Thursday, June 30, 2022

UFC 275 fight card: Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk among three fights to watch outside of main event

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Fans are anticipating a special kind of violence when Glover Teixeira vs. Jiri Prochazka headlines UFC 275 from Kallang, Singapore. Expectations are that a glorious finish will punctuate Saturday’s UFC light heavyweight championship match. Viewers hoping for more than just one exciting fight can breathe a sigh of relief.

The fight card for UFC 275 features a follow-up to arguably the greatest fight in women’s MMA history, an exciting young fighter out of Australia and — similar to the main event — a grappler vs. striker showdown that should produce action. For the purposes of highlighting fights beyond what is on the promotional poster, UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko vs. Taila Santos will be omitted. Shevchenko is on a legacy-building run and that always deserves praise; however, she is expected to dominate her challenger as per usual.

Let’s take a look at three must-watch fights outside of Saturday’s main event.

Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

This fight stands in a class of its own when it comes to earned fan excitement. Zhang and Jedrzejczyk fought tooth and nail to a split decision at UFC 248 that was crowned 2020’s Fight of the Year by numerous publications. Zhang barely clung onto her UFC women’s strawweight title and Jedrzejczyk’s forehead swelled like an alien. It was a masterclass display of the warrior spirit. In some ways, Zhang and Jedrzejczyk are burdened with insurmountable expectations. How are they to produce another FOTY candidate? After all, their first fight contributed to Jedrzejczyk’s 27-month layoff. Even if the sequel can’t recapture lightning in a bottle, these women deserve the fanfare that will follow them on fight week.

Ramazan Emeev vs. Jack Della Maddalena

Dedicated MMA fans have gravitated towards Australia’s Maddalena. A serious knockout threat on the regional scene, Maddalena punched his ticket to the UFC through the Contender Series. The Aussie made a successful debut with the promotion at UFC 270 in January, starching Pete Rodriguez in under three minutes. UFC president Dana White and company appear to have the same high expectations of Maddalena that fans do. He draws Emeev in his sophomore UFC fight, a fighter with nearly twice the pro experience and a 5-2 Octagon record. Emeev is a battle-tested, decision machine that may drag Maddalena into deep waters. A serious test for the young welterweight.

Jake Matthews vs. Andre Fialho

The Oceanic region continues to churn out high-level fighters and prospects. Hoping to join the likes of Israel Adesanya, Alexander Volkanovski and Kai Kara-France is Matthews. “The Celtic Kid” signed with the promotion at age 19. Sure, he had a shaky start but so did a 20-year-old Charles Oliveira. That is not to compare the two, simply to state that UFC is a brutal learning environment for young fighters. Matthews is starting to put everything together and a submission loss to the ultra-talented Sean Brady should be only a temporary setback. Fialho throws heat and is ready to exchange fire with Matthews. Bouncing back from a tough debut against Michel Pereira, Fialho has secured Performance of the Night bonuses against the ultra violent Miguel Baeza and Cameron VanCamp. A modern-day matchup of submission specialist vs. knockout artist takes place on the preliminary card.

Honorable mention: UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko vs. Taila Santos

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