UFC on ESPN+ 15 brought a historic match-up to Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre in Shenzen, Guangdong Province. But before that went down, in the co-main event, China’s own Li Jingliang took on his toughest match-up to date, the Brazilian human-highlight-reel Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos.
And, in front of a very friendly crowd, Li passed his test with flying colours. He was composed and patient throughout the fight with dos Santos, hurting the Brazilian with punches in each round before finally ending the fight with a beautiful counter-punch in the dying embers of round three.
In the first round of their fight, both men showed flashes of dangerous intent. Li drew first blood with a little flurry that had dos Santos stumbling backwards. That was nothing compared to what Li hit him with at the end of the round, though. A huge straight right hand that sent dos Santos down and looking out, but the Brazilian entered survival mode, made it to his feet, and initiated a clinch that he held until the buzzer sounded.
In the second round Li landed that straight right a few more times, slowing down and frustrating dos Santos. Dos Santos tried taking back the initiative with kicks; aimed to the legs, body, and head. All but the leg kicks were mostly blocked by Li. And Li responded to this by tagging dos Santos with more punches.
With Li likely ahead on the scorecards, dos Santos came out with urgency and tapped into his less orthodox striking techniques. His spinning attacks looked interesting, but they didn’t land on Li, who remained patient and scored with punches when possible. He also scored a takedown, after catching a kick, but dos Santos got right back up. Dos Santos was desperate for a knockout in the final minute, but Li was too composed and too quick for him and he was able to finish the fight with a counter-right and a little ground and pound.
Official result: Li Jingliang def. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos by TKO (punches), round 3 (4:51).