Published: Mon, September 02, 2019
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

UFC Fight Night 157: Jessica Andrade vs. Weili Zhang on ESPN+

UFC Fight Night 157: Jessica Andrade vs. Weili Zhang on ESPN+

Zhang took the strawweight title from Brazilian Jessica Andrade in what was only the third UFC event to take place in mainland China.

The experienced Andrade, who came into the fight tied for the most wins by a woman in UFC history with 11, charged the underdog Zhang from the start. When Andrade separated, Zhang followed up with more punches and referee Leon Roberts had to step in to stop it.

The UFC has its first Chinese champion and a brand-new star in a crucial market.

The decision had raised some eyebrows as Zhang was only the sixth-ranked strawweight in the world, and given Andrade's reputation for brutally seeing off opponents. The body-slam knocked out Namajunas and gave Andrade her first UFC title.

Zhang, 30, wasted no time in attacking Andrade with leg strikes in the first few seconds of the opening round.

Although White said Zhang's next fight would be a pay-per-view in the United States, the UFC has been seeking to draw greater interest in the sport in China, not only because of its population size but also because of the country's long martial arts tradition.

"Today, I want to dedicate this victory to the 70th anniversary of the motherland", she added, referring to the approaching anniversary on October 1 of the founding of Communist-ruled China.

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The victory marks Zhang's 20th straight after she lost her pro debut in 2013.

Meanwhile, Jessica Andrade falls to 20-7 overall in defeat.

The center is aimed at building the UFC brand in China and at nurturing the next generation of Chinese mixed martial arts fighters, who can now draw inspiration from Zhang's victory.

Zhang was the first challenger of Andrade as the reigning UFC Women's Strawweight Champion. Right now, though, UFC president Dana White wants her to fight in the States. Zhang transitioned in the clinch to nail Andrade with four destructive knees to the face.

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Part of that initiative included the UFC unveiling a performance institute in Shanghai in June. All the other fighters on the card made weight.

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