An all-Brazilian affair in the women’s bantamweight division kicked off the night in Shenzhen, as newcomers Rosa and Procopio shared the stage in their joint debuts.
A training partner of strawweight champ and UFC Shenzhen headliner Jessica Andrade, Rosa started this one aggressively, marching forward behind a sharp, steady jab. The clean shots turned into combinations finished with strong leg kicks by Rosa, but despite getting wobbled, Procopio stood tall, returned fire and ended the first round by shifting the momentum in her favor.
The second round began much like the first, with Rosa getting the better of the exchanges in space as Procopio countered, ducking in with tepid takedown attempts that were easily denied. Again like the opening frame, Procopio had her best success in the second half of the round, connecting flush with several clean right hands, keeping things close heading into the third and final round.
Procopio started a little quicker in the third, pressing forward behind her own jab, landing right hands behind it, only to have Rosa counter with a big right of her own, dropping the Nova Uniao product. Procopio got back to her feet and resumed marching forward, but she clearly looked slowed, as Rosa continued to crash home right hands, mixing in knees to the midsection into the final two minutes of the fight.
Down the stretch, Rosa continued to control the action, easily sprawling out on a pair of late takedown attempts, avoiding much of what Procopio had to offer and continuing to distance herself from her countrywoman in the final round.
The first bout of the night on the men’s side of the roster also featured debuting bantamweights, as scholarship program graduate Alatengheili squared off with Danaa in the second bout of the evening.
The men were a little more measured to start their contest than their female counterparts in the opener, using the first two minutes of the fight to feel each other out and figure out there range. Once they did start getting a looser with their hands, it was Danaa who got the better of things, connecting with a handful of clean shots and superior volume. But late in the frame, Alatengheili backed up the 30-year-old former kickboxer with a powerful overhand right that opened up a cut on Danaa’s nose and earned a roar from the crowd.
Out of the corner to start the second, the dynamic remained the same, with Danaa picking from range with jabs and front kicks and greater volume while Alatengheili patiently waited for an opportunity to uncork another fastball. Even when Alatengheili did let go of his right hand, Danaa held his ground and countered, connecting with a greater number and greater variety of strikes throughout the frame, adding a well-timed takedown in the final 20 seconds for good measure.
After a quick embrace in the center of the Octagon to start the third round, Danaa went back on the offensive, scoring with a pair of power shots early and stuffing two early takedown attempts from Alatengheili. The pace quickened and the exchanges became more even in the middle of the round, with Alatengheili continuing to land the more powerful blows, only to have Danaa respond with sharp counters.
Midway through the round, Alatengheili finally got the fight to the canvas, tripping Danaa to the ground and landing in side control. Though Danaa worked back to his feet, Alatengheili maintained his grip and scored with another body lock takedown in the final minute, again landing in side control and offering a steady flow of short body shots through the final horn.
Emerging lightweights collided in this one, as Ismagulov put his 13-fight winning streak on the line against the 24-year-old Brazilian Moises, who earned a dominant decision victory for his first UFC win last time out.
The more polished striker of the two, Ismagulov lead the dance throughout the opening round, moving forward and picking his spots with long jabs and heavy kicks, keeping Moises on the end of his range. Late in the frame, the streaking Russian lightweight dropped the Brazilian with a short left, attacking with kicks to the legs and punches to the body to close out a strong opening stanza.
It was more of the same to start the second, as Ismagulov continued to out-land and out-pace Moises, giving little attention to the strikes coming back his way while attacking with the same diverse array of offense he showed in the first. When the Brazilian closed the distance and looked to take the fight to the canvas, Ismagulov quickly stuffed the takedown attempts, showcasing impressive defensive wrestling before going back to his bread and butter in the striking exchanges.
Early in the third, Ismagulov opened up a little more, following a blocked spinning back kick with a spinning back fist attempt before returning to the familiar outputs that put him ahead on the scorecards after the opening 10 minutes. The speed and pressure from Ismagulov never waned, and while Moises hung tough, this one was never in doubt as the 28-year-old Russian cruised to a clean sweep of the scorecards and a 14th consecutive victory.
The action shifted to the light heavyweight division for another showdown between UFC newcomers, as South Korea’s Jung squared off with the former M-1 Global champ Ibragimov.
After three straight bouts went the distance to begin the show, this one looked destined to end early, as Ibragimov opened the contest with a flurry, backing Jung into the fence as he searched for a home for his wide, looping shots. Jung covered up and defended well before Ibragimov pressed forward with another swarming offensive outburst. But again, Jung defended well, responding with a big knee from the clinch that opened a sizeable gash on the Russian as the 205-pound neophytes both ended the first round leaking crimson.
Jung came out quickly to begin the second, pressing the action and peppering Ibragimov with solid one-twos, re-opening the cut on the left side of his nose, which was clearly bothering him. While Ibragimov would respond with big singles, Jung stayed on him with pace, sticking the jab in his face over and over, chasing it with right hands.
With two minutes left in the middle stanza, Ibragimov pressing in for a takedown and briefly spun Jung to the canvas, but the South Korea quickly got back to his feet. But the Russian was undeterred and stayed on this hips, dumping Jung to the ground again and finishing the round in top position.
Given how things started, it was a surprise that this one reached the third round. Much like the second, Jung came out firing to start, landing a series of clean jabs on the fatigued Ibragimov before the Russian attacked with another takedown, emerging from the ensuing scramble with his hands clasped around Jung’s waist and the two pressed into the fence. Out of nowhere, Jung latched onto a ninja choke as Ibragimov lazily looked for a single, clamping onto the neck and drawing a tap from the heavily favored Russia to earn the first stoppage win of the evening.
It was back to the bantamweight division in the penultimate preliminary card fight as Sumudaerji looked to rebound from a loss in his UFC debut in a clash with the entertaining veteran Soukhamthath.
The opening 90 seconds was spent exchanging kicks with the occasional punch mixed in, neither man landing anything of great substance before Sumudaerji grazed the side of Soukhamthath’s head with a hook kick that just missed. Soon after, Soukhamthath changed tactics, pressing forward for a takedown, settling to control the action in the clinch along the fence. They returned to the center of the Octagon with just over a minute remaining in the round and it was Sumudaerji who had the most success, catching Soukhamthath with several clean left hands down the pipe that were easily the most impactful blows of the round.
In the corner between rounds, Soukhamthath informed his coaches that he broke his left hand, but it didn’t stop him from throwing it early in the second, following it up with a clean right hand that landed flush. But as Soukhamthath came forward looking to close the distance, Sumudaerji continued to move well and make him pay, sticking him with left hands as he pivoted into space and quicker responses to every thing Soukhamthath offered. By the end of the round, the 30-year-old veteran was busted up, as Sumudaerji continued to land at will through to the bell.
The cat-and-mouse game continued early in the final frame, with Sumudaerji picking up where he left off at the end of the third, sniping home clean shots without issue, restarting the flow of plasma from Soukhamthath’s nose and mouth. Following a slick trip takedown, the young Chinese fighter looked to open up with offense, connecting with several elbows out of Soukhamthath’s guard, much to the crowd’s delight.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Sumudaerji continued to unload, putting a capstone on his first UFC victory and a truly impressive breakthrough performance.
Easily the fight with the best nicknames on the evening, “Fluffy” looked to rebound from a second-round stoppage loss in his UFC debut by venturing to Shenzhen to take on “The Iron Turtle.”
Hernandez looked to press the action to start, but it was the swift, clean boxing of Park that dominated the opening minute, as the newcomer worked behind a swift jab and accompanying crosses to keep the Contender Series alum at a distance. Just before the midway point of the round, Park seemed to hurt Hernandez to the body, landing a pair of clean shots that forced “Fluffy” to shoot for a takedown.
While he was denied on the initial attempted, the Californian remained determined and dragged Park to the floor briefly. The South Korean got back to his feet, but Hernadez successfully timed another entry, putting Park on the canvas one more time before the duo ended the round exchanging blows.
The second began much like the first, with Hernandez pressing forward and Park landing the far better shots, continuing to showcase his fluid boxing. A minute into the round, Hernandez retreated after getting stung, but quickly went back on the offensive, driving through a takedown that momentarily slowed the pace of the fight. Although Park got back to his feet, Hernandez stayed on him, elevating him and dumping him to the canvas for another hard takedown.
After securing yet another takedown with two minutes remaining in the round, Hernandez finally managed to keep Park grounded and got to work, climbing to half guard and opening up with his offense before diving on a D’Arce choke and drawing out the tap in the final seconds of the frame.
The action on the main card kicked off in the flyweight division, as China’s Wu looked to earn her second consecutive UFC victory as she took on the highly regarded newcomer, Mizuki.
Though clearly undersized, the natural strawweight Mizuki controlled the opening moments of this one, pressing forward, trying to take the fight to Wu. As the round progressed, Wu got a little more comfortable and started to let go with her strikes a little more, finding a home for an assortment of punches and a handful of short shots when the two clinched.
Right out of the chute in the second, Mizuki connected with a right hand, the best punch of the fight, but Wu wore it well and attacked with a standing guillotine choke soon after. She bailed on the attempt and landed an elbow on the break, but Mizuki was undeterred, as the young veteran continued to stalk forward, sniping home punches. As the round, progressed, it seemed like Mizuki had Wu’s timing and approach down, slipping a high percentage of the punches coming her way and getting her shots off in between.
Things continued the same way to begin the third, with Mizuki walking down Wu, sticking her with swift two-punch combinations before getting out of the way of the return fire. With her hair coming out of her braids, the Japanese standout remained in charge of the action, dictating the terms of engagement and getting the better of the exchanges, highlighted to a crisp one-two that clipped Wu’s jaw.
While the Chinese athlete refused to wilt and continued to sling hands to the end, the more polished, more experience Mizuki seemed to do enough to secure the victory in her promotional debut. When the tens and nines were tallied, the post-fight math confirmed that conclusion, as the judges awarded the Invicta FC alum a split decision victory.
The first of two welterweight contests on the main card, Chinese staple Song aimed to rebound from his loss to Alex Morono late last year when he took on Krantz, an American regional veteran who dropped his short-notice debut May.
With their right hands cocked and ready to fire, these two power punchers spent the first two minutes of the fight getting a feel for one another, each landing a smattering of kicks with the odd punch finding a home as well, but neither really offering much in the way of sustained offense. They started opening up more in the final two minutes, each man landing a couple clean shots, with Song sporting a little redness and swelling around his left eye when the horn sounded.
A minute into the second, Krantz ducked under for a takedown, scooping Song into the air and dumping him to the canvas, landing in side control as the Chinese fighter continued to hold onto a guillotine choke attempt. Although Song recovered half guard and tried to attack a kimura off his back, Krantz defended well and looked to climb into mount, only to have Song hit a perfectly timed sweep and briefly take the back.
Unfazed, Krantz slipped out the back door and put Song back on the canvas straight away, grabbing onto a seated guillotine choke along the fence, but losing it as Song rose to his feet. As they battled back-and-forth, Krantz ultimately landed on top again, finishing the frame in half guard.
Song started the third like a man possessed, pressing forward and taking the fight to Krantz, connecting with several of his best strikes of the contest. Unfortunately for the Chinese fan favorite, Krantz was able to stem the tide with a takedown. But Song quickly got back to his feet, with the American sporting a noticeable cut over the eyebrow. To his credit, Krantz continued to grind, dragging Song to the canvas and controlling him on the floor, losing the position as he was too eager trying to take the back.
Standing in the center of the cage exhausted with 90 seconds remaining, both took big, deep breathes, but rather than go for broke, the tired twosome ended the fight by waiting for the other to throw, leaving the outcome in the hands of the judges. In the end, it was Song who came away with the victory, earning a clean sweep of the scorecards.
Top 15 flyweights looking to make a run towards the top of the resurgent division locked up in this one with City Kickboxing’s Kara-France squaring off with “Bumblebee.”
Less than 90 seconds into the fight, De La Rosa timed an entry perfectly, ducking in and slipping around to Kara-France’s back with ease. Though he couldn’t immediately put him on the canvas, the American landed a nice knee from the clinch and looked to sink in his hooks. But Kara-France remained calm and worked free, slamming De La Rosa to the ground and connecting with a quick flurry of punches before the duo reset to the center of the cage, where they remained for the rest of the round.
Immediately to start the second, Kara-France opened up with a handful of clean shots before putting De La Rosa down with a right hand down the pipe. The American appeared to recover quickly and responded with a couple punches of his own, but the Kiwi kicked his legs out from under him and continued to beat him to the punch on the feet.
Halfway through the round, De La Rosa had cleared the cobwebs, but he struggled to match the speed and accuracy of Kara-France, who carried a little more snap and swiftness on his strikes. In the final minute, De La Rosa was the one pressing forward, but Kara-France remained the one landing the more telling blows, driving home another big right hand and missing with a cartwheel kick that drew a cheer from the crowd.
Encouraged to be more aggressive and sit down on his punches between rounds, De La Rosa did just that to begin the final frame, pressing forward and trying to land something sharp. But Kara-France continued to move well and the two settled back into the familiar rhythm of the second, with “Bumblebee” pressing forward and landing, but Kara-France showing no desire to retreat.
Midway through the round, the former TUF contestant connected with a heavy shot to the body that backed up De La Rosa, giving him an opportunity to chase him into the cage and land the best flurry of the round. While De La Rosa recovered, he was a little worse for wear, sporting a gash on his forehead that sent blood dripping down his face. With a minute to go, Kara-France was content to circle on the outside, throwing the occasional strike as De La Rosa couldn’t close the distance and pull the trigger.
As has been the theme all evening, the flyweights went the full 15 minutes, leaving it up to the judges, who awarded the victory to Kara-France.
The longest tenured Chinese fighter on the UFC roster, Li aimed to secure the biggest win of his career and earn a place in the Top 15 by halting the extended winning streak of Brazil’s Zaleski dos Santos.
It took a little time for things to get going between the welterweights, as both men showed a great deal of respect for the other’s skills, opting to find their range and work cautiously rather than wide in carelessly. Zaleski dos Santos landed the first good blow of the round, connecting with a punch that Li ate without issue before responding with a three-piece combination that backed up the Brazilian soon after.
With 20 seconds left in the round, Li blasted Zaleski dos Santos with a clean right hand that put him on the canvas and although he popped right back to his feet, it clearly swung the frame in the favor of the Chinese fighter.
Li started the second with another straight right hand down the middle, but Zaleski dos Santos remained upright and returned fire right away. Two minutes into the round, the Brazilian started offering move kicks, just missing with a wheel kick, but giving Li something more to think about it as Zaleski dos Santos comes forward. While Zaleski dos Santos remained the aggressor, Li continued to do a good job defending and finding a home for swift, sharp counters inside as the ranked welterweight advanced.
Clearly aware that he was behind on the scorecards and that his winning streak was in jeopardy, Zaleski dos Santos came out looking to press the action to start the third, but just like the earlier two rounds, he couldn’t pin Li down and get off any sustained offense. Each time he looked to throw, Li intercepted him on the way in, interrupting his rhythm.
“Capoeira” continued to advance, but Li remained evasive until the final 25 seconds, when “The Leech” uncorked a right uppercut that put the Brazilian on roller skates, finishing him with flurry just before the end of the bout.
Less than four months after winning the strawweight title at home in Brazil at UFC 237, Andrade looked to successfully defend her belt for the first time on the road, venturing to Shenzhen to face the streaking Chinese rising star Zhang in Saturday’s main event.
Zhang started quickly, finding a home for a series of low kicks that drew Andrade forward and when the two began to exchange, the Chinese challenger found a home for her right hand, stinging the champion and putting her on the defensive. While Andrade tried to fire back, Zhang was unrelenting, attacking with knees from the clinch and punches as the Brazilian stumbled backwards.
With Andrade on the canvas and Zhang pouring it on, referee Leon Roberts was forced to step in and stop the fight, giving China its first UFC champion and Zhang her 20th consecutive victory, none bigger than this one.
What an incredible performance from the Chinese superstar!