a “Fight of the Year” clash.
For Weili, this was indisputable evidence she was the best strawweight on the planet and worthy of the UFC title. Soon after all, whilst she had needed just 42 seconds to wrest the belt absent from Jessica Andrade, there was some dispute coming in no matter whether or not Weili was genuinely deserving of the title shot, or irrespective of whether at just 3- in the octagon, she had been rushed to the option merely mainly because the UFC required a Chinese fighter to headline its August 2019 card in Shenzhen.
Just after the UFC 248 earn, there were being no far more inquiries about Weili’s power, ability, coronary heart, or worthiness.
It was also an chance for Weili to even further assert herself as a nationwide sporting icon in her native China, a current market the UFC is fully commited so strongly to acquiring, the marketing spent $13 million to build a UFC Overall performance Institute in Shanghai.
Sure, Cyborg (23-2 MMA, 2- BMMA) warrants genuine dialogue as an honorable point out for her “grand slam” title gain, starting to be the initial woman to ever hold titles in the UFC, Bellator, Strikeforce and Invicta FC. And Shevchenko (20-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) continued to assert her dominance in 2020 with two extra defenses of her title in which she seemed fairly a great deal untouchable.
But Weili’s thrilling combat will be remembered far extended than any of Cyborg or Shevchenko’s 4 merged victories on the year, and 2020 was the second “Magnum” firmly set up herself amid the elite in the sport.
A person can only hope we may possibly be handled to a Shevchenko-Weili matchup somewhere down the line.