Zhang keeps title in brutal win over Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248

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LAS VEGAS (AP) – Zhang Weili defended her UFC strawweight championship with a spectacularly brutal split-decision victory over former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 on Saturday night.

Zhang (21-1) and Jedrzejczyk (16-4) traded brutal punches and kicks throughout five technically fascinating rounds, badly damaging each other’s faces. After the last of several standing ovations from the Las Vegas crowd, Zhang won the fight 48-47 on two judges’ cards, while Jedrzejczyk won 48-47 on the third.

Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya fought Yoel Romero in the main event at T-Mobile Arena in the UFC’s hometown after Zhang and Jedrzejczyk put on one of the most viscerally entertaining bouts in recent UFC history.

Both fighters traded insults throughout the promotion of the card, and the bout was uncommonly brutal from the opening round as the fighters traded big punches to the face. Zhang’s superior punching power appeared to make the difference early.

But Jedrzejczyk gathered herself late in the second round and had an outstanding third, switching to a southpaw stance and battering Zhang. The fourth round was more of the same brute punishment for both fighters.

Jedrzejczyk’s forehead and eyes began to swell badly in the fifth round, while Zhang bled from cuts on her face. The fighters embraced in the cage afterward.

“She did great,” Jedrzejczyk said. “We both put on one hell of a performance. I’m proud of myself and my team.”

Zhang became the UFC’s first Chinese champion last year, and she is a key to the promotion’s hopes of growing in the world’s most populous nation. The personable brawler jumped at the chance to take on Jedrzejczyk, who defended the strawweight belt five times.

Jedrzejczyk was the UFC’s strawweight champion from March 2015 until November 2017, when she took the first of two straight losses to Rose Namajunas. After a failed attempt to move up to bantamweight, she returned to 115 pounds and quickly earned another title shot.

Before the title fights, lightweight Beneil Dariush knocked out Drakkar Klose in the second round with one perfect left hand at the end of a spectacular back-and-forth sequence. Dariush (18-4-1) was staggered by Klose before he responded by stalking Klose across the canvas and landing the left hand that dislodged Klose’s mouthpiece and rendered him unconscious on his feet.

On the preliminary card, elite bantamweight prospect Sugar Sean O’Malley went to 11-0 with a dramatic first-round stoppage of José Alberto Quiñónez. The bout was O’Malley’s first since March 2018, thanks to injuries and multiple positive doping tests.

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Zhang Weili, left, connects with a punch to Joanna Jedrzejczyk during the second round of a women’s strawweight UFC 248 mixed martial arts bout Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)
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