The UFC might have a breakthrough star from China on its hands.
Weili Zhang has earned notice for her skills for years, and now she’s getting it done on the biggest stage. The 29-year-old from Heibi, China had her toughest test to date on Saturday night, and she passed it with flying colors.
Zhang bested longtime strawweight contender Tecia Torres on the main card of UFC 235, winning via unanimous decision. The judges scores’ were 29-28 and a pair of 30-27s at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“I’m happy, I feel excited,” Zhang said through an interpreter. “I realized it was an honor to fight a top ranked fighter in the UFC strawweight division, it was a pleasure.”
Torres likes to fight from range, but Zhang uses a more aggressive approach, and that played out early on, as Zhang repeatedly used headlocks as transitions into throws. Torres, for her part, did her best to counter, as more than once she rolled out of position once they hit the mat.
Torres had her best round in the second, as she landed more frequently. Zhang scored another takedown, but Torres switched position late and ended up scoring offense from the top as the round expired.
The third round turned into a slugfest early on. But then Zhang took over once again and again implemented her game plan, frustrating Torres as time ran out.
Torres, who has returned to American Top Team after a stint in Colorado, has dropped three in a row and is now 10-4.
As for Zhang (19-1), she’s now won 19 in a row after losing her pro debut in 2013 and is 3-0 in the UFC. After doing most of her postfight interview through an interpreter, she closed with a direct message to the crowd in English.
“My name is Weili, remember me, thank you!”