China’s most recognizable face in the UFC, Zhang Weili, failed to reclaim the title of Women’s Strawweight Champion in her rematch against American Rose Namajunas at UFC 268 on the evening of November 6 in New York City.
Zhang managed to make it all five rounds, losing by split decision.
The bout served as the co-main event alongside the UFC Welterweight Championship rematch between Kamaru Usman, the current champion, and Colby Covington, former interim champion.
In the previous meeting between Zhang and Namajunas earlier this year at UFC 261, the Chinese mixed martial artist fell early in the first round after being knocked out by a well-placed head kick by Namajunas.
Fans in a Shanghai sports bar watch Zhang (bottom) and Namajunas at UFC 268
As you’d expect, Zhang trained extensively ahead of tonight’s rematch. According to a report by ESPN, this included training while coaches played audio of “fans loudly booing at a sporting event” and “USA!” chants over the gym’s speaker system. (Zhang partially blamed her loss to Namajunas at UFC 261 to the hostile crowd in Florida.)
This psychological training proved to be worthwhile, as fans in New York burst into “USA!” chants on more than one occasion during tonight’s fight.
The result at UFC 268 is undoubtedly a disappointing outcome for both Zhang and China’s fast-growing contingent of MMA fans.
“I gave my 100%, and I want to congratulate Rose. I am just glad I had the chance to come to Madison Square Garden and show my abilities,” Zhang told UFC color commentator Joe Rogan through a translator following the bout.
Zhang rose to prominence in China and with fight fans worldwide back in 2019 when she became the first East Asian UFC champion in the promotion’s history.
Cover image via VCG
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