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Jon Anik: Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Zhang Weili 2 won’t top the first fight, but it still ‘feels a lot like’ Michael Chandler vs. Justin Gaethje

Jon Anik has called many battles that took place inside the hallowed UFC octagon, but few, if any, can top the legendary strawweight title bout of UFC 248 between then champion Zhang Weili and longtime titleholder Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Following a 25-minute slugfest for the ages, Weili retained the championship via split decision that night in March 2020.

This Saturday, Jedrzejczyk looks for revenge in a rematch with Weili in the featured bout at UFC 275 in Singapore — Jedrzejczyk’s first bout since their memorable first clash.

While the MMA community is unanimously equal parts excited and intrigued about the rematch, many were left disappointed that the UFC didn’t make it a five-round non-title fight. But after sitting octagon-side for the first bout, Anik is more than accepting that the second go-around is potentially two rounds less.

“Why does everybody want five rounds so badly? I can’t take it,” Anik told MMA Fighting. “I know that’s the minority opinion, but I’m excited to see Joanna Jedrzejczyk back. I think it’s a fascinating angle that if she emerged on the judges’ scorecards that night — March of 2020 — she would’ve fought at least once more in a championship defense, and instead she’s had this elongated layoff, and I think it stands to reason that it could benefit her.

“I have watched the first fight recently and I do believe Joanna won that fight, which I guess is neither here nor there. But I just love this division, it’s history. The strawweight division’s history is absolutely fascinating: You have Rose Namajunas who has two head-to-head wins over Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and for me, Joanna’s championship reign is really the historical greatness of this division. What an opportunity for her to try and get this one back against Zhang Weili and position herself for a title shot against Carla Esparza, or whomever.

“I can’t wait to see it, man. I feels a lot like Michael Chandler and Justin Gaethje as far as a main card fight — I know that was an opener — leading into these championship fights,” Anik continued. “I know Zhang Weili is going to be at the height of motivation. A lot of people thought she beat Rose [in the second fight], and yeah, I don’t have enough good things to say about the UFC’s strawweight division — that last title fight notwithstanding, with respect.

“I think the betting line’s a little wider than I’d expect [Weili is a -160 favorite according to DraftKings Sportsbook], but I think I’ll end up being more aligned with the public that Joanna is closer to a +120 than a +140, while the sharps seem to be on the Weili side, but we will have to see.”

The highly anticipated strawweight tilt will set the table for the main event for the light heavyweight title between Glover Teixeira and Jiri Prochazka, as well as the co-main event between flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and challenger Taila Santos.

Of course, Anik feels strongly that the Jedrzejczyk vs. Weili rematch has a great chance to steal the show, but he has a hard time believing the fight can surpass the original.

“I don’t think it will be more tactical, I just don’t know how it could possibly be better,” Anik explained. “What’s crazy is Joanna Jedrzejczyk was so prophetic about that first fight. She said to us in the fighter meetings, and probably to the assembled media as well, that she thought it was going to be the greatest fight in UFC women’s strawweight history, and obviously it was that and it extended to arguably the greatest fight, men or women, in UFC history. It’s not going to top that. That feels like a pretty safe bet.”

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