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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Zhang Weili no-sells potential Yan Xiaonan, Tatiana Suarez fights: ‘I’m only focusing on’ Amanda Lemos


“What I want to showcase more in this fight is to fight like water,” Zhang said. “I can fight very flowing, smooth and shapeless. I can be water and just wrap her up. Even if she makes any tiny mistake, I can catch it and finish her.”On Saturday, Weili faces Amanda Lemos in the co-main event of Saturday’s pay-per-view with the Brazilian contender getting her first shot at gold following back-to-back victories over Marina Rodriguez and Michelle Waterson. “Let’s see what happens in this fight,” she said when asked about Yan. “Now I’m only focusing on this fight on this Saturday. This is what I’m focusing on right now.”Lemos has been talking a tough game during fight week, touting her superiority in both grappling and striking. That’s a challenge Zhang gladly accepts.It’s been nine months since Zhang Weili became a two-time strawweight champion with a lopsided win over Carla Esparza, so she’s definitely anxious to get back to work at UFC 292.While it appeared there were multiple options for Zhang’s first title defense — including Yan Xiaonan after she dispatched Jessica Andrade and Mackenzie Dern in her past two appearances — it turns out the fight was Lemos was already in the works for quite some time.“Lemos is good,” Zhang said. “I admit she’s a very good fighter, and she’s very aggressive. Her fighting style, she is a hard hitter, a hard kicker, she has knockout power but so do I.”“All the top five fighters in my division can be my potential opponents,” Zhang said. “I think it’s possible [I could fight Tatiana Suarez].”It’s hard to ignore Zhang vs. Yan as a major attraction in China, but the reigning UFC strawweight champion isn’t interested in what could happen in the future.As deserving as Lemos may be, there’s been a lot of chatter about Yan potentially getting the next title shot, facing off with Zhang in their native China. The UFC has made an aggressive push into the country in recent years, building a new UFC Performance Institute and starting a developmental series called Road to the UFC. The next Road event is scheduled for the same weekend as UFC Singapore, which takes place Aug. 26.While everybody else may be thinking about what comes next, Zhang isn’t contemplating any future until she gets through Lemos at UFC 292.Zhang had basically the same thing to say when asked about Tatiana Suarez, who is arguably the other top contender in the division after she submitted Andrade at UFC Nashville to improve her undefeated record to 10-0 overall.“We were just working on some details like the date and location, but we started working on this fight earlier than Yan [beat] Jessica Andrade [in May].”When it comes to her own game plan, Zhang isn’t necessarily giving away any secrets, but she’s also apparently taking inspiration from a famous quote by martial arts legend Bruce Lee as she seeks to get the job done against Lemos.Lemos has largely flown under the radar as a threat to the strawweight title despite a solid resume that includes a 7-1 overall record in her past eight UFC fights.“I’m not surprised about this matchup at all,” Zhang explained. “Because we started working on this fight very early, earlier than Yan’s [most recent] fight, so since my last fight and Lemos beat Marina [Rodriguez], we just started working on this fight.

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