This past weekend (Sat. August 31, 2019) at UFC Shenzhen we had a great morning of fights on ESPN and ESPN+. It was a great card that appeared lackluster to most. This event featured eleven fights, seven of which went the distance, with two knockouts and two submissions.
The show was headlined by a UFC women’s strawweight championship bout between now-former champion Jessica Andrade and newly crowned champion Weili Zhang, as well as a great co-main event between two of welterweight’s best. The title changing hands was shocking to some, but the finish shocked everyone. No one expected Zhang to run through Andrade that quickly and viciously, and we now have the UFC’s first-ever Asian champion.
We at LowKickMMA have compiled a list of five fights to make after their showings. Where do the winners go from here? Where do the losers go from here? Continue reading to see our five matchups:
Damir Ismagulov (19-1) vs. Leonardo Santos (17-3-1)
Damir Ismagulov has been perfect since making his UFC debut, winning three unanimous decisions, and winning all nine rounds with a couple 10-8 rounds mixed in there in two of those fights. We got to see his well-rounded game in his UFC debut, where he scored five takedowns and out-struck his opponent 103-22 in total strikes, before out-striking his next opponent 64-38. His most recent outing was on Saturday night, where he completely out-classed Thiago Moises quite handily, and once again showed off his brilliant striking.
Leonardo Santos just came back this year after an almost three-year hiatus, which wasn’t the first long break he’s had. At 39-years-old, it’d be great to see this TUF winner fight more often. After all that time away, he came back and KO’d Stevie Ray in round one, he didn’t skip a beat. It’s crazy to see someone at this age continue to improve and get better, and it’s also crazy to see a 4th degree BJJ black belt have as good of striking as he does.
This would be a step up in competition for Ismagulov, though many people don’t know who Santos is. The only reason for that, as previously stated, he doesn’t fight often enough, which is unfortunate. It’d be great to see how Ismagulov does on the mat with someone like Santos, and it’d be interesting to see how this would play out on the feet considering how good of strikers they each are.
With UFC records like 3-0 (Ismagulov) and 6-0-1 (Santos), one of these two would have to take their first promotional loss.
Kai Kara-France (20-7) 1 NC vs. Matt Schnell (14-4)
This would be a very fun fight. Both of these guys are former champions, and both guys were on The Ultimate Fighter 24 as part of Henry Cejudo’s team. The agility and skill-set of each of these two are at a very high level, as it should be, being flyweights in the UFC. The UFC didn’t pick Kara-France up initially after their season, but at least they have him now, he’s a great talent that’s very exciting to have.
Kara-France is now 3-0 in the UFC thus far, and Schnell is 4-2 under the promotion’s banner, but has won his last four fights in a row. Both of these guys are very quick on the feet and have very good striking, and both are solid on the ground as well. Kara-France is more of a striker that’ll go for a takedown here and there, while Schnell is always looking for a submission, whether he’s on top or on the bottom, as he won his last two fights via triangle choke.
Both of these TUF veterans have also fought at bantamweight, but are primarily flyweights. If this fight gets put together, the winner would then be very close to a title shot. It looks like Joseph Benavidez may have to fight Deiveson Figueiredo for an interim championship while Cejudo’s out, or maybe he does end up challenging Cejudo for the undisputed title. Whichever the case, the winner of this fight should end up closely behind them.
Robbie Lawler (28-14) 1 NC vs. Li Jingliang (17-5)
Li Jingliang really had the performance of his lifetime on Saturday against Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, scoring another late third-round knockout, his second in a row. Now that he beat, and finished, the No. 14 welterweight in the division, he should have his own spot in the top 15. It was really a sight to see, he was just on that whole fight. For a dangerous top guy like dos Santos to look amateurish because of how good Jingliang is was very entertaining and impressive.
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos was 7-1 in the UFC with that only loss being via split decision in his UFC debut, meaning he won his last seven straight. That’s not at all an easy thing to do in a division like welterweight, and against good competition too. That all ended when he stepped in the cage this past Saturday. Jingliang didn’t even need to finish the fight, he was certainly winning, but he ended up stunning dos Santos with an uppercut late in round three and followed up with a few more punches to get the finish.
Jingliang out-struck dos Santos, but not by much, with the striking totals being 59-55 in favor of Jingliang. “The Leech” also had two takedowns and three knockdowns, as opposed to dos Santos’ zero takedowns or knockdowns. His performance was absolutely incredible. What a homecoming he had in front of his native Chinese crowd. Even though Robbie Lawler lost his last three fights and hasn’t won in two years, this is a great fight to make – and here’s why.
In Lawler’s last two fights, he lost to Ben Askren, a controversial outcome, and he lost to Colby Covington. Those are the only two times we’ve seen him in almost two years. Many thought he was on his way to beating Askren, and Covington just didn’t let him breathe. This fight won’t go anything like either of those did.
Jingliang isn’t going to try and constantly pursue a takedown as Askren did, and he’s not going to be in Lawler’s face throwing constant volume without taking a break. He’ll fight him like he fights everyone else; throwing mostly punches with his great heavy-handed boxing game, and maybe look for a takedown here and there, but mostly box him the whole fight while mixing in some kicks.
It’d be a good fight to see if Lawler’s still got it, because we already know Jingliang is for real now. Lawler’s also ranked just one spot above dos Santos, this is the best stylistic matchup available for “The Leech.” They’re two tops guys that have real power and great striking fundamentals. How do you think this one would go?
Jessica Andrade (20-7) vs. Rose Namajunas (8-4) II
If Rose Namajunas feels like coming back, it’d be great to see this rematch. Before Andrade picked her up and viciously slammed her, she was looking better than she ever had before. Namajunas’ boxing was looking absolutely impeccable, she was really coming into her own. What a youth beyond her years she’s been, it’d be a shame to see her hang them up already.
Jessica Andrade won her UFC women’s strawweight championship in dramatic fashion and ended up losing it in even more dramatic of fashion. Weili Zhang bullied her way right through her and got the stoppage within the first minute. Andrade threw a couple of hook combinations. Once she caught Zhang, she started pressing more, which proved to be the wrong choice. Zhang caught her coming in with a right hand, then got the clinch and landed some knees. It was game over at that point, and we were crowning a new champion.
The first fight between these two was very fun to watch, and as previously implied, the result didn’t tell the story of the fight. Both of these women are only 27-years-old, it’s very possible, and likely even, that they’ll each regain the title again in the years to come. Or is Weili Zhang the next big thing that’s going to hold onto the belt for some time to come?
Weili Zhang (20-1) vs. Tatiana Suarez (8-0)
This is the only women’s strawweight title fight that makes sense, unless Namajunas comes back and wants an instant crack at the belt, which is possible. The UFC mentioned they didn’t want to move Tatiana Suarez too fast, but when the only other girls in the top five are Rose Namajunas, Nina Ansaroff (lost to Suarez in last fight), Joanna Jedrzejczyk (coming off a loss and scheduled against Michelle Waterson), and Claudia Gadelha (2-2 in last four and hasn’t looked great recently), Suarez is the clear choice.
These are two of the most dominant fighters in the game today. Weili Zhang just proved to all of us how good she is, and Tatiana Suarez has been proving to us how good she is since The Ultimate Fighter 23, a season she went 3-0 on and won. With all her wrestling credentials coming into the MMA world, Suarez has certainly lived up to every expectation we’ve all put on her thus far.
Both of these women are so elite, it’d be great to see how they match up together. Everyone expects Suarez to win the title at some point, and while Zhang flew under the radar until now really, she’s now the undisputed champion. For Suarez being 8-0 as a professional, 3-0 on TUF, and 2-0 as an amateur, as well as Zhang not losing since her professional debut, something’s got to give in this fight. These women have won their last 33 fights, that’s absolutely remarkable, and have a total combined record of 33-1.
This is certainly the fight that should be made, there’s nowhere for either of them to go but upward. Perhaps after this fight happens, the winner could defend their belt and then go up and challenge Valentina Shevchenko. Women’s MMA isn’t mediocre anymore, there are some real dangerous threats.
Not just one or two either, like back in the day when the only elite female fighters were Cris Cyborg and Ronda Rousey, now we have a good amount of them that could justifiably be on the pound-for-pound list. This is a very exciting time in the sport, and only after 26 years. This is quite literally the tip of the iceberg.