While I’m excited for the rematch of Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275, there are a couple of caveats that need to be stated. First, while the original contest between them was one of the greatest fights in the history of MMA, sequels are very rarely as good as the original. Even more rare is when the sequel is better. Thus, while I expect the sequel to be good, I’m keeping my expectations tempered. Secondly, I’m flabbergasted the fight isn’t scheduled for five rounds. I get the impression neither fighter wanted it to go that long, but given the stakes and the epic nature of their first fight, it felt only appropriate for the contest to be scheduled for five rounds. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of reason to expect a hell of a scrap between the two.
The other two non-title main card fights look like they should be solid scraps too. I may have ripped on the prelims a bit, but the main card of UFC 275 isn’t falling short of the PPV standard the UFC has been setting as of late.
For the early prelims preview, click here. For the televised prelims, click here. For an audio preview, click here.
Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Women’s Strawweight
Ever since these two squared off, neither has been able to pick up a victory. For Jedrzejczyk, it’s because she hasn’t fought since that contest over two years ago. In the case of Zhang, she lost to Rose Namajunas in back-to-back contests for the title. Those losses haven’t damaged the reputation of Zhang too badly – especially given many scored the second contest for Zhang – but the inactivity for Jedrzejczyk appears to have hurt her stock some. Given Jedrzejczyk has turned down several potential fights, many question her commitment to fighting. Then again, it’s possible the long layoff could have been good for Jedrzejczyk. After all, I’m sure everyone would agree the first fight between these two was life-altering for the both of them….
It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Jedrzejczyk approached this contest with a near-identical strategy for what she did the first time around. After all Jedrzejczyk, secured a notable striking advantage in their first contest. What likely did Jedrzejczyk in on the scorecards was immense swelling on her forehead that made her near unrecognizable. The odds of that happening again would appear to be long, but MMA is also the ultimate never-say-never sport.
If Jedrzejczyk does make any changes, they would likely be minimal. Perhaps she’ll try to stay on the outside a bit more, but it isn’t like she didn’t try that the first time around. Then again, Jedrzejczyk edged things out in the clinch too, an area that has always been a strength of hers. She may have been able to pick up some reads from Namajunas, but everything Jedrzejczyk does well, she was able to do against Zhang the first time around, Zhang just happened to do what she does even better. Much of that has to do with Zhang owning a notable edge in power. It’s not like Jedrzejczyk’s head swelled up for no reason. Zhang isn’t quite as diverse in her arsenal as Jedrzejczyk, but she does mix in a LOT of low kicks and strings solid boxing combinations together.
If there is anything I would expect to change from the first contest, it would be Zhang placing a heavier emphasis on her wrestling. Zhang’s wrestling and grappling never looked better than it did against Namajunas in their second contest. If Jedrzejczyk is still in top physical shape – she could have lost a step as she is now 34 – she has always been difficult to take down. However, with her improved technique, that could give her the edge she needs to get Jedrzejczyk to the mat with greater success. Keeping her down is another story….
In addition to winning the first fight, the intangibles are in the favor of Zhang. She’s the younger of the two. She hits harder. She’s the better wrestler. She appears to have a greater love for the sport at this point. Hell, it could even be pointed out she hasn’t had the same weight cutting issues Jedrzejczyk has had. However, I can’t get past how badly Jedrzejczyk wants this fight. While it may have been foolish for her standing to set on the sidelines – she probably would already be next in line if she had taken and won a fight or two since their first meeting – it also shows her desire to get this one back. Jedrzejczyk has been going through the roughest stretch of her career in the win-loss column, but she also looked like she has learned how to channel her emotions better than she did earlier in her career. The swagger she lost after her first loss to Namajunas appears to have returned. Despite that, I can’t ignore all the other factors in favor of Zhang. I wouldn’t dream of putting money on either fighter with confidence, but I’ll favor Zhang ever so slightly. Zhang via decision
Rogerio Bontorin vs. Manel Kape, Flyweight
Looking at everything strictly on paper, this contest looks like Bontorin doesn’t stand a chance. Officially, the Brazilian doesn’t have a single victory in his last four appearances while Kape has secured wins in his last two appearances via first round KO. Closer inspection reveals a far more competitive contest.
While Bontorin doesn’t have a win in those last four fights, he has been facing some of the best fighters in the division, the losses in that stretch coming to Ray Borg, Kai Kara-France, and Brandon Royval. There’s also the no contest that was originally a win over Matt Schnell. Aside from the Borg fight, it’s not like Bontorin was blown out in those fights either. Since that loss to Borg, Bontorin has brushed up heavily on his wrestling, proving to be the better ground fighter in each of his fights since that time.
Utilizing his wrestling would appear to be the most likely route to victory against Kape. Of course, that is far easier said than done. Kape has proven difficult to take and hold down, but Matheus Nicolau proved a steady torrent of takedown attempts tends to make Kape more hesitant to let his powerful fists fly. Throw in that Bontorin offers more explosion than Nicolau and those takedowns just might come easier for Bontorin.
Though I would be shocked if wrestling didn’t come into play, it would be a shock if striking didn’t play a bigger factor. Kape is the biggest KO threat this side of Deiveson Figueiredo in the division. However, Kape may have the advantage over Figueiredo in terms of diversity of strikes. Everyone remembers Kape’s flying knee KO. They’re also aware of the raw power he possesses in his fists. Kape is just as capable of securing a spinning attack or a head kick to finish the job. All of that overshadows Kape’s boxing too. His ability to piece together slick combinations and work over the body is rarely mentioned.
If Bontorin can threaten enough with takedowns, it should open up his striking enough for him to at least be competitive on the feet, allowing him to take a decision with his wrestling proving the difference. It’s a very easy scenario to see playing out, especially if Kape spends too much time looking for the perfect shot on the outside. To be fair to Kape, he hasn’t had any issues letting his fists fly in his last two contests, but that was also a lower level of competition than Bontorin. However, Kape should prove just as capable of landing his own takedowns and the difference in his power should be visibly apparent in enough of the strikes that he should separate himself in the judges’ eyes, provided he doesn’t secure a finish. Kape via decision
- Given Uncle Dana tends to sign just about every fighter who secures a finish or survives a major firefight, the talent pool that enters the UFC through DWCS has been diluted. Thus, there isn’t the same amount of buzz around those entering the organization via that route as there was in the early seasons of the program. However, Jack Della Maddalena created a stir by emerging victorious in perhaps the most entertaining scrap in the five seasons of the program. He only intensified the interest in him by KOing Pete Rodriguez in the first round of his official UFC debut. Of course, there’s more to Maddalena than just the fun results. The Aussie shows an incredible gas tank, loads of heart, and fights with equal aplomb from both stances. He doesn’t have one-punch power, but he knows how to pile up the volume in a hurry. Given the lack of a traditional wrestling background, the biggest concern most have about him is his ability to fight off some on with a physical presence. That’s where Ramazan Emeev comes into play. The Russian is a persistent wrestler who tends to smother his opposition, whether it be on the mat or against the cage. Emeev can box a bit for short periods, but tends to get exposed if he’s forced to do so for extended lengths. It’s hard to see Emeev keeping pace with Maddalena for 15 minutes, but it isn’t hard to see him controlling the Aussie for just enough of the first two rounds to steal a decision away. That said, Maddalena has proven hard to hold down. Plus, while Emeev has proven to be durable throughout his career – he’s been put away via strikes once in his 25 fights – he appears to be on the downside after 13 years as a professional at the age of 35. I see Maddalena wearing down the veteran and securing a late stoppage in this very appropriate test. Maddalena via TKO of RD3
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