After KO win, Zhang Weili is back in title contention

Society & Culture

Zhang Weili defeats Joanna Jędrzejczyk at UFC 275 with a spinning backfist heard around the world.

Zhāng Wěilì 张伟丽, China’s first-ever UFC champion, reminded the world of her ability after a brutal knockout of Joanna Jędrzejczyk at UFC 275 on Saturday in Singapore.

— Bovada (@BovadaOfficial) June 12, 2022

The knockout was greeted with a stunned gasp from the sold-out crowd, followed by cheers. According to ESPN Stats and Info, it was only the 10th backfist KO in UFC history — but the first one performed by a woman.

The fight was a rematch of a classic from 2020, widely regarded as one of the greatest UFC bouts (of any gender) in history.

Zhang has had a difficult year in MMA, suffering consecutive losses to American Rose Namajunas in 2021, the first of which — via a devastating knockout — resulted in her losing her strawweight crown. The rematch against Namajunas was a close decision loss for the Chinese fighter, who arguably could have won with different judges.

But going into the Singapore bout against Jędrzejczyk, it was clear that Zhang had evolved. While the opening half of the first round had shades of the pair’s first fight, Zhang showed her growth by securing a takedown and inflicting a brutal combination of ground-and-pound elbows and punches from top position.

During the past 12 months, Zhang and her gym, Black Tiger MMA, have been working in collaboration with the American team Fight Ready, headed by former U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medalist and two-weight-class UFC champion Henry Cejudo. Zhang recognized that her November loss to Namajunas was in part due to her naïve approach to grappling.

In the end, against Jędrzejczyk, it was Zhang’s ability to stand in the pocket that proved to be the difference. In the second minute of the second round, Jędrzejczyk, keen to close the distance, rushed at Zhang with a flurry of punches. Zhang only needed one counter.

The Chinese fighter threw a sidekick that glanced the outside of Jędrzejczyk’s torso before following it up with a picture-perfect spinning backfist that instantly knocked out the Pole. Jędrzejczyk retired after the fight.

Afterwards, Zhang called for shot at Carla Esparza, the new strawweight queen.

“I want fight with Carla in Abu Dhabi because I know there’s a fight there in October,” Zhang told reporters at the post-fight press conference. “I think Carla is a special fighter, too, and I know that can be a really good fight. Also, for me and for her — not China or the U.S. So we can fight in another country, so it’s fair for both of us.”

In the build-up to the fight, Zhang spoke about the difficulties she faced in her previous fights in the U.S., after struggling to overcome the time difference, injury, and the loss of her coaches due to visa issues.


Technical issues hamper Zhou Guanyu — again

The harsh reality of Formula One is beginning to set in for Zhōu Guānyǔ 周冠宇 as silly season approaches, the summer period when the drivers’ market is at its most volatile.

Currently sitting in 18th out of 21 in the drivers’ championship, with a single point, Zhou has found it difficult to keep pace with teammate Valtteri Bottas, who is currently eighth with 40 points.

Since his superb 10thplace finish in his debut in Bahrain, Zhou has suffered a series of setbacks, both with his form and his car.

This past weekend in Baku at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Zhou was once again forced to retire from the race — his third mechanical failure this season, and the third out of four races.

The Chinese rookie was running well, even managing to pass his teammate, before he was forced to bring the car in with a hydraulics failure. SCMP reports these comments from a clearly frustrated Zhou:

“Yeah, it is heartbreaking to be standing here, I can’t believe it happened again,” he said track side. “It’s pretty frustrating not to finish three out of four races in a row.

“From my side I haven’t put a foot wrong in that race, we were very competitive. We have to get it sorted for the future because we are missing way too many opportunities.

“I feel like it’s another chance to get points, we need to investigate what the issue is and get it fixed, because a third DNF in four races is not ideal.”

Last month at the Miami and Spanish Grand Prix, Zhou was forced to retire after his Alfa Romeo car suffered a water leak and power loss.

While the technical faults have been out of his control, Zhou, who is the only rookie on the grid, has also struggled at times. At Monaco earlier this month, Zhou finished a lap down on his teammate after he made a number of mistakes during the race, including massively overshooting the chicane at the end of the tunnel while battling with Japan’s Yuki Tsunoda.

Despite Zhou’s struggles, the chances of him staying in F1 still very much remain in his favor. The fact that he is clearly a financial asset certainly helps his cause, and the virtue of this being his rookie season definitely gives him more room to make mistakes.

Compared to other recent rookie drivers, Zhou does not look out of place, and is showing that he is more than capable of competing alongside them. Right now, it’s hard to argue that Zhou is slower than other drivers such as Nicholas Latifi, Lance Stroll, and Mick Schumacher.

However, with current F2 champion Oscar Piastri waiting in the wings — and racing for Alpine, Zhou’s parent team — Zhou could find himself squeezed out for the 2023 season.

One thing is for certain: If Zhou is to guarantee his future on the grid, then Alfa needs to iron out the technical issues that are stopping him before he can even get going.


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China Telecom in bid for F1 rights (Sports Business)

China and South Korea continue dominance at World Taekwondo Grand Prix Challenge (Inside the Games)

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