Timing is everything in MMA. While Yan Xiaonan and Tatiana Suarez were ranked ahead of her, it was #5-ranked strawweight Amanda Lemos challenging champ Weili Zhang at UFC 292 in Boston on Saturday night.
Suarez’s comeback started just a little too late, and Lemos apparently had already been given the nod ahead of Yan’s latest win. But because of this, Lemos felt overlooked during fight week, as fans clamored for the match-ups between Zhang and the division’s other contenders.
Early in the opening round, Lemos threw a kick, which was immediately caught by Zhang— who dumped the challenger. Zhang got on top, moving to side control, a decent spot to be against the Brazilian. Lemos wound up pinned against the fence, with Zhang landing punches. Zhang moved to half-guard, trapping the leg of Lemos which prevented any hope of the challenger wall-walking up. Zhang then began to unload left hands, heavy blows, as Lemos finally struggled up, only to be dragged down again.
Lemos then locked up a d’arce choke! Zhang pulled her leg free, moved to side control, fired knees, and Lemos still had the choke. But Zhang finally pulled free and mounted the back, dropping downright nasty ground n’ pound! Lemos survived the initial onslaught, and got to the fence, where Zhang landed more elbows. Left hands followed as Lemos got to a knee. She powered up, jumped a ninja choke, and was slammed down to end the round!
— UFC (@ufc) August 20, 2023
A wild opening round, at least somewhat unexpected. Round two had Lemos light on her feet, landing a right early only for Zhang to answer with her left. Zhang then landed a side kick, which had Lemos bouncing into the fence. Lemos, undeterred, landed a stiff right hand, but was taken down a moment later. Weili threatened a crucifix, and then came close to mount before Lemos reclaimed half-guard.
Eating up ample control time, Zhang wasn’t able to do the amount of damage she had in the first. But when Lemos scrambled, Zhang stayed on top, then took the back, getting both hooks in! Zhang hammered her opponent’s thigh with heel strikes, then transitioned to the top. When Lemos got up, she was almost immediately taken down once again. Two rounds in, it was Weili Zhang’s fight.
Round three had a scrappy start, with Lemos eventually taking the fight to the fence, looking for a takedown. Zhang reversed, grabbed a leg, and instead landed a takedown of her own. She then backed off and landed kicks to either thigh of Lemos, then got back on top and quickly passed to side control.
Getting back to her feet was no easy feat for Amanda Lemos. And when she did, she wound up eating some smashing elbows from the champ, who then fired lefts and rights as Lemos covered up. Heading to the third, Zhang was easily up three rounds, and if any of those turned out to be a 10-8, the fight might already be out of reach for Lemos.
The first 90 seconds of round four played out on the feet. If nothing else, that was a better place for Lemos to be, at least compared to being flat on her back. Lemos found a bit of success with her right hand, and knocked Zhang to the ground as she was throwing a kick — more a case of being off-balance than a knockdown. And shortly after, it was Zhang landing a takedown, halting the challenger’s momentum. Lemos then tried to lock up a choke off her back before scrambling up and out — with a minute left in the frame. During which both ladies landed, following by Amanda crashing in last in the round, and Zhang landing a kick to the body.
The fourth round was the best for Lemos. The fifth and final frame went south rather quickly. Zhang dropped the challenger early, and piled on with ground n’ pound. Lemos rolled, twisted, hunted for a leg lock, and somehow survived a battering. But Zhang trapped her in a crucifix along the fence, doing more damage. Lemos would escape up, only to be thrown back down like a sack of potatoes. Lemos would regain her feet and end the fight there, but there was zero question as to whether Weili Zhang had retained her title.
Official Result: Weili Zhang def. Amanda Lemos by unanimous decision (50-43, 50-44, 49-45)