UFC Fight Night 141: Blaydes vs Ngannou II in Beijing Preview
By Candice Hall
The UFC is returning to China on Saturday, November 25 at The Cadillac Arena with their first ever event in the capital of Beijing.
Here is a preview of the card for UFC Fight Night 141: Blaydes vs Ngannou II and additional information on what is coming in the future for the UFC in China.
Curtis Blaydes (10-1) and Francis Ngannou (11-3) clash for a second time in a heavyweight headliner between two hard-hitters who have had somewhat divergent careers since their first fight.
Ngannou put a beating on Blaydes’ right eye socket in 2016, forcing the doctor to stop the fight due to Blaydes’ inability to see through the swelling at the end of the second round. Ngannou won via TKO in what was otherwise a competitive fight between two touted knockout artists.
Since their first fight, Blaydes has enjoyed a 2-fight and then 4-fight win streak, which was broken up by a No Contest for a marijuana test failure by Blaydes – a fight in which he would have received a TKO victory were it not for the failed drug test.
Ngannou, after beating four strikers in a row, was rushed into a title shot against the skilled wrestler and boxer Stipe Miocic. Ngannou was beaten soundly via Miocic’s superior wrestling and his ground defence was exposed in what was seen by journalists and fans alike as an example of a promising prospect being forced to the top too early.
Those that saw Ngannou’s next disappointing outing against future title challenger Derrick Lewis will be on the edge of their seats to see if “The Predator” has psychologically and physically recovered from his two tough losses in a row.
Next up Alistair Overeem (43-17) tests his veteran skills against Sergey Pavlovich (12-0), a skilled Russian Greco Roman-wrestler-turned-striker, hoping to make a name for himself in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
Pavlovich is a relatively unknown name in the MMA world having previously only competed in Russian organizations. However, UFC matchmakers decided that Pavlovich had enough talent and potential to deserve the co-main event against the vastly more experienced Dutch kickboxer Overeem. While Overeem possesses decades more experience as a professional, it remains to be seen if his war-torn body can withstand the power of the slight underdog Pavlovich.
Yadong Song, a 20-year-old who put the bantamweight division on notice with his first round guillotine finish in his debut fight last year, is in the third event from the top on this card.
Song is one of the hottest Chinese prospects on the roster and has been receiving heavy promotion from the UFC in anticipation of his upcoming fight. On UFC Now – an MMA talk show available on the UFC subscription service Fight Pass – journalist Karyn Bryant referred to Song on Monday as “the most physically gifted fighter to come out of Asia.”
Yadong Song (12-3) takes on Vince Morales (8-2), a well-rounded American fighter making his UFC debut.
Other big names on the card include Chinese staple Li “The Leech” Jingliang (15-5) and WMMA rising talent Weili Zhang (17-1) and Yan Xiaonan (9-1). The two female fighters are some of the bigger betting favorites on the card, going against Jessica Aguilar and Syuri Kondo respectively.
Having had a relationship with Japan’s MMA scene since the early days of the sport, the UFC first tested an expansion into the neighboring China in 2013 with a season of their reality television competition show The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). TUF: China received mixed reviews for its production quality and was criticized for having a cast of relatively underdeveloped fighters compared to the American editions.
Despite a rough start, the UFC decided to continue its international expansion strategy by having its first UFC event in Shanghai, China, four years after TUF: China, in November 2017. UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs. Gastelum was a success and UFC Asia-Pacific Vice President Kevin Chang reported that the stadium sold out and more plans for the UFC in China were in the works.
“China is the next frontier for the growth of UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts, and this market is paramount to our success internationally,” Kevin Chang stated in the UFC’s official press release for UFC Fight Night 141.
Plans to build a UFC Performance Institute in Shanghai are in development. The athletics center, based on the existing UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, will be designed as a training incubator to create a structured martial arts environment where young talent can discover their athletic potential.
The UFC Performance Institute Shanghai will provide “scholarships,” given to promising Chinese fighters to live and train at the Institute. The UFC has not released whether or not these scholarships will be different from the developmental contracts already given to some athletes training at the Las Vegas Institute.
UFC Fight Night 141: Blaydes vs Ngannou II will be available for streaming on UFC Fight Pass on Saturday 11:30 AM GMT.