Saturday’s UFC Shenzhen event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in China, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at Shenzhen Universade Sports Centre Arena.
When I interviewed Zhang Weili before Saturday’s main event against Jessica Andrade, I asked her what Sunday morning was going to look like. She said, “September 1 will be a happy Sunday,” she said. “I will sleep until I wake up naturally.” Well, I’m sure it was a happy Sunday after she took Andrade’s title by force in 42 seconds. As for the sleep part, I can’t imagine the new strawweight champion got much after her electrifying performance. And as China’s first UFC champion, there won’t be much rest, something I expect “Magnum” to embrace fully. Even before she won the crown, she had that star potential. Now it’s been realized.
While Zhang Weili made history Saturday night, it is important to point out that a lot of the success of Chinese fighters in the UFC today wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of Li Jingliang, who has been battling it out in the Octagon since 2014. Over those five years, “The Leech” has developed from a raw talent to a legit contender in the welterweight division, a process never more evident than when he stopped Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in Shenzhen. That was a huge win for Li, who is on the march to joining Zhang at the elite level of the UFC.
The odds were stacked against Mizuki in her UFC debut against Wu Yanan. She was fighting Wu in her home country, the fight was on short notice up a weight class from where she usually competes, and Wu came in overweight for the fight. But Mizuki still picked up the victory, kicking off what should be an interesting run for her in the UFC, and one eagerly anticipated by hardcore fans who have watched the strawweight standout battle a host of killers over the course of her career. She’s the real deal.
Kai Kara-France may not be the most spectacular member of the City Kickboxing team that includes Israel Adesanya and Dan Hooker, but he may be getting as many headlines as his teammates if he continues to deliver consistent performances like he did against Mark De La Rosa last Saturday. Winner of eight straight, Kara-France is already top ten in the world at 125 pounds, and in a division reinventing itself, he has the opportunity to make a quick move into the title race with one or two more wins.
In a stacked welterweight division, China’s Song Kenan needed his win over Derrick Krantz on Saturday night. Not needed in a might get cut way, but in the way that it was a gritty, close victory over an established veteran that will serve him well in the future. Now 3-1 in the Octagon, with his lone loss a Fight of the Night decision against Alex Morono, Song has been spectacular and a finisher, but now he’s putting everything together to start making his move on the top 15.