Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk steals the show at UFC 248

MMA

UFC 248 had a little bit of everything: two title fights, a fight of the year contender, highlight-reel finishes and impactful returns. Among the unique happenings surrounding the March 7 card in Las Vegas:

UFC 248 will be streamed Monday on ESPN+ at 1 p.m., then will be available on demand for all ESPN+ subscribers.

Zhang vs. Jedrzejczyk was one of the greatest fights in UFC history and almost certainly the best women’s fight in the promotion ever. Zhang earned a split-decision victory (48-47, 47-48, 48-47) to retain the UFC women’s strawweight title in the co-main event.

The bout was bell-to-bell action, a barrage of punches, elbows, knees and kicks. There was hardly a pause for 25 minutes. Things went back and forth with each woman rocking or wobbling the other several times.

By the end, both were wearing the damage in the form of swelling and cuts. Jedrzejczyk walked away with one of the worst hematomas — a swelling of her forehead — in MMA history. The fans in attendance knew they were witnessing something special, too. The 15,077 spectators got on their feet for a standing ovation at the beginning of the fifth round and then again in the final 10 seconds of the bout.

“I was pretty sure I got [the victory],” Zhang said through a translator in her postfight interview. “It was a great performance. We are all martial artists here. We don’t want trash talking. We want mutual respect.”

Both women were taken to a local hospital afterward. Their wounds have mostly healed, but the memories of that fight — a heroic clash of skilled, tough-as-nails warriors — will be remembered forever in mixed martial arts.

Aside from the amazing Zhang vs. Jedrzejczyk battle, here are four other can’t-miss moments from UFC 248:

How did you score Adesanya vs. Romero?

There are many ways to describe the UFC 248 main event, a middleweight title fight between champion Adesanya and Romero. Some would say tactical. Others would say inactive. The word “boring” might come up, too. But Adesanya did what he felt like he needed to do against the unorthodox and dangerous Romero to get the win.

After the event, there were some questions about how the bout was scored. The judges gave Adesanya a unanimous-decision victory with scores of 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46. All five rounds were extremely close with a historically low amount of strikes thrown. Did the judges get it right? Did Romero do more damage in some of those rounds? Or did Adesanya’s commitment to staying at range and landing hard leg kicks earn him the nod? It’s always interesting to go back and watch a fight again and attempt to score it like a judge would, using effective striking and grappling — better known as damage and effective submission attempts — as the main gauge.

Zhang addresses coronavirus issues

Weeks before many in the world were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, Zhang was dealing with its affects. She needed to move her training camp in her native China to Thailand and then on to Abu Dhabi before finally arriving in Las Vegas to compete. It was an arduous journey, yet Zhang not only was able to compete at UFC 248 but also put on an all-time performance in beating Jedrzejczyk. Zhang still is in Las Vegas waiting to get the OK to return to her homeland.

“It was hard with the coronavirus in my country — everybody knows that,” Zhang said after the bout. “… I hope everybody stays together and fights together. We can win this. Our country is suffering from the tragedy right now, but we’re fighting together and winning it.”

A pair of impressive comebacks

O’Malley had not fought in two years (plus four days) before facing Jose Quiñonez at UFC 248. The blue-chip bantamweight prospect struggled with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency — the UFC’s anti-doping partner — during that stretch following a positive drug test for the banned substance ostarine. O’Malley ended up being suspended twice during this layoff, though he has adamantly denied knowingly taking any banned substance. The USADA has said it believes O’Malley and his cases have led to some reform in the UFC’s anti-doping policy.

In his return, O’Malley looked incredible, stopping Quiñonez in the first round via TKO. At just 25 years old, “Suga Show” could be a future champion at 135 pounds. Meanwhile, Neil Magny, who was cleared by the USADA in his own doping case, returned to form after 16 months off, beating the very game Li Jingliang via unanimous decision.

Prospects from other combat sports show out

Rodolfo Vieira has been in the UFC only since last August. He looks like he came over from a Marvel superhero movie with his physique. But really, he was plying his trade in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world and was a world champion in that martial art. Vieira has brought all those skills — and seemingly superhuman strength — to MMA. After beating Saparbek Safarov at UFC 248 by first-round submission, Vieira is now 7-0 as a pro and appears to be a force in the middleweight division. Safarov kicked Vieira in an eye early, causing swelling that completely shut that eye. Yet, Vieira went into Hulk mode, took Safarov down and choked him out.

Madsen didn’t finish against Austin Hubbard. But the 2016 Olympics silver medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling looked very strong in winning a unanimous decision. Madsen’s wrestling was oppressive over the first two rounds, and even after Hubbard broke his jaw in the second, Madsen continued pressing forward. Madsen is 35 years old, but with prowess in the clinch and grappling aspects of MMA, he figures to give many UFC lightweights a hard time.

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