After an impressive streak of 7 wins and only 1 loss within a span of 35 months, Amanda Lemos has rightfully earned herself an opportunity to contend for the UFC strawweight title.
Her recent victories, including notable stoppages of Michelle Waterson-Gomez and Marina Rodriguez, have further solidified her position. Now, as she prepares to face Zhang Weili at UFC 292 on August 19, Lemos is determined to secure a definitive victory and stake her claim as the new champion.
“Weili is very explosive,” Lemos said this week on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “She likes to finish fights just like myself, so we’ll set the octagon on fire. I’ll get in there to win. We have a nice strategy, and I’m sure I’ll leave the cage with the belt.”
Lemos admits she was surprised to land the fight in Boston after months of speculation about a potential UFC show in China headlined by Weili, especially after Chinese contender Yan Xiaonan knocked out Jessica Andrade. But now Lemos is out to make history.
“Weili is very dangerous, so I have to stay alert of all of her movements,” Lemos said. “Her being that explosive is a good thing we’re studying in training. It’s going to be a super tough fight. We’ll give our all in there. She wants her belt, I want that belt for me, so it definitely won’t be left in the hands of the judges.”
A former Jungle Fight bantamweight champion, Lemos has showcased her dominance in the UFC with impressive finishes in five out of her seven victories since joining the organization in 2019. Notably, she achieved first-round stoppages against formidable opponents like Montserrat Ruiz, Livinha Souza, and Miranda Granger.
On the other hand, Zhang Weili boasts an identical 7-2 record inside the octagon, with four finishes of her own. However, Zhang's victories have come against higher-ranked adversaries, including Carla Esparza, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Andrade, and Jessica Aguilar, solidifying her reputation as a destroyer of top-tier competition.
“I’m sharpening my tools in all areas,” Lemos said. “I feel I’m evolving in each training. I have a new jiu-jitsu coach and he’s badass. I’m learning new tricks I can’t wait to put them in practice. I can’t tell you how it’s going to end, but it won’t go the distance. It’s either a knockout or a submission, that’s what I’m coming after on August 19.”
A remarkable tale of perseverance and determination, Lemos's journey to a shot at UFC gold has been a long and arduous one. After experiencing a lack of opportunities following her reign as the Jungle Fight champion, Lemos made the difficult decision to leave the sport. Subsequently, she found herself working as a motorcycle taxi driver in Belem, struggling to make ends meet. It was only when her manager, Wallid Ismail, contacted her with a short-notice UFC opportunity against Leslie Smith that Lemos decided to return to MMA, despite having not trained for months.
However, her comeback was met with adversity as she suffered an injury during training. Undeterred, Lemos exhibited unwavering determination and still made the journey to Glasgow, Scotland, to face Smith. Although she ultimately suffered a second-round TKO loss, her courage and resilience were undeniable. Unfortunately, her path took another challenging turn as she received a two-year suspension from USADA and had to undergo surgery to address a serious spine injury.
After a lengthy hiatus, Lemos made her triumphant return to the octagon in late 2019, commencing her impressive streak in the strawweight division.
“It was my opportunity, I wouldn’t say I was hurt. I’d still go [and fight Smith] even if I only had one leg or one arm,” Lemos said. “The doctor that did my [spine] surgery told me to find another career, but I always believed in God, and here I am.”