UFC Fight Night 157: Andrade vs. Zhang - Predictions and Picks
After a much-welcomed one-week gap from UFC programming last weekend, this weekend sees the world’s biggest MMA promotion return with another ESPN+ Fight Night. This time the show is taking place from China – Shenzhen, to be exact – as the UFC returns to the Chinese mainland for the third time.
This is quite easily the biggest Chinese show to date; it’s still not exactly a blockbuster card, but a title fight at the top – the third on ESPN+ in 2019 – puts it over and above the other two. For the most part though, there’s not a lot here to entice the casual viewer.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC Fight Night 157: Andrade vs. Zhang.
#1 Jessica Andrade vs. Weili Zhang
Selling Jessica Andrade as a UFC champion – no offense, but ‘Bate Estaca’ isn’t the easiest fighter to market – was always going to be tricky, and so for this fight, her first as reigning Strawweight queen, the promotion has gone the other way and put the focus on the challenger – kind of.
Technically speaking, the top contender in the division right now – ignoring former champ Rose Namajunas for a moment – is feared wrestler Tatiana Suarez, but the former TUF winner is out injured and so instead, needing a main event for this show in China, the UFC have plugged the highest-ranked Chinese contender they’ve got, Weili Zhang, into a somewhat unlikely title challenge.
It’s not that ‘Magnum’ is a bad fighter – she’s not, in fact she’s excellent, and she’s ranked #6 in the world right now. But despite having a ton of skills she hasn’t quite had a breakout performance yet, and that worries me for her against Andrade.
So what does she have going for her? She’s 19-1 right now and has three straight wins in the UFC, including a victory over perennial top gatekeeper Tecia Torres in her last outing. Technically speaking she isn’t the greatest striker, but she throws with both power and volume, and it was that volume that allowed her to outpoint Torres even if she couldn’t really hurt her on the feet.
Zhang also has a venomous ground game, with almost as many submissions to her name as she does knockouts. The majority of those wins came over far lower level opposition, but her armbar victory over former top-ranked Jessica Aguilar last summer was an eye-opener.
The problem for her here though is that I just don’t think she matches up well with Andrade. The champion has been compared to PRIDE legend Wanderlei Silva at times, not only because of her Brazilian heritage but because of her berserker style, but she’s actually a much more nuanced fighter than a simple brute force brawler.
Sure, she was outstruck comprehensively by the fleet-footed combination-based Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her first title challenge – and she was also being beaten to the punch by Namajunas in their fight before pulling off an unlikely victory via a slam – a victory that some would call a fluke.
But nobody else has truly been able to resist her power and volume, including more technical strikers like Torres, Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Claudia Gadelha. She’s simply too strong, too aggressive and pushes too much of a pace for her opponents to keep up with.
For me the two ways to beat Andrade would be using the same gameplan that Jedrzejczyk did – stick and move, using technical striking and excellent defensive skills to pick her apart over the distance – or to be the bigger, stronger fighter in a grappling sense. And while I’d probably guess that Zhang is better on the ground from a technical standpoint, I just don’t see her being capable of outpowering Andrade.
In a bit of a spoiler, I can say assuming Andrade wins here, I’ll pick Suarez to beat her comfortably if that turns out to be the next title fight. But in this one I think the Brazilian will simply have too much for Zhang to handle – ‘Magnum’ won’t be able to outwork her in terms of volume as she did with Torres, she doesn’t have enough KO power to catch her with a counter and finish her, and I can’t see her getting Andrade down. For me if she survives the distance it’d be impressive, but I’m not sure I see that happening either.
The Pick: Andrade via third-round TKO