Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s next fight is against one of the strawweight division’s most proven finishers, a scenario she’s more than familiar with.
“She’s a strong animal; she’s so big,” Jedrzejczyk said. “She throws very hard punches, but I’m more experienced. I’ve been through these championship bouts so many times, so I’m a real five-rounder. My conditioning is always on point, and I will have to be very clever, very sneaky as well.”
The former 115-pound queen is the first challenger to the recently crowned champ; the two meet in Las Vegas at UFC 248 on March 7. They share a common opponent in Jessica Andrade, from whom Weili took the belt this past August and Jedrzejczyk outpointed at UFC 211.
Jedrzejczyk sees similarities between Zhang and “Bate Estaca” – both are known for their finishing ability, with Zhang having won 17 fights by knockout or submission during her current 20-fight win streak.
“I think this fight with Zhang will be similar to the fight with Jessica Andrade,” she said. “They’re both very similar fighters. Going forward, throwing looping punches, good wrestling, strong wrestling. They’re not very technical fighters, but very strong. I think this fight is going to be very similar. I have to cut the angles, slip, counter, use my timing, my length, my reach, there is much more coming, you know?”
Zhang has a long way to go to match Jedrzejczyk’s record of five consecutive UFC strawweight title defenses. But she’s already collected a few impressive names in her four Octagon victories. Aside from Andrade, she won a unanimous decision over longtime contender Tecia Torres and submitted former World Series of Fighting champion Jessica Aguilar.
Jedrzejczyk’s recent 2-3 record is less impressive on paper, though her three losses all came in title fights, and her five-round decision win over Michelle Waterson at UFC Tampa in October was a return to form for the 32-year-old. She credits a back-to-basics approach for her success, which she expects to carry over into her fight with Zhang.
“I’m more powerful, more strong, and I’m back to the roots,” Jedrzejczyk said. “I put more combos. It’s not only boxing or kicks, I put more combinations as I used to do in Muay Thai and at the beginning of my MMA fighting career.
“I’m very proud of myself, how I showed up in my last fight with Michelle Waterson. I think I sent a strong message to the strawweight division – good striking, good wrestling, everything is on point.”