MMA Review: #696: UFC Fight Night 157

-After the packed card that was UFC 241 this was a big step down for the promotion, as this Chinese card was basically a one or two-fight show at best. Still, the main event – with China’s own Weili Zhang challenging for the Strawweight title – sounded pretty cool.

UFC Fight Night 157

Shenzhen, China

-Your hosts are Brendan Fitzgerald and Michael Bisping.

Flyweight Fight: Mizuki Inoue vs Wu Yanan

This was Japanese star Mizuki’s UFC debut after putting together a really strong record of 13-5 largely in Invicta, but unfortunately she missed the 125lbs Flyweight limit, coming in at 129lbs instead. Wu meanwhile was 1-1 in the UFC, meaning this looked like a tough one to pick.

Round One begins and Mizuki looks out of shape, but the announcers mention that she took the fight on late notice which probably explains the weight snafu too. Takedown attempt from Mizuki is stuffed early on as they exchange a few strikes. Nice right hand lands for Mizuki as she pressures Wu backwards. Mizuki continues to push the pace, narrowly outstriking Wu with her punches. Round ends with basically more of the same. 10-9 Mizuki by a hair.

Round Two and Mizuki connects with a really heavy right hand in the opening exchange. Wu fires back with a combo though before they clinch up. Takedown attempt from Mizuki is blocked and Wu looks for a possible guillotine, but Mizuki breaks free. She tries another trip, but Wu blocks and exits with a hard elbow. Nice combo lands for Mizuki as she dodges a head kick. Exchange continues and Mizuki connects on some short elbows from close range. Mizuki’s striking is looking a little too sharp for Wu overall. Takedown attempt from Wu is unsuccessful. More good strikes from Mizuki in and out of the clinch and the round ends on the feet. 10-9 Mizuki.

Round Three and Mizuki defends an early takedown and continues to walk Wu down. Couple of left hooks connect for Wu. She’s swinging some heavy shots but is missing the majority. Big takedown attempt from Wu is blocked really well. Trade from the clinch sees Mizuki land some good punches but her hair’s come loose now which may be an issue for her. They clinch back up again and continue to jockey for position while exchanging, and with two minutes to go break off. Mizuki is really struggling with her hair now and Wu takes the opportunity to tag her with some decent punches. Big exchange sees both women land, and they continue to trade off until the fight comes to an end. 10-9 Wu, but probably 29-28 Mizuki overall. Close one to call.

Judges have it 29-28 Wu, 29-28 Mizuki, and 29-28 for Mizuki Inoue to pick up the win. Pretty fun fight in the end as they were just happy to exchange pretty heavy shots. Mizuki probably edged it due to her willingness to push forward, but it was certainly close. I’d be interested to see what Mizuki can do next time with a full training camp and stuff.

Welterweight Fight: Kenan Song vs Derrick Krantz

This was Krantz’s second UFC outing after coming in as a late replacement and being smacked around by Vicente Luque earlier in the year, and to be honest I didn’t expect a lot better for him here as Song had impressed in his brief UFC career and looked like a Chinese prospect to watch.

Round One and Song forces Krantz back early on and lands a body kick. Crowd are wildly into Song here. Spinning back kick glances for the Chinese fighter. Both men throw kicks and Song is definitely throwing more volume. Clinch from Krantz and they jockey for position, but break off pretty quickly. Decent right hand connects for Krantz. Big swings miss for Song in response. They continue to exchange punches with neither man really landing cleanly, and then with seconds to go a wild trade does see both men land. Flying knee into a head kick connects for Song. Round ends soon after. 10-9 Song largely on volume.

Round Two begins and Krantz pushes forward this time with some early punches. Song’s nose is all marked up. Takedown attempt from Krantz and he elevates Song and slams him down into half-guard. He moves into side mount with Song holding onto a guillotine, but Krantz doesn’t go for a Von Flue choke surprisingly enough, instead slipping his head free. Song manages to get back to half-guard, but Krantz is looking to pass to mount. Kimura attempt now from Song but he can’t pull the arm through properly. He does manage to sweep though, getting a big pop and taking the back in the process. Krantz slips out the back door though and looks to get Song back down. He does so and ends up on top in half-guard again, and then gets a guillotine in a scramble. Song looks like he might be in trouble, but he does well to slip his head free. They jockey for position and Song nearly takes the back from the clinch, but he slips and ends up on his back instead. Round ends with Krantz on top landing a couple of punches.10-9 Krantz.

Round Three and Song comes out pouring on the volume and has Krantz in BIG TROUBLE with a pretty wild flurry. Krantz is all over the place covering up, but he manages to silence the crowd with a well-timed takedown to half-guard. Song works hard to stand though and wow, Krantz is busted up badly over his left eye. They trade with punches and Krantz lands a pretty nasty left, but some big shots from Song have him badly stunned again. Jumping knee connects for Song but Krantz takes it well and goes for a takedown again. He manages to trip Song down, but the Chinese fighter scrambles and almost gets free, only to end up on his back anyway. Full mount for Krantz but Song manages to reverse and escape to his feet. Both guys look GASSED now. Flying knee glances for Song but his punches look to have lost their pop. He’s still landing better shots than Krantz though, who just appears to have nothing left. Krantz’s face is a mess too. They trade some pretty sloppy strikes due to the exhaustion and that’s the round. 10-9 Song for a 29-28 win.

Official scores are 29-28 all round for Kenan Song. Bit of a weird fight as the first two rounds were quite slow, the third started amazingly well and then it was like someone sucked all the oxygen out of the cage and left both men with nothing left with about a minute and half to go. Song looked good on his feet, but he definitely needs some work on his grappling to progress much further I’d say.

Flyweight Fight: Kai Kara-France vs Mark De La Rosa

This one looked quite intriguing as New Zealand’s Kara-France had looked pretty good in his UFC debut win while De La Rosa’s last fight had been a pretty exciting one with Alex Perez, even if he’d lost. It was also a rare opportunity for Flyweights to shine on a main card, which was interesting too.

First round begins and De La Rosa’s corner are so loud that the show suddenly sounds like one of the recent behind-closed-doors ones! They’re yelling at him to take Kara-France down, but he doesn’t shoot at all early on. Kara-France works his jab early on and throws in some low kicks, then lands with a clean left hook. Takedown attempt finally for DLR and he gets the back and goes for a German suplex, but Kara-France avoids that and drops to his knees instead. DLR stays on him and keeps working for the potential suplex, but Kara-France turns into him and hits a BIG SLAM before landing some punches to the head. They stand back up and Kara-France continues to work his jab, but DLR tags him with a combination. Exchange continues with both guys using their jab. Big takedown attempt from DLR but Kara-France defends it brilliantly. Round ends on the feet. Really close round to call but I’d probably say Kara-France just about edged it.

Second round and Kara-France opens with a pretty nice combination. DLR fires back, but Kara-France uses his jab to set up a BIG RIGHT HAND and DLR goes down! He pops back up and shoots, but Kara-France stuffs it and they exchange some punches. DLR comes back with a solid combo and these guys are really swinging now. Leg kick drops DLR again and Kara-France drops some punches before letting him up. Looks like Kara-France has the slightly sharper strikes when they’re exchanging. To be fair though DLR is firing back with some good shots of his own. Kara-France lands another good combo with just under a minute to go and even throws in a capoeira kick for good measure. Looks like he’s cut, though. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Kara-France.

Third round and both guys come out firing again with DLR opening with a pretty nice combo. Kara-France connects on a hard right hand though that snaps his head right back. DLR is really chasing forward with his strikes now. Heavy right hand connects for him at the end of a combo. Wild trade sees both men land but they’ve evidently got decent chins to take punishment. Heavy combo from DLR. Body kick answers back for Kara-France and DLR is in trouble. He doubles over and takes a bunch of bad shots, then waves the Kiwi on. De La Rosa is all busted up now. Exchange continues and Kara-France is connecting with a bunch of kicks now. They keep on throwing at one another and the round ends with another nice exchange. Great fight. 10-9 Kara-France for a 30-27 I’d say.

Judges go 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Kai Kara-France. Hell of a fight as both men came out swinging and put on a great show, but Kara-France got the better of most of the striking exchanges, had that big slam in the first round and got two knockdowns too. He’s clearly a man to keep an eye on and with how thin 125lbs is, he might not be too far from a title shot.

Welterweight Fight: Jingliang Li vs Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos

This one looked like a great match on paper, as Zaleski was riding a massive 7-fight win streak despite not getting much fanfare, while Li had won his last 2 matches in impressive fashion and had surprisingly become Mr Excitement after putting on a few dull fights in his earlier UFC days. I was taking Zaleski to win, feeling like he was the slightly sharper fighter overall.

Round One and unsurprisingly the crowd love THE LEECH and why not. He’s in insane shape too. Both men look slightly tentative as they trade off with some glancing kicks early on, with neither man landing anything really cleanly. Good low kick from Zaleski is caught and Li takes him down, but the Brazilian springs up instantly. Midway through the round and there’s still not a lot going on here. Brief trade sees Zaleski land a low kick and a left hook, but Li takes it well. They trade some kicks and it looks like Zaleski’s definitely better in that area. Flurry suddenly lands for Li though and forces the Brazilian backwards. He seems okay and gets back to his kicking game, but Li clinches and forces him into the fence briefly. They break off with seconds to go, and suddenly Li drops Zaleski HARD with a right hand! Zaleski pops up instantly, showing a good chin, and manages to clinch to end the round. I’d say Li stole the round with that knockdown.

Round Two and Li opens with a big combo that has Zaleski’s legs wobbled for a second. The Brazilian tries to ping strikes back and throws a wild spinning kick, but it doesn’t land. Li’s looking more confident with his punching now and another right hand lands for him. Right hand answers back for Zaleski though. They’re really picking up the pace in this round. Nice body kick lands for Zaleski. Beautiful push kick into a wheel kick glances for the Brazilian. Two minutes to go and Li dodges a big combination really well. Nice combo lands for Li. Wild trade sees both men land and Zaleski is backing Li up a little more now. Big knee into a hard left hand lands for the Brazilian. This is becoming a wild fight. Seconds to go and they continue to fire strikes, with Zaleski really tagging Li with a left hand before the buzzer. Close one to call, probably 10-9 Zaleski actually.

Round Three and the crowd are really into this. They come out trading shots right away with both men landing glancing blows, as Li’s movement is doing really well in terms of allowing him to avoid the big power shots. Takedown attempt is avoided by Li. Couple of low kicks land for the Leech and Zaleski fires back with a right hook that misses. Flying knee into a combo from Zaleski but none of it lands cleanly. Stiff right lands for Li. Exchange continues before Li catches a kick and dumps the Brazilian, but he pops up pretty quickly. Slip sees Zaleski go back down, but again he pops right up and grabs a clinch. Li breaks and lands a right hand, and the clock is ticking now as we’ve got just over a minute left. Couple of big swings miss for Zaleski. He keeps on pressing forward, but with 20 seconds to go he eats a BIG UPPERCUT from Li and ends up going down after a delayed reaction! Li pounces on him to finish and lands a flurry, and with literally 10 seconds to go Zaleski crashes back down and that’s that! Wow.

Biggest win of Li’s career by a mile and the guy has to be considered a legit contender at 170lbs after that. He looked great here throughout, showing some tremendous defensive footwork to avoid the strikes of a very dangerous opponent before showing his power to take the Brazilian out late on. Great fight overall too.

UFC World Strawweight Title: Jessica Andrade vs Weili Zhang

This was a bit of an odd title fight to make really, as Andrade had won the belt in a fluke-like fashion by slamming Rose Namajunas on her head in a fight she’d firmly been losing up until then. With that in mind I figured the UFC would book an immediate rematch, but instead Rose decided to take some time off. That left Tatiana Suarez as the top contender, but when she was sidelined too, the UFC decided to give Zhang the shot instead. ‘Magnum’ had looked excellent in her last fight – a win over Tecia Torres – and was 19-1 overall, but in all honesty she hadn’t truly earned a shot and it did feel like she was only given it due to the show being in China. Still looked like a fun fight on paper I guess.

Fight begins and Zhang opens with a low kick. Andrade looks to flurry right away, but it turns into A WILD TRADE and suddenly Zhang stuns her with a big right hand! Andrade stumbles into the clinch, but gets DESTROYED WITH ELBOWS AND KNEES and goes crashing backwards and down, and IT’S OVER! Jesus Christ.

Did not expect that in a million years but I guess Andrade completely underestimated Zhang’s striking power. It looked like she figured she’d just be able to get Zhang out of there in a rush, but as soon as she got hurt she couldn’t recover and that was that. Insane stuff and I hold my hands up and say I underestimated Zhang too. She’s clearly awesome, even if I still maintain Suarez is the best 115lber in the world right now and it’s only a matter of time before she wins the title herself. At any rate, this was one of the quickest title wins in UFC history and a hell of a way to end this show.

-Show ends shortly after the post-fight interviews and it looks like Zhang’s about to take off as a major star.

Final Thoughts….

Weird show to rate really as the top two fights delivered hugely and to be fair the first three were all decent enough, but you wouldn’t go out of your way to watch them as they really lacked name value. The Zhang KO is probably all over the place on highlights so that’s obviously worth tracking down, but overall this is a decent show for hardcore fans only.

Best Fight: Li vs. Zaleski
Worst Fight: Krantz vs. Song

Overall Rating: ***

Until next time,

Scott Newman: