JESSICA ANDRADE VS. ZHANG WEILI
Three months after winning the strawweight title at home in Brazil, Andrade heads on the road for her first title defense, venturing to Shenzhen to square off with the surging Zhang on Saturday.
Andrade got a home game as the challenger back in May when she unseated Rose Namajunas from the strawweight throne at UFC 237. In slamming her way to the title, the diminutive powerhouse pushed her winning streak to four and made good on her second opportunity to compete for UFC gold, claiming the title and pushing her record in the division to 7-1. It was her second straight stoppage victory and further underscored the fight-changing strength “Bate Estaca” brings to the table every time she competes.
The 30-year-old Zhang enters her first UFC title opportunity on an incredible 19-fight winning streak, including three straight victories inside the Octagon. After outworking Danielle Taylor in her debut and following it up with a first-round submission win over Jessica Aguilar, “Magnum” out-muscled and out-worked Tecia Torres in March, sweeping the scorecards against the perennial contender to put herself in a position to vie for the title this weekend.
ELIZEU ZALESKI DOS SANTOS VS. LI JINGLIANG
Originally paired off last November, but scuttled by an injury to dos Santos, these two welterweights looking to make headway in the loaded 170-pound weight class are set to reconnect in the penultimate pairing here.
Li is in the midst of the best run of his career — a three-year stretch featuring six wins in seven starts, including a third-round stoppage win over David Zawada last time out. After debuting in the Octagon at UFC 173 and going 2-2 over his first four bouts, “The Leech” has developed into an entertaining, rangy, aggressive fighter who can put himself in the Top 15 with another victory on Saturday.
One round on one scorecard in his UFC debut is all that stands between Zaleski dos Santos and a perfect 8-0 mark inside the Octagon. As it is, “Capoeira” has rattled off seven straight wins, finishing his last three victories in spectacular fashion. He remains one of the most underrated talents in the division, and pushing his winning streak to eight should put the surging Brazilian into the mix in the welterweight division.
MARK DE LA ROSA VS. KAI KARA-FRANCE
Outside of the Top 5, the flyweight division is wide open and these two upstarts are jostling for position in the championship chase.
After a handful of appearances at bantamweight, De La Rosa returns to the 125-pound weight class, where he dropped his UFC debut, but feels like a more natural fit. The 24-year-old has augmented his training at home in Texas with trips to work with the crew at Factory X in Edgewood, Colorado, and coming off a loss in March, it wouldn’t be surprising if the “Bumblebee” is at his very best this weekend in China.
A contestant on Season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter, Kara-France has earned consecutive victories since being called to compete in the Octagon late last year, registering decision wins over Elias Garcia and Raulian Paiva to run his overall winning streak to seven. The City Kickboxing representative is still just 26 years old and seems to just now be putting all the pieces together to make a run in the flyweight ranks.
LV ZHENHONG VS. MOVSAR EVLOEV
Four years and change after meeting for the first time under the M-1 Challenge banner, an injury to Mike Grundy opened the door for Lv to matriculate to the UFC and attempt to avenge his earlier loss to Evloev inside the Octagon.
The Chinese newcomer lost to Evloev in June 2015, dropping a unanimous decision in a bout that lands in the middle of a frustrating 2-4 run. Since then, Lv has gone 11-1, winning eight of those bouts by stoppage, including a third-round submission win this past June.
Evloev pushed his winning streak to start his career to 11 in April, notching a unanimous decision win over SeungWoo Choi in his UFC debut. The former M-1 Challenge bantamweight champion showed outstanding conditioning and a diverse offensive arsenal, pushing a torrid pace and putting it on Choi from start to finish.
While featherweight is loaded with talent, Evloev looks like one to keep an eye on long-term, making this a tremendous opportunity for Lv to upset the apple cart and make a major splash in his UFC debut.
Top 5 Finishes: Shenzhen Fighters
Top 5 Finishes: Shenzhen Fighters
WU YANAN VS. MIZUKI
An injury to Luana Carolina knocked her from this card and created an opportunity for one of the top talents competing outside the Octagon to make her UFC debut in what should be an outstanding flyweight matchup.
Mizuki has been a beloved upstart for a number of years, having debuted inside the Invicta FC cage with a decision win over Bec Rawlings. She’s fought an impressive slate of competition over the years, amassing a 13-5 record overall, and heads into her first appearance under the UFC banner with her only setback in her last five bouts being a split decision loss in a short-notice, five-round, championship fight.
After landing on the wrong side of the results in her promotional debut in 2017, Wu rebounded with a first-round submission win over the previously unbeaten Lauren Mueller in her sophomore appearance in the Octagon. Just 23 years old, “Mulan”s only other loss to date came against former title challenger and current bantamweight contender Yana Kunitskaya.
The hierarchy in the flyweight division is still a work in progress and the winner of this one has an opportunity to put herself in a position to make a run at the rankings in 2019.
SONG KENAN VS. DERRICK KRANTZ
If you’re looking for a Fight of the Night pick on this card, this wouldn’t be a bad option.
A 31-year-old regional vet who famously fought Dustin Poirier in a bout that was chronicled in the film Fightville, Krantz finally got the chance to step into the Octagon earlier this year when he stepped in on short notice to face Vicente Luque. Things ultimately didn’t go his way, but Krantz popped Luque right out of the chute and had him on the defensive early. Now he gets a full camp in a more favorable pairing in his sophomore outing in the UFC.
Song won his first two outings under the UFC banner in impressive fashion, blistering Bobby Nash in 15 seconds in his debut before dropping Hector Aldana in a fun back-and-forth affair in June 2018. Last time out, the Chinese veteran landed on the wrong side of the results against Alex Morono, which should send him into this one pressing hard to get back into the win column and put on another show for the fans in Shenzhen.
ANTHONY HERNANDEZ VS. JUNYONG PARK
This middleweight pairing carries a lot more significance than you typically find in a preliminary card bout.
Hernandez had a ton of hype heading into his appearance on the Contender Series last summer and turned in one of the most impressive performances of the season, icing Jordan Wright in 40 seconds. That result was overturned after “Fluffy” tested positive for marijuana metabolites after the bout and then he lost in his promotional debut in February, getting tapped out by Markus Perez in a battle of former LFA middleweight titleholders.
Conversely, Park arrives in the UFC without much fanfare, but brandishing an eight-fight winning streak. The 28-year-old earned finishes in seven of those eight contests, including an anaconda choke win over Ray Cooper III early in his run and a 49-second stoppage last time out.
Can Hernandez bounce back and justify some of the hype or will the South Korean newcomer hand him a second straight loss and establish himself as someone to watch in the middleweight division?
ANDRE SOUKHAMTHATH VS. SUMUDAERJI
Bantamweights looking to bounce back meet in this one as Soukhamthath ventures to Shenzhen to square off with the 23-year-old Sumudaerji on Saturday.
The baby-faced bantamweight earned 11 victories in 14 appearances before making his promotional debut last November, where he was dropped in with the returning Louis Smolka. With that first experience under his belt and a much longer run-up to prepare for his sophomore appearance, it will be interesting to see if the aggressive finisher can get back into the win column in Shenzhen.
Soukhamthath has fought a tough slate in his six UFC appearances, managing a 2-4 mark against a collection of tough bantamweight competition. Last time out, the 20-fight veteran dropped a unanimous decision to emerging prospect Montel Jackson, which means the 30-year-old will be chomping at the bit to return to action and secure his third UFC victory this weekend.
DA-UN JUNG VS. KHADIS IBRAGIMOV
Young light heavyweights on impressive runs meet in this preliminary card pairing.
Jung started his career competing at heavyweight, winning his first bout before losing two straight. He shifted to the 205-pound ranks after that and hasn’t lost since, rattling off 10 consecutive victories, including nine finishes, the last two coming earlier this year.
Ibragimov is the third opponent to line up opposite Jung, who was initially slated to face Saparbeg Safarov and then Contender Series alum Jamahal Hill. Unbeaten in eight starts, the 24-year-old has finished his last five fights, most recently handing fellow undefeated fighter Rafal Kijanczuk the first loss of his career.
UFC Shenzhen: City of Foshan Tour
UFC Shenzhen: City of Foshan Tour
DAMIR ISMAGULOV VS. THIAGO MOISES
This is a sneaky-good lightweight matchup that is flying under the radar.
Ismagulov has won 13 straight, including each of his first two UFC appearances. The former M-1 Challenge lightweight titleholder debuted late last year with a decision win over Alex Gorgees, then returned three months later to score a similar result against Joel Alvarez.
Moises punched his ticket to the UFC with a win last summer on the Contender Series, but dropped his debut on short notice to Beneil Dariush. Six months later, he returned to the cage and dominated Kurt Holobaugh, outworking him on the canvas en route to a unanimous decision win.
Lightweight is loaded with talent, but both of these guys have the potential to make some noise in the 155-pound ranks going forward. They’re both still young — Ismagulov is 28; Moises is 24 — and an impressive performance from either will vault them into the crush of competitors looking to move up the lightweight ladder.
KAROL ROSA VS. LARA PROCOPIO
Young Brazilian bantamweights meet in their joint promotional debut on Saturday.
The 24-year-old Rosa trains alongside headlining champion Jessica Andrade at Parana Vale Tudo and enters on a two-fight winning streak. She has won six of her last eight overall, the last five by stoppage, with her two losses coming to established talents, former UFC competitor Larissa Pacheco and current UFC fighter Melissa Gatto.
Sporting a 6-0 record, the 23-year-old Procopio enters off back-to-back decision wins over Sidy Rocha and Mariana Morais. The Nova Uniao product has half the experience of Rosa, but has yet to taste defeat in her career, which can be a powerful confidence booster as the two head towards their first Octagon appearances.
DANAA BATGEREL VS. ALATENGHEILI
Bantamweight newcomers on twin two-fight winning streaks meet in Saturday’s opener.
The 27-year-old AlatengHeili began his career with four wins in his first 10 fights. Since then, he’s posted an 8-1-1 record, earning his last two victories inside the distance, pushing his record to 12-7-1 overall and garnering a call to compete on the biggest stage in the sport.
Danaa arrives in the UFC with a 6-1 record, including a decision win over Kai Kara-France all the way back in 2013. After suffering the lone loss of his career, the 30-year-old Mongolian had a 30-month hiatus, returning in May 2018 to register a second-round stoppage win. He followed it up six weeks later with a first-round finish, earning him a place opposite AlatengHeili.