In the biggest fight of Weili Zhang’s career, she showed the rest of the UFC strawweights that she’s a rising force in the division after taking out perennial contender Tecia Torres by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) at UFC 235.
The victory extended Zhang’s winning streak to a whopping 19 fights, the last three coming in the UFC. It also propelled her eight spots up the rankings to No. 7. Although Zhang’s record (19-1) might lend itself to thinking this result was expected, but taking out a top-10 fighter in just your third UFC bout is nothing to brush away. The way in which she carved her path to the win also provided a good look into the amount of technical skill and overall toughness Zhang possesses.
Zhang was the busier fighter in the first round of the fight, the second bout on the pay-per-view portion of the card, but Torres was able to land a few punches that wore on Zhang’s face. In the second frame, Zhang displayed her well-roundedness, getting the better of Torres on the mat and in the standup exchanges. However, the experienced Torres kept things close, successfully mixing up her attacks as well.
“I knew I could win the fight,” Zhang said through a translator. “But honestly, Tecia is so strong, she’s well-rounded.”
The third round is where Zhang pulled away. After sharing good exchanges on the feet to start the round, Zhang’s cardio proved to be the difference, finishing the final frame in top position and delivering punishment.
“I showed great strength and conditioning,” she said. “But (I) also found a lot of mistakes that I made, a lot of things I need to get improved so hopefully I’ll go back, get training and get myself better.”
The strawweight division is primed for a quick ascension while it waits for champion Rose Namajunas to defend her belt once again, and it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Zhang to climb her way up to a title shot by the end of the calendar year. If so, she could find herself with an opportunity to become China’s first UFC champion.
Now that’d be a significant accomplishment.
After her fight, though, Zhang wasn’t caught up in any of that. She wasn’t looking to start a feud with an opponent or make any enemies. She made it clear: she just wants to fight.
“There is no one that I really want to call out,” she said. “I’ll take whoever the UFC sends me because UFC has the best matchmakers.”
With that attitude and the skillset she showed, whomever that next opponent is should be in for a scrap.
Zac Pacleb is a writer and producer for UFC.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZacPacleb.