UFC 227: Dillashaw vs Garbrandt 2 takes place on Saturday 4 August in Los Angeles, California (Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. China time). While all of the fighters representing Asia are on the prelims, it’s a special treat to have three from the Asian continent showcased on a UFC card in the US. ASIAMMA presents a look at the matches of Wulijiburen, Zhang Weili, and Kang Kyung-Ho.
In the opening bout of the evening, Wulijiburen will face short notice Ecuadorian opponent Marlon Vera. Originally Wuliji was expected to face Bharat Khandare, but the Indian pulled out.
At 28 with a record of 11-5, Wuliji’s strong wrestling base has given him success in China, in every promotion from RUFF to Kunlun Fight. He’s known as “The Beast Master” as a nod to his tough demeanor at Beijing Fighting Brothers Gym under Yao Honggang, a shuai jiao proponent. Fighting Brothers won the final round at 2017’s Chin Woo Men, and Wuliji’s performances got him the call up for UFC’s first mainland China event in Shanghai.
While Wuliji’s wrestling helped him steamroll his compatriots, lack of finishing acumen was exposed in his UFC debut against Rolando Dy, a fellow debutant from the Philippines of boxing sock. For UFC 227, he has been fortunate to secure a final camp at Jackson Wink MMA. He will need to retain every ounce of strategy he learns there to employ against his next opponent.
Vera is an 8-fight veteran of the UFC and a TUF Latin America contestant, a good level of experience for a 25-year old. After going on a 3-fight win run, he dropped 2 decisions to rankers John Lineker and Douglas Andrade. Still, Vera’s grappling is on point and off his back he’s also creative. This is the perfect storm against Wuliji’s 2017 style. The sound of the cage door shutting will signal the time to see if Wuliji has evolved.
Zhang Weili immediately follows Wulijiburen on the early prelims with her strawweight match against Danielle Taylor.
Zhang is 28 years old and China’s top female fighter. After getting her feet wet in CKF, she signed with Kunlun Fight and became the promotion’s superstar. Zhang hammered out a record of 15-1 as she secured both the strawweight and flyweight belts. She’s held the strawweight title by knockout over Karla Benitez and by decisioning Aline Sattelmayer.
Zhang was to start her international career at RIZIN 10, but pulled out due to a shoulder injury. Shortly afterwards came the announcement that she had signed to the UFC. Along with Wilijiburen, she’s gone from her home base in Beijing’s Black Tiger to train at Jackson Wink for her final few weeks of camp. Zhang is powerful, technical, and well-rounded. The polish from JW comes at a perfect time.
Taylor was the KOTC champ, and she’s 2-2 in the UFC. Arguably she could be more competitive in the atomweight division; she eeked out a controversial split against top-ranked Ham Seo-Hee and backed it up with a win over Jessica Penne. Although she’s coming off a recent loss to JJ Aldrich, her Octagon comfort and good striking will be her assets.
Zhang’s opponents haven’t all been on her level, but no one is sleeping on her. Zhang’s UFC debut should be commendable.
Mr Perfect took several years off for his mandatory military service, and made a perfect return in 2018 by choking out Guido Cannetti with a triangle he started in midair. Next he fights Ricardo Ramos in a match that was bumped up from the early prelims.
Kang is a product of the Korean powerhouse Team MAD. He made his professional debut ten years ago in Spirit MC after fighting on the reality TV show “Go! Super Korean”. He mounted a climb through the ROAD FC bantamweight ranks to eventually take the title, and that’s when he got the UFC’s call.
On his way to building his record of 14-7-0-1, Kang is now 3-1-0-1 in the UFC, including two submission finishes. With his performance against Michinori Tanaka before his military break, and his comeback choke of Cannetti, it seems that Kang could be reaching his potential, physically and mentally. Kang trained with the National Taekwondo Team during his hiatus, and continued to support his fellow UFC fighters in the gym.
Ramos is only 23, and he’s had half the years’ of MMA experience of Kang. But his BJJ is no joke. Physically, he and Kang will match up – Kang won’t have the long vice-like advantage he’s had over many other bantamweights – but their games will be totally different. Kang will measuredly sink into his rhythm; Ramos will launch out of the gate. Kang will use his wrestling to find an opening; Ramos will attack for submissions. Kang’s way to win this fight is to keep his cool yet not stagnate, prove he has developed a gas tank, and react with his python-like skills the moment he sees Ramos exposed.
Korean MMA fans are very hopeful that the next stage of Kang’s career will be an upwards trajectory of staying in the UFC and showing an improved ability to put the pieces together and get finishes.