Yi Zha is a 24-4 Chinese featherweight mixed martial artist who faces Li Kaiwen in the Road To UFC season two tournament finale on Feb. 3.
The 27-year-old is no stranger to RTU, as he reached season one's final but missed out on a UFC contract after losing a competitive split decision to Jeong Yeong Li. However, his performance warranted a second tournament opportunity and Zha has once again strung together impressive outings en route to a possibility for redemption.
Zha was born in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan in southwestern China. He discovered and began training in martial arts as a child. His first combat sports experience was in Sanda before eventually starting MMA with the Enbo Fight Club. This led Zha to a career in professional fighting and he took his first match at only 18 years old. He still represents the Enbo Fight Club, also based in Chengdu but trains at the UFC Performance Center in Shanghai as well.
Though his Sanda roots qualify Zha as a proficient striker, his fighting skill is perhaps best evident on the ground.
Of his 18 finishes, 13 are via tap-out. Zha is a cunning grappler, able to avoid damage when opponents gain top position and in turn, snag submissions off his back. His RTU season two fight with Jiahefu Wuziazibieke is a prime example of his skill. Zha caught Wuziazibieke in an armbar from guard mere moments after being taken down.
Zha is certainly well-sized for featherweight standing at 5'7". He also has a 71" reach which comes in handy for distance striking as well as wrapping up slick submissions. It also gives him a longer wingspan than even some of the taller fighters in his weight class.
YiZha fights Kaiwen for a UFC contract on Road to UFC
His natural gifts and lifetime of training must be on full display if he hopes to make good on his second RTU chance and defeat his opponent, Kaiwan.
Kaiwan tore through his RTU competition, picking up a TKO and unanimous decision en route to the finals. The 28-year-old striker holds a 12-5 record and has demonstrated tremendous punching power by picking up seven knockouts in his career thus far.
There have been many memorable finishes and performances in this season of RTU. Zha and Kaiwan will each look to add another highlight to the reel and assert themselves as UFC featherweights on the rise. Will the vastly more experienced Zha make good on his second shot and earn a contract, or will Kaiwan play spoiler and instead propel himself to the UFC? Find out Feb. 4.