Over five rounds, the strawweights battled back-and-forth with more than 700 strikes thrown and nearly 400 landed. The epic encounter was universally recognized as the Fight of the Year but that didn’t take away the damage that Jedrzejczyk absorbed over 25 minutes much less soothe the sting she felt after coming up short in a razor-close split decision loss.
Just over two years later, Jedrjzeczyk is preparing to run it back with Zhang, this time with three rounds to work instead of five. Still, the expectations are still high for their rematch at UFC 275. Jedrzejczyk knows she can do better than the last time out, especially as she seeks to cut down on the sheer volume of damage she sustained.
“I’m a real warrior when I step into the octagon,” Jedrzejczyk explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I take this fight, but I know that I have more tools, and I can be better and more smarter fighter in the octagon during the fight, so I don’t need to exchange only and get this damage. I just need to be more smarter with using my tools, and I will do that this time.
“This fight I feel is going to be different. Sometimes I just took the fight and I should be smarter and I took a big lesson and I will change this.”
Perhaps Jedrzejczyk’s biggest lesson after five rounds in the cage with Zhang is the former 115-pound champion’s best offense came in reaction to whatever she was doing.
Well-known for her aggression, Jedrzejczyk looks back at the biggest exchanges in the first fight and immediately recognizes where Zhang was scoring her best strikes.
“Weili Zhang scored most of her punches when she was countering with her cross, with her right hand,” Jedrzejczyk said. “We have to make some adjustments and we’re going to be fine.
“I was standing too much in front of her. I was working on moving more before that fight but like I said, I’m a warrior. I took the fight [to her], I went into the battle, into the war and we are going back and forth.”
While Jedrzejczyk promises that adjustments will be made going into the rematch, she also can’t help but praise Zhang for the way she fought that brought the best out of both of them.
“She’s very tough,” Jedrzejczyk said. “She has an amazing gas tank. She’s shorter. She’s muscular, she’s very strong. She’s similar to Jessica Andrade. But when you face girls like Weili or Andrade, who are very muscular, you think they are going to be very strong, but they are not as strong as they look.
“I was surprised how good I was in the clinch. I’m skinnier and I’m taller during the fight always than the other girls but I did very well. I was very impressed with how strong mentally she was and she is. Great character, great warrior.”
For all the respect for Zhang heading into UFC 275, Jedrzejczyk believes she’s still the better overall fighter because she’s willing to recognize what went wrong and then correct those errors. She’s spent the past few months with her coaches and training partners at American Top Team fine-tuning her game plan, and she promises a more dominant showcase when she faces Zhang again.
“I know what I did so many mistakes and what mistakes I made in this fight,” Jedrzejczyk said. “I’m just looking forward. I’m just proud of myself. I want to keep on winning. I want to win my next fight, I want to keep on winning and fight for the UFC strawweight belt.”
Considering Jedrzejczyk already has a dominant win over Esparza in their previous encounter back in 2015, she expects her next fight will be with the title on the line. But none of that happens if she doesn’t get through Zhang in Singapore.
“She’s maybe not the gatekeeper, but I know if I beat Weili Zhang I will get the title shot,” Jedrzejczyk said. “I didn’t want to push to fight Rose Namajunas because I knew Carla Esparza was going to be next and I had to wait a long time. I just want to fight.
“Like I said so many months ago, I just want to fight. I want to fight the best and it’s happening. Weili Zhang is right there.”