What to make of the UFC’s strawweight title picture

Just over a week ago at UFC 268, Rose Namajunas (11-4) defended her strawweight title against the former champion Zhang Weili (21-3). The two had met earlier this year with Namajunas scoring a first round knockout.

Given the way the first fight ended, the UFC decided to run things back immediately given how dominant Weili had been. The second fight was what fans expected from the first fight. The fight was razor close.

Weili did a great job through the first half of the fight. If the fight was a three round fight, she would’ve won going away. However, Namajunas came on strong in the championship rounds and won a split decision.

Now, the UFC is left with figuring out who is next for Namajunas. While the answer seems incredibly obvious to most of us, the promotion is hedging against the obvious choice.

Who will get the next UFC title shot?

The obvious choice would be having Rose Namajunas fight Carla Esparza (18-6) next. Esparza has won five fights in a row and she’s the next in line according to the UFC rankings. She also has history with Namajunas.

Thug Rose and Esparza squared off for the inaugural UFC strawweight title with Esparza getting the win. All of these things paint the obvious picture that Esparza should be next. However, Dana White seems hesitant to make this fight.

The UFC President said after UFC 268 that there are other options outside of Esparza and he said that it wasn’t a good idea to wait for a title shot. Esparza was seemingly next in line after Namajunas knocked out Weili, but the promotion booked the rematch instead.

Other options?

If the UFC decides to look past Esparza again, there are a couple of options on the table. Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2) would be a name to watch. However, this would infuriate the masses because Esparza has defeated her during her winning streak.

An option that I think the UFC is leaning towards is the trilogy with Jessica Andrade (22-9). Andrade knocked Namajunas out with a slam to take the strawweight title from her in their first fight. In their second fight, Namajunas edged Andrade by split decision.

Andrade moved up to flyweight after the loss to Namajunas. She’s gone 2-1 with two first round stoppages and a lopsided defeat against Valentina Shevchenko. After her last fight, she said that she wanted to move back down to strawweight to fight the winner of Namajunas and Weili.

Unfortunately for Carla Esparza, I think the UFC is leaning towards going with Jessica Andrade. However, it’s still a fluid situation and something to watch over the next month or so.

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