Two of the most promising young fighters to feature on UFC Fight Night 202 are China’s Rong Zhu and Chile’s Ignacio Bahamondes. Both of their UFC records to this point have been identical, earning a shot into the big league before showing promise but ultimately losing in their debuts. This was followed by both men with a rebound win and finish, showing the improvements they had made and the ability to learn from a loss.
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However, at UFC Fight Night 202, one man’s path will continue with a win while one must be set back once again. Zhu, who is now coming off of an impressive and dominating victory over Brandon Jenkins, or Bahamondes who made waves by producing one of the most stunning spinning wheel kick KO’s in recent memory, in his last fight at UFC on
Rong Zhu will come in as the relatively substantial underdog, meaning a bet of $100 will return $220 profit if he is victorious.
- Bahamondes: -270
- Zhu: +220
Zhu Rong is a well rounded fighter and a surprisingly composed and calculated one for his age. He fights out of the orthadox stance and doesn’t really stray from it much. What sets him apart is his ability to flow in and out of range as well as the flow with which he throws his combinations and blends through grappling transitions. He is not the most tight or explosive puncher but he chooses when he wants to throw carefully and chains smooth combinations that land with high accuracy. The majority of his punches are straights and hooks, and often something in between, where his straights come at the slightest arc to make their way around the guard but still land on the edge of his striking range. He is extremely good at shifting back and forth in rhythm with his opponents, evading by contracting as they expand and attacking by doing vice versa.
His use of straights and hooks predominantly force his opponents to keep their hands up which is when he looks to shoot. He is not a pure power and pressure wrestler, rather he will readily allow his opponents enough space to move and squirm, choosing instead to constantly adapt in order to stay on top. Even in a cage clinch, his opponents tend to find the ability to choose whether they want to face him or give up the break in order to break the grip, because Zhu will allow them to turn in order to maintain the position where he is the one pressing them to the cage. On the ground as well, he is constantly transitioning from top control to the back depending on what his opponent offers him, and he gives up failing technique attempts early to maintain position. Likewise, as he does so, he calculates when to throw ground and pound with high accuracy and deadly power, especially his elbows but does not throw a lot of volume.
Zhu’s preference to throw less often but make sure each shot counts is a double-edged sword. It causes him to be a bit of a slower starter, using the first half round as a testing phase, but also essentially giving it up to his opponent. Those who have been able to pour on enough pressure have been able to minimize his opportunities because if Zhu cannot find his space and time to look for his shots he waits too long for his chance and finds himself snowballing away from the victory.
Bahamondes is the kind of fighter to pour on that kind of pressure, but at the same time, his weaknesses are the total opposite of Zhu. Bahamondes throws constantly but has been caught especially with jabs as he tries to advance over and over. He is the longer fighter, so it’s in Zhu’s best interest to allow Bahamondes to work forward and then intercept his range. He stands very heavy on the front leg, but constantly switches stance to make reading him difficult. One of his tactics involves switching stance and showing the angle cut as he advances to force his opponent back on a direct straight line to the fence. When Bahamondes finds himself with his back to the cage, he always circles out.
Compared to Zhu, Bahamondes has far more of a sprawl and brawl style and likely won’t entertain the wrestling contest with Zhu, instead making best use of his reach and pace. It’s very important for him not to get complacent should he begin to feel he is easily outworking Zhu because that’s when he gets caught. For Zhu, he needs to take every chance he gets mid exchange to land that shot on the advancing Bahamondes and he needs to then chain those opportunities into takedowns as he is the superior grappler.
I believe this is a very competitive fight, but maybe the best odds for the underdog on the card. The two men’s strengths and weaknesses oppose one another, it’s accuracy vs. volume, reach vs flow, and well-roundedness vs specialization. I believe that Zhu will be able to contend on the feet and also mix things up and put Bahamondes on the mat at some point, edging his way on the judges’ scorecards.
Prediction: Rong Zhu to win via decision
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.