Yan Xiaonan Game, but Weili Zhang Too Much in UFC 300 Co-Headliner

Weili Zhang and Yan Xiaonan, UFC 300
Weili Zhang and Yan Xiaonan, UFC 300 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Gabriel Gonazalez/Cageside Press

An all-China battle unfolded in the co-main event of UFC 300, as women’s strawweight champ Weili Zhang faced off with top contender Yan Xiaonan.

The match-up was historic, though it had the unfortunate distinction of following in the wake of Max Holloway and Justin Gaethje’s BMF title fight.

Maybe taking that as a boost of inspiration, the strawweight pair traded early, with Xiaonan in particular swinging for the fences. Zhang then caught the challenger coming in, but Xiaonan secured a takedown just bull-rushing the champ. They didn’t stay down long, but Xiaonan knocked down Zhang a moment later, though it may have been assisted by Weili being off-balance.

Zhang, however, would land a throw moments later, briefly looking for a crucifix before switching the side control, then taking the back! With hooks in, Zhang locked up a rear-naked choke, and it was tight! 10 seconds were on the clock, Xiaonan gave the thumbs up, then appeared to briefly lose consciousness right at the bell as Zhang released the hold. Whether she went out or was just on the precipice, it didn’t matter, because she was back to her feet, albeit stumbling a bit, and able to return to her corner. There, the cutman would do what he could to bring Xiaonan back to her senses, applying pressure near the nose.

Smelling blood in the water however, Weili Zhang took the fight right back down early in round two. Xiaonan went to her back rather than have to contend with another choke. Zhang wound up on top in a scramble, in half-guard. She would take the back again, however, flatten Yan Xiaonan out, and begin teeing off with left and right hands. The ref took a look, but let it go on. Still, it was the second near-finish of the fight in two rounds. Zhang meanwhile went after an arm-triangle choke, but Xiaonan somehow pulled out and reversed. The champ would slide out the back, and they went back to the feet for the final 30 seconds, with Xiaonan landing at least once.

Early in the third, Yan Xiaonan turned the tables, connecting flush and dropping Zhang! The challenger then chopped at Weili’s legs until the ref stood the pair up. Zhang appeared to be flagging, low on gas after a busy first two rounds. Coming together with about two minutes on the clock, both ladies connected, with Zhang taking the worse of it. They would go down, with Xiaonan on top, but didn’t stay there. Xiaonan would catch a kick moments later, however, dump the champ, but wound up unable to hold her down.

Yan Xiaonan scored another knockdown early in round four, a left-right combo landing. Zhang was back up, firing a combo of her down. When they went to the ground, against the fence, Zhang was in control just barely, looking to take the back against a very slippery, scrambling Xiaonan. Zhang would get a hook in, however, stalling things. It would take a good long while but with back control, Zhang began dropping hammer fists, then flatted Xiaonan out. She was too high up the back for a choke, but managed to get her other hook in— only to run out of time in the round.

A solid fourth round for the champ likely had her up 3-1 in the fight heading into the final frame. Xiaonan was also warned for fence grabs between rounds. When Zhang took her down blasting through the attempt, however, they were nowhere near the fence anyway. But Xiaonan managed to scramble out, lifting Zhang up with butterfly hooks.

The next takedown had Weili Zhang in side control. She transitioned to the back, and got hooks in. Xiaonan tried to spin out, but couldn’t, with Zhang adjusting, moving to top position. Precious seconds were ticking away with Xiaonan exposed on the ground. Zhang wound up on the back again, hooks in. Yan Xiaonan would gut it out to the end, and had her moments in the fight— but ultimately could not get past champ Weili Zhang.

Official Result: Zhang Weili def. Yan Xiaonan by unanimous decision (49-45, 49-45, 49-45)