Carla Esparza to defend title against Zhang Weili at UFC 281

Daniel Cunningham
May 7, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Carla Esparza reacts to her championship victory against Rose Namajunas during UFC 274 at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC has finalized another title fight for their upcoming New York card at Madison Square Garden. Strawweight champion Carla Esparza (19-6) announced today that her title defense against former champion Zhang Weili (22-3) has been finalized.

The fight will serve as the UFC 281 co-main event on November 12th. For Esparza, she will look to do something that she wasn’t able to during her first title reign and that’s successfully defend her title.

Years ago, Carla Esparza was the first UFC strawweight champion. However, she was stopped in her first title defense and it took her years to get back to the title. Once she got back to the title, she took on a familiar foe in Rose Namajunas.

Namajunas was who she defeated to win the title the first time around. Just like the first time, Esparza defeated Namajunas to become champion although the fight was one of the worst title fights in the history of the promotion.

Nevertheless, she won the title and now she will take on Zhang Weili who is more determined than ever to win back her UFC title.

UFC 281 is redemption time for Weili

Zhang Weili looked like she was on her way to being the greatest strawweight champion in the history of the promotion. The UFC’s first champion from China ran through the competition on her way to knocking out Jessica Andrade in the first round to capture gold.

Then, she defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the 2020 Fight of the Year to defend her title. However, she then ran into Rose Namajunas. Namajunas shocked the world when she knocked out Weili with a head kick. After that, the UFC immediately ran the fight back and Weili lost by split decision.

From losing the title, Weili took on Jedrzejczyk in a rematch of their Fight of the Year. She knocked out Jedrzejczyk in the rematch and aftewards, Dana White said she was next for the UFC strawweight title. Now, we learned that she’s getting her shot at MSG.

Despite Esparza being the champion, I’m anticipating Weili will be a massive favorite here.