ROAD to UFC will culminate this weekend, and one of the feature bouts includes Jeong Young Lee and Yi Zhang of South Korea and China, respectively. A phenom, Lee is 9-1, on a six-fight win streak, four of which came by first-round stoppage. His ability to bring the fight from the opening bell has made him an exciting prospect should he earn a UFC contract.
His opponent, Zha Yi, has over twice the experience, despite being a year younger. At 21-3, mostly fought inside the WLF, he has earned a reputation as a submission ace. Ten of his 21 victories have been by Tap-out, including a rare Ninja choke in 2017.
Jeong Young Lee will come into the bout as the betting favorite at -250. This means that it will cost $250 to win $100 on Lee.
- Jeong Young Lee: -250
- Zha Yi: +200
Jeong Young Lee brings the fight right out of the gate. His last three fights have all been stopped within the first minute, and this speaks to his style. Lee is confident that he will immediately control the distance, be the faster fighter, and hit harder and more accurately. He will look to stand conventional, with a laser-like right cross, but truly use it to set up the left hook as they bring their guard across.
If his opponent survives the opening flurry, look for Lee to start chopping at the leg with his right low kick and oblique kick and mix in his uppercuts as he forces their legs to plant. Defensively, the range is his best attribute but is also good at rolling with shots to take off the brunt of the damage.
Zha Yi has to be extremely careful during the first few opening minutes, as compared to Lee, he has a much longer feeling-out period. Although Yi is also very active early but doesn’t get his timing and range down nearly as quickly. Therefore it would be a mistake to get into a firefight. Although Lee has shown little weaknesses in his grappling and is a major armbar threat on the ground, this is largely because we rarely see him on the ground. He will latch onto submissions once he has rocked or stunned his opponents on the feet but avoids grappling exchanges in general.
Zha Yi is a submission animal, he has a variety on his record including rear-naked chokes, triangles, heel hooks, guillotines, arm triangles, and even a ninja choke. His wrestling from the feet has shown holes in the past, unable to take opponents down and take down himself, but he is both comfortable on top, in the clinch, and on his back. The latter can get him in trouble in terms of scoring, but he is so good at sitting out, turning to single legs, and reversing a position that he will accept bottom knowing he will eventually end up on top. His triangles also come incredibly quick off his back, so his opponents are never truly safe even if they feel they are the ones pressuring.
Prediction and Betting Guide
Lee is the betting favorite for a reason. He is technically the better striker, and the first round is where he is most dangerous. With the extra experience and high pace grappling style, however, I do think that Yi has a real chance if he can force Lee to work, burn him out and bring him into round three. That is a massive “if”, as Yi has been shown to get tagged while he is still looking for his range. Lee has also shown little holes to exploit, albeit because we rarely see him forced to grapple for extended periods.
However, Zha Yi has never been knocked out other than a single-body kick. This is not because he hasn’t been tagged, but rather because he has shown an ability to scramble and scrap out of bad situations and drag opponents into his fight where snatches a neck or limb. For those looking to bet on an underdog this weekend Zha Yi, maybe a solid gamble for being +200, one of the larger values on the card.
Pick: Zha Yi to win (+200)