China's Zhang Weili will get a shot at redemption in the UFC strawweight division after knocking out Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland with a sensational second-round spinning back fist in Singapore on Sunday.
Former world champion Zhang ducked away from a Jedrzejczyk onslaught, spun and connected flush to the head with the out-cold Pole falling face-first into the canvas after 2min 28sec of round two.
"I am very happy for this fight. I told myself I would use all my experience for this fight and I did it -- I am coming back," said the 32-year-old Zhang, who should now get a crack at world champion Carla Esparza.
Zhang is the face of MMA in Asia and had the crowd chanting her name throughout the fight, a perfect primer for the two world title fights as UFC returned to Asia for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Czech challenger Jiri Prochazka upset veteran Brazilian Glover Teixeira to become world light-heavyweight champion after a brutal contest.
With just 30 seconds left in the final round Prochazka laid on a rear naked choke that saw Teixeira submit to hand over his title.
Prior to that Kyrgyz-Peruvian champion Valentina Shevchenko was almost upset in a women's flyweight title bout by Brazil's Taila Santos.
Santos's superior ground game had Shevchenko in trouble in the opening rounds, but she fought back to edge a split decision 48–47, 47–48, 49–46.
UFC boss Dana White promised the winner of the Zhang-Jedrzejczyk bout would challenge Esparza for the American's strawweight world title.
- 'Greatest fight ever' -
The last time Zhang fought Jedrzejczyk -– in Las Vegas in March 2020 -– they staged a five-round war that White declared "the greatest fight ever" with the Chinese retaining her title on a split decision.
The rematch Sunday was just as breathless with Zhang winning the early exchanges and pounding her opponent with elbows on the ground.
But Jedrzejczyk got back to her feet and managed to attack until the end of the first round.
The pace intensified in the second before Zhang brought it to a brutal, effective end, having landed 75 per cent of the significant strikes thrown.
The 34-year-old Jedrzejczyk, who was strawweight champion from 2015 to 2017, immediately announced her retirement after the fight.
Zhang, who lost the title to American Rose Namajunas last year, said she was ready to face Esparza after paying tribute to Jedrzejczyk.
"Joanna is a fighter. She is a warrior," said Zhang.
"I was very, very calm and relaxed for this fight. I told myself I'm not fighting Joanna, I'm fighting myself. As soon as I beat myself I can conquer everything."
Sunday's card capped off a week of action from the US-based leading mixed martial arts promotion in Singapore, that had included the first instalment of the new "Road to UFC" tournament to showcase unsigned talent from the Asia- Pacific region.
And more regional talent was on display on the undercard Sunday, with Chinese 21-year-old lightweight Maheshate Hayisaer making an instant impact
The third youngest fighter on UFC books, Maheshate enjoyed a stunning debut with a first-round knockout of veteran American Steve Garcia.