A heavyweight double bill tops the card at this weekend’s UFC Beijing, with the likes of Curtis Blaydes, Francis Ngannou, and Alistair Overeem in action. But will they bring the action to mainland China?
The UFC will be making its return to China after almost a year away with UFC Fight Night 141. The main card will have a total of four fights, which includes the likes of former UFC heavyweight title challenger Francis Ngannou, former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem and more. The card will take place in Cadillac Arena, home to 2008 Summer Olympics Basketball preliminaries and finals. The event is expected to be very Asian friendly and will be one of the few times the Asian audience gets to watch UFC fights live in the evening.
Airing on Fight Pass throughout most of North America (the main card airs on The Fight Network in Canada), it’s a card western MMA fans will need to get up early for. Now that the shoe’s on the other foot, is it worth giving up sleeping in on a Saturday? Here’s a main card preview for UFC Beijing!
- Li Jingliang vs. David Zawada
The main card will be kicked off by welterweights Li Jingliang and David Zawada. Li has a UFC record of 7-3, and recently bounced back from an upset loss to Jake Mathews by defeating Daichi Abe. ‘The Leech’ is arguably the best fighter to have come out of China, and holds a win over Luke ‘The Jedi’ Jumeau outside the UFC. His opponent at UFC Beijing is German fighter David Zawada. Zawada is currently 0-1 in the UFC, losing his debut fight to Danny Roberts earlier this year.
The main card opener will see the pair battle to stay relevant in the super-stacked welterweight division. David enters the fight on a low note, and needs a win if he hopes to make it into the UFC’s elite. Li, on the other hand, has some momentum (and is something of a fan favorite) — momentum that he won’t want to lose, especially not in his own country. Expect this to be a fun, back and forth fight with Li emerging as the winner.
- Song Yadong vs. Vince Morales
Song Yadong and Vince Morales lock horns at bantamweight on the UFC Beijing card. Yadong enters the fight with an overall record of 13-4 and a UFC record of 2-0. The 20-year-old is one of the brightest MMA prospects from China and currently is on 5-fight winning streak. He squares off against former Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series competitor Vince Morales. Morales enters the fight with a record of 8-2, and is coming off a win in his last fight. Interestingly, after losing his DWTNCS bout, Morales jumped to Bellator for a single fight, and now debuts with the UFC.
This fight is a battle between two relative newcomers to the UFC. The fight really shouldn’t go the distance. You can expect Yadong to walk out with the win. He’s facing someone who has been submitted in the past (both Morales’ losses came via submission), putting the fight in Yadong’s wheelhouse. Frankly, Yadong has displayed a great submission game in his career so far. His first UFC win was via a front choke, over Bharat Khandare, and he holds a handful of submission victories throughout his pro career.
- Alistair Overeem vs. Sergey Pavlovich
The co-main event of the evening will see veteran heavyweight Alistair Overeem take on undefeated Russian Sergey Pavlovich. This is a fun but important heavyweight match-up. The UFC heavyweight division is undergoing some serious changes at the moment. The elite fighters of the division are growing older, and are finding it difficult to survive when matched up against some of the new blood in the weight class. Though Daniel Cormier, the current champion, is himself almost 40, the division is witnessing the emergence of a bunch of new prospects. Plus, Cormier has declared he intends to retire next year.
Overeem enters the fight on one of the worst runs of his career, on a two fight losing streak. A third loss would tie his all time low, but it’s important to consider that the Overeem of today is older, and his chin has been suspect at times. The former title challenger hadn’t suffered consecutive losses since 2013. Now, at the very end of his physical prime, he will be facing the young up-and-coming Sergey Pavlovich. Pavlovich enters the fight with a record of 12-0 and is the former Fight Nights Global heavyweight champion. He hasn’t faced someone of ‘The Reem’s’ level as of yet, but do not be surprised if he wins this one. Picking the winner here is a tough job — especially since it’s Pavlovich’s UFC debut.
- Francis Ngannou vs. Curtis Blaydes
The main event of the evening at UFC Beijing will be a much-anticipated rematch between heavyweights Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes. The pair first met in a match-up back in April 2016, with Ngannou coming out victorious via second-round TKO (doctors stoppage). This time around, however, things aren’t expected to go the same way. Ngannou has lost a lot of momentum this year. He started off the year by losing a unanimous decision to Stipe Miocic for the UFC heavyweight championship, in a sleeper fight. This was followed by another lackluster decision loss to Derick Lewis. These two fights have resulted in Ngannou losing a lot of fan base, especially with the latter fight being derided as one of the worst heavyweight fights of all time.
Blaydes, on the other hand, is currently on a five fight winning streak (what would have been a sixth win was overturned to a no contest after Blaydes tested positive for Marijuana). He has not lost since the first fight with Ngannou. Blaydes’ last two performances were particularly impressive, as he managed to defeat Mark Hunt via decision and stopped Alistair Overeem in the third round. Overall this has the potential to be a great fight. Picking the winner here again is a difficult job but Blaydes has the momentum and is the safer bet, solely because of his past few performances.
UFC Fight Night 141 takes place on Saturday, November 24 at the Cadillac Arena in Beijing, China. The card airs exclusively on UFC Fight Pass and The Fight Network in North America, and on BT Sport in the UK. In India, the card airs live on SONY SIX and SONY SIX HD.