The Octagon is making its way to Beijing for the first time this Saturday, as top heavyweights Curtis Blaydes and Francis Ngganou run it back in the main event. People gathered in China’s second largest city to get a sneak peek at some of the featured athletes on the card.
With the EDM music turned up and the crowd ready to go, UFC bantamweight and China native Song Yadong kicked things off by displaying his fast and efficient striking. The buzz around Yadong has been real all of fight week, as it should be. The bantamweight prospect has displayed exciting flashes of power and technical ability.
Next up was the 17-1 women’s bantamweight from China, Weili Zhang. It was evident from the moment that Zhang started to wrestle with her training partners that she is going to make some noise in her division. Each time she would sweep, toss and slam someone the crowd would snap so many photos it looked like strobe likes were lighting up Zhang. She’s riding a 17 fight win streak with 15 finishes and the people can’t wait to see her fight on Saturday.
Then it was time for ‘The Predator' to put on a show. Heavyweight Francis Ngannou calmly took the mat and showed the people a China just a glimpse of his arsenal. It started with some light mitt work but as the workout went on, Ngannou started throwing spinning back fists and a variety of kicks that really put into perspective how much of an athletic freak he is.
After his workout China media members asked Ngannou a couple of questions. One question was about Curtis Blaydes’ newly born daughter and if Ngannou would feel bad about beating up her dad. Ngannou’s response was simple:
“This is a job and nothing personal,” said Ngannou. “She will be fine, but I’m going to beat up her dad.”
Following Ngannou on stage was fan favorite Li “The Leech” Jingliang. The welterweight from China warmed-up with a tennis ball reaction drilled before hitting some mitts. With a growing reputation as a fighter that puts on exciting fights, Jingliang is sure to receive quite the introduction when he makes his way to the Octagon on Saturday.
Veteran heavyweight Alistair Overeem was next-up, looking light on his feet and precise with his punches. After a quick workout Overeem took questions from the media, one interesting question was if he would ever want to fight former champion Cain Velasquez. Overeem told the crowd that he has already defeated six former heavyweight champions and he would love to fight Velasquez and make it seven.
Recently Overeem made the switch to Team Elevation in Denver, Colorado and he hopes that the change in scenery with give him a new start heading into Saturday and 2019. His former opponent turned teammate, Curtis Blaydes, was the final fighter to work out for the people of Beijing.
Blaydes immediately caught the attention of the audience by showing off his tremendous speed in the striking game. His crisp, clean combos make it clear that his skill as a mixed martial artist has evolved far beyond that of a wrestler. The media asked him how he thinks his daughter would feel about Ngannou beating him up and Blaydes chuckled before responding:
“My daughter is only six months old she will be just fine,” said Blaydes. “Besides this time is going to be different.”
One thing is for certain, the world can’t wait to see Ngannou and Blaydes fight on Saturday. Expect fireworks in Beijing and make sure that you tune in to watch these heavyweight settle the score.
All the action starts on UFC Fight Pass at 6:30am/3:30am ETPT.
Gavin Porter is a writer and producer for UFC.com, follow him on Twitter at @PorterUFCNews