SINGAPORE fight fans will be served violence for breakfast this weekend, courtesy of a stacked UFC card topped by two championship fights and a Fight of the Year rematch.
UFC 275 gets underway at 6am local time – around 11pm here in the UK – and I’m expecting fireworks from sunrise.
Glover Teixeira makes the maiden defence of his light-heavyweight crown against striking phenom Jiri Prochazka, shortly after female flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko adds to her legacy against bruising Taila Santos.
And, not to be outdone, in the increasingly familiar ‘people’s main event’, former strawweight champions Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk collide in an unmissable, unofficial title eliminator.
Their first fight back in 2020 remains the stuff of legend. For 25 minutes they punched, kicked, dragged and grappled one another relentlessly before Zhang emerged with a split decision and the strawweight belt.
We’ve had to wait two years for the return. But, get ready, because round six starts in the early hours of Sunday morning.
For Teixeira (33-7) to be defending UFC gold in 2022 is remarkable. Aged 42, his Indian Summer in the sport has been awe-inspiring as he’s put together a run of six straight wins, including five finishes.
His latest, the second-round submission of Jan Blachowicz in October, relieved the Pole of UFC 205lb gold and crowned Glover as the second oldest champ in Octagon history.
Challenger Prochazka, however, is on a mean streak of his own. The 29-year-old Czech carries a 28-3-1 record, but hasn’t lost in his last 12 fights, dating back to 2015.
A creative striker with a Tong Po haircut (remember him from the movie ‘Kickboxer’) and the power to back it up, he’s bigger, fresher, faster and even more vicious than the champion.
Santos’ title chances are a little less compelling, purely based on the level the lady at the top of the flyweight division is currently competing at.
Shevchenko could well be the best fighter in the UFC right now, regardless of gender or weight class. She’s ruthless on the feet, deadly in the clinch and his submissions skills for every occasion.
The Brazilian challenger has only one defeat on her 20-fight record – a split decision too – but she’s jumping right to the top of MMA’s fighting pyramid on Sunday and will need something special to usurp the throne.
As for Weili–Jedrzejczyk part 2, whilst I’m naturally hoping for a repeat of their first encounter, activity, or lack of, is the primary factor to consider.
In the 27 months since they made history in Las Vegas, Joanna hasn’t fought at all. Zhang has fought twice, but lost both, along with the 125lb belt.
However, the Chinese ‘Magnum’ (21-3) suffered a debated split decision to Rose Namajunas in New York in November and displayed real signs of growth, especially in her grappling.
And, after winning her first 14 fights, Poland’s Jedrzejczyk has lost four of her last six, so you could argue a break away and time to regroup and recover was necessary.
What’s also worth noting is that title redemption awaits the victor, with new champ Carla Esparza, fresh from her upset of Namajunas, awaiting a worthy challenger.