Zhang Weili submits Carla Esparza at UFC 281 to become strawweight champion

Daniel Cunningham
Jun 12, 2022; Singapore, SIN; Zhang Weili (red gloves) reacts after the fight against Joanna Jedrzejczyk (blue gloves) during UFC 275 at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Miller-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight in the co-main event of UFC 281, the strawweight title was on the line. Former strawweight champion Zhang Weili (22-3) was looking to regain the title as Carla Esparza (19-6) was looking for her first successful title defense.

Back in May, Esparza had a rematch with former champion Rose Namajunas. They fought for the inagural strawweight title and Esparza won. Esparza was a massive underdog in the rematch, yet she shocked the world and won a decision to regain the UFC strawweight title.

Namajunas is still the only person to have defeated Zhang Weili inside the octagon. Despite the two losses to Namajunas, many consider Weili to be the best strawweight in the world. Tonight, she was looking to regain the title to prove it.

UFC 281 Recap

Round 1

The UFC 281 co-main event kicked off with a touch of the gloves. Weili takes the center and starts showing pressure early. Low kick from Weili. Nice jab lands for Weili and Esparza pushes forward with a counter. Both fighters trade jabs in the center.

Nice low kick from Weili. Body kick now from Weili. Check left hook from Weili now and then a head kick. Esparza is on her back foot here and Weili is pushing forward a lot here in the opening round. Wild swings from Esparza miss badly and Weili lands a leg kick.

Another low kick from Weili and now Weili unloads with a combination. Esparza shoots desperately for a takedown and she gets it. However, Weili gets the back and she’s going for a choke. Incredible scramble from Esparza and now she gets back to the top position.

Weili explodes and she gets back to her feet. Big right hand from Weili. Esparza tries desperately for a takedown and Weili goes with it and she gets on top. Big elbow from Weili and the round comes to a close. Clear first round for Zhang Weili at UFC 281.

Round 2

Entering the second at UFC 281 and it’s clear as to why Zhang Weili was the massive betting favorite. They touch gloves and here we go in the second. Weili right back on the pressure to start the second. Low kick from the challenger and a stiff jab. Right hand from Weili might’ve hurt Esparza.

Desperation takedown from Carla Esparza and Weili sprawls perfectly. They end up in a scramble and Weili gets a choke locked in. It’s deep and Esparza taps quickly. Zhang Weili is once again the UFC strawweight champion.

Zhang Weili def. Carla Esparza by Submission – Round 2