The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night 157
The UFC took UFC Fight Night 157 to the Shenzhen Universade Sports Centre Arena in Shenzhen, China, for a little bit of history.
China's Weili Zhang put the entire country on her shoulders and challenged UFC strawweight champion Jessica Andrade. The UFC built this event around her and her shot at history to become China's first UFC champion. She made good on that opportunity.
In just 42-seconds, Zhang blew through Andrade with a furious wave of strikes. UFC president Dana White put the gold around her waist, and the Chinese MMA explosion continues on with Zhang as the face of the movement. China officially has a UFC champion.
But was Zhang the only winner? Was she the only real winner? Of course not.
It's time to dig through what transpired in mainland China on Saturday to identify the real winners and losers from UFC Fight Night 157. Let's get to work.
Let's start at the top of the ticket.
Even without crowning the first-ever Chinese UFC champion, the country was going to be a winner on Saturday. But, in fact, there was a coronation going on in Shenzhen.
Zhang looked comfortable throughout the entire process. The moment was not too big for her. UFC strawweight champion Andrade came forward as she normally does, and she paid the prince as Zhang countered with a heavy arsenal of strikes. Zhang hurt Andrade and followed up.
Most impressive was not the follow-up shots themselves, but the accuracy in which they laded. Zhang mixed up punches, knees and elbows to get the finish inside of a minute.
This has been China's year in MMA. We have seen numerous fighters from the country make a mark, but none are bigger or as important as Zhang's title victory. It is a landmark moment for MMA in the country.
Saturday wasn't all for Zhang. In the co-main event. Li Jingliang gave one of his most impressive performances to date with a win over Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. Jingliang may be working his way into the welterweight rankings with a third-straight victory.
There were other Chinese victories on the card, but these two stand-up above the rest. This is everything and more that the UFC could have hoped for from this event. Now the future awaits the new champion, and how far she can take it remains to be seen.
Rose Namajunas' ascent helped solidify the division past Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Zhang being upset by Andrade could have been seen as a step back for the division regarding its platform. But Zhang's win, in front of a gracious nation, elevates its stature.
It also goes to show the division's depth. Zhang, Andrade, Jedrzejczyk and Namajunas are just four of the notable names. Waiting in the wings are Tatiana Suarez, Claudia Gadelha, Michelle Waterson and Nina Ansaroff.
Zhang was the No. 6-ranked contender going into Saturday. Five other contenders and Andrade were all ahead of her. The perception of the depth of the strawweight division was shifted with Zhang's victory. More fans understand how talent-rich it is.
The possibilities for title fights are numerous and each one is exciting. Can Zhang defend against Suarez? Could Suarez be the dominant force with her wrestling? Or will this division put the title on a carousel giving everyone a chance to hold it for a moment?
All of these questions make it one of the most fun classes in the UFC.
Loser: Jessica Andrade
Andrade took a brutal loss, and not just because she was ousted off of her throne in less than a minute.
As the perception of the division changes to showcase its depth, it also harms Andrade's legacy. She was losing her title fight to Namajunas before she dumped her on her head and took the gold. If any fans perceived it as a fluke...they were vindicated by Zhang's win.
The good news is that Andrade won't fall far. One win and she should be challenging for the title again. But until she gets that chance, the lack of a title defense will tarnish her brief moment in the sun as champion.
Title defenses are crucial for fighters to stand out as champions. Those who only win it briefly, off of one punch, one kick or, in Andrade's case, one slam, are glossed over in the history books. Andrade will have to work twice as hard to get the title back, and it is far from a guarantee.
While writing is not finished, her place in the history books became just a small footnote after Saturday.
Loser: Promoting New Faces
If there was one missed opportunity, it is that the new faces were not promoted well leading into the event. UFC Fight Night 157 was pretty much a one-fight card with the strawweight title on the line for a Chinese fighter, but various other fighters almost went by unnoticed.
Mizuki Inoue was once one of the hottest prospects in the sport and shined under the Invicta FC banner. How many even knew she signed with the UFC for a short-notice fight?
Kai Kara-France is an exciting fighter with a lot of promise. Was anyone aware he was on the bill, too?
UFC Fight Night 157 was not a PPV or star-studded event. You would not expect an all-out marketing blitz for this level of event. Even still, the total lack of awareness with several young fighters seems like a big missed opportunity when an organization is trying to build new stars.
The UFC has to improve how they promote fresh faces.
Winner: Early Birds and College Football Fans
Sometimes UFC events can make it difficult as a sports fan. They start prelims near 7 p.m. ET for most events, and it will run through midnight. With the college football season getting in full-swing, that can cause trouble for fans trying to take everything in.
Well, on this Saturday, the UFC got their event out of the way well before the noon kick-offs.
You could wake up, brew a cup of coffee, cook breakfast and watch a new champion get crowned all before football begins. That is a huge bonus for sports fans. UFC 242 next week starts a little later, but it will still be over before prime-time games start.
No one wants all UFC events to be early-morning starts, but occasionally, it is a win for everyone. Saturday was just that.
It kicked off a fun-filled day the right way.
UFC Fight Night 157 Full Card Results
UFC Fight Night 157 Main Card (ESPN+)
- Weili Zhang def. Jessica Andrade by TKO at 0:42 of the first round
- Li Jingliang def. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos by TKO at 4:51 of the third round
- Kai Kara-France def. Mark De La Rosa by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Kenan Song def. Derrick Krantz by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Mizuki Inoue def. Wu Yanan by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
UFC Fight Night 157 Preliminary Card (ESPN)
- Anthony Hernandez def. Jun Yong Park via submission (anaconda choke) at 4:39 of the second round
- Mudaerji Su def. Andre Soukhamthath by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-25)
- Da Un Jung def. Khadis Ibragimov via submission (standing guillotine choke) at 2:00 of the third round
- Damir Ismagulov def. Thiago Moises by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
- Alateng Heili def. Danaa Batgerel by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27)
- Karolline Rosa Cavedo def. Lara Fritzen Procopio by split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)