UFC Predictions: Women champions after 2022

2021 was an incredible year for the women’s divisions in the UFC. We saw some tremendously dominating performances and some historic upsets. In thinking about the year, the first fight that comes to mind is the bantamweight title fight that took place at UFC 269.

The fight took place just weeks ago between Julianna Pena (11-4) and Amanda Nunes (21-5). Nunes was a monster favorite given her status at the two-division UFC champion. Nobody was really giving Julianna Pena a chance outside of Julianna Pena herself.

Well, Pena did exactly what she said she was going to do and shocked the world to become UFC bantamweight champion. 2021 also saw the return of “Thug” Rose Namajunas (11-4) to the top of the mountain. It happened back at UFC 261 when she knocked out Zhang Weili to regain the strawweight title.

She affirmed her status at the top of the mountain by defeating Weili in an immediate rematch in November. Then of course, 2021 featured the pure brilliance and dominance of the queen, Valentina Shevchenko (22-3). Shevchenko defended her title twice and won both fights by dominant stoppage.

2022 is shaping up to be another big year for the women’s divisions. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the four divisions and make predictions for who will be UFC champion at the end of the year.

UFC 2022 Predictions

Strawweight

The first division we are looking at is the strawweight division. Currently, Rose Namajunas is on top of the division. She has her first opponent lined up for the year, we just don’t know which date they will be fighting. Up first for Namajunas is Carla Esparza (18-6).

These two met in the first ever strawweight title fight with Esparza getting the win. However, both of these fighters are much different now and I truly believe that Namajunas is on another level. I think she’s going to easily retain her UFC title in the rematch.

Then, Namajunas will have her toughest test in my opinion. I believe her second title fight is going to come against Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2). Rodriguez is setup for a title eliminator in the first part of the year and I believe she’s going to get the job done.

After that, I’m expecting her to get a title fight. Given her style, she can really give Namajunas problems. However, I still really like “Thug” Rose’s overall game and I think Trevor Wittman will figure out a game plan to keep her UFC title.

Champion: Rose Namajunas 

Flyweight and Bantamweight

Next up, I believe we are going to see another two-division UFC champion rise up in 2022. That champion will be Valentina Shevchenko. Let me get this out of the way quickly, nobody is touching her at 125 pounds. Nobody will come close to dethroning her at flyweight and there’s really nothing to discuss.

My bold prediction is her capturing the bantamweight title. Julianna Pena and Amanda Nunes are expected to run things back sometime in late spring. I believe that Nunes is going to regain her bantamweight title. However, I’m not sure she’s going to fight at 135 pounds again after beating Pena.

If she stays at 135, I think the UFC will finally do the trilogy with Shevchenko. If they do, I expect Shevchenko to get the win. Now, let’s say that Nunes vacates the bantamweight title after winning it back. If she does, I think the UFC does the rematch with Pena and Shevchenko at 135 pounds.

Just like the first time, I expect Shevchenko to get the win. Obviously if Pena wins, I still see the Shevchenko fight happening. This will be the year that Valentina moves up and captures a second world title.

Champion: Valentina Shevchenko

Featherweight – Amanda Nunes

The last division to discuss is the featherweight division. Let’s be honest, there’s no competition for Amanda Nunes currently at 145 pounds so by default, she’s going to be my pick for the featherweight division. Now, the potential add of Kayla Harrison (12-0) could make things very interesting.

The two-time PFL champion and Olympic Gold Medalist is being courted by all the major promotions. She’s Nunes’ teammate but has already said that she would fight Nunes for the UFC title to further her legacy. While not confirmed, the UFC’s original plan was to have Harrison face Nunes had Nunes won at UFC 269.

Of course, all that went out the window after Nunes lost. That said, if Harrison signs with the UFC, she will be getting a title shot in 2022. Her skillset and strength could give Nunes a ton of problems especially if Nunes isn’t in peak cardio shape.

However, with so many questions surrounding the free agency of Harrison, I’m still going to go with Nunes as the featherweight champion.

Champion: Amanda Nunes

UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas will take on Carla Esparza next

It looks like former UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza (18-6) is finally going to get her second crack at gold. The former champion has won five fights in a row to earn this shot at the title.

Dana White confirmed with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that Esparza would “100%” be next for the strawweight title. This news comes after a month of uncertainty where it didn’t appear that Esparza was going to get the shot.

Back in April, Rose Namajunas (11-4) knocked out Zhang Weili to become the first woman to become a two-time UFC champion. After the fight was over, many expected that Esparza would be next.

However, the UFC wasn’t so sure about it. The word around the promotion was that they didn’t believe the Esparza fight was a big fight for Namajunas in terms of interest. With that in mind, they decided to do an immediate rematch with Weili.

Esparza was perplexed by the decision as most were in the MMA community. She said that she would wait for her title shot, however, Dana White mentioned that it might be a mistake to wait.

Namajunas defeated Weili in the rematch at UFC 268 to retain her title. After the fight, she said that she wanted to face off with Esparza next and she was confused by the promotions reluctance. Now, it appears that the UFC has given in.

UFC making the rematch

Esparza has done everything needed to earn a rematch and the storyline is there for a fight with Namajunas. These two first met for the inaugural UFC strawweight title back in 2014.

Esparza submitted Namajunas to become the first strawweight champion. However, he reign didn’t last long as she lost the title in her first defense. Ever since then, she’s been working towards getting back to the top.

While she’s had some bumps in the road, Esparza has been on an incredible run as of late. The former UFC champion has won five fights in a row which includes wins over some of the more compelling contenders in the division.

Her last two wins came over Marina Rodriguez and Yan Xiaonan. The Yan fight was incredible impressive as she scored a TKO victory. That win alone should’ve earned her a UFC title shot.

Despite losing the first fight, I’m expecting Namajunas to be a massive favorite in the rematch. While both have improved since the first fight, Namajunas is completely transformed. Esparza is getting the title shot she wanted, but it’s a massive mountain to climb whenever they fight.

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.

What’s next for Zhang Weili after UFC 268 loss?

This past Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 268, we saw a rematch for the strawweight title. Rose Namajunas (11-4) was defending her title against Zhang Weili (21-3). The two had previously met at UFC 261 with Namajunas scoring a head kick knockout.

However, given how dominant Weili had been (winning 21 fights in a row), the UFC decided to give the former champion an immediate rematch despite the definitive result in the first fight. The general consensus was that these two were very close in skill and the first finish was more of a flash.

Personally, I thought we’d see an ultra competitive fight with Namajunas squeaking out a decision and that is exactly what we got. However, I underestimated how well Weili would do in the rematch. I figured she’d have her moments, but I didn’t think she’d do as well as she did.

In fact, watching it live, I scored the fight for Zhang Weili at UFC 268. I had her winning the first three rounds with Namajunas winning the last two. One judge saw the fight this way, however, two of the judges gave the fight and the victory to Rose Namajunas.

What’s next after UFC 268?

Despite losing at UFC 268, Zhang Weili shouldn’t hang her head. She put on a great performance and like I said, I scored the fight for her and many others did as well. However, there’s a clear argument for Namajunas winning so the decision isn’t a robbery by any stretch.

With two consecutive losses to Namajunas, where does that leave the former UFC champion? Well, she’s going to need to string together a few wins before a trilogy can make sense. She is going to have to force the UFC’s hand just like Valentina Shevchenko is doing with the Amanda Nunes trilogy.

With that, who should she take on next? There’s two opponents that make a ton of sense for Weili’s next fight. The first opponent is Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2). Rodriguez has impressively won three straight which has launched her to third in the strawweight rankings.

Given her style and still, the UFC couldn’t go wrong with booking her against Weili. I think the leader in the clubhouse for Weili’s next fight is a matchup with Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). Jedrzejczyk was recently removed from the UFC rankings due to inactivity, but she’s still one of the very best in the world.

Weili and Jedrzejczyk had the Fight of the Year in 2020 and a rematch makes all the sense in the world. Both are former UFC champions and both have lost to Namajunas twice in virtually the same manner. First fight by knockout, second fight by close decision.

Something tells me the UFC might pass over Carla Esparza in favor of Marina Rodriguez, but that’s far from guaranteed, just something to watch. If I’m betting money, I say the UFC books the rematch between Zhang and Jedrzejczyk for sometime in the spring.

Rose Namajunas edges Zhang Weili at UFC 268

In co-main event of UFC 268, we saw a rematch for the strawweight title. The champion Rose Namajunas (10-4) is back to defend her title against the former champion, Zhang Weili (21-2).

These two are having an immediate rematch after their first fight back at UFC 261 in April. That night, Namajunas was able to shock the world and became the strawweight champion for the second time. That win snapped a 21-fight winning streak from Zhang Weili.

The win was also Namajunas’ fifth win in her last six fights. The champion’s struggles have never been from a physical standpoint, they’ve always been from a mental standpoint. When Namajunas is in the right frame of mind, she’s proven that she’s the best strawweight in the UFC.

That said, Zhang Weili is going to try and prove that her loss to Namajunas in April was a fluke. Namajunas caught Weili flush with a head kick very early in the first round. We never really got to see these two really go at it. We were hoping to see a battle at UFC 268

UFC 268 Recap

Round 1

The UFC 268 co-main event kicked off with a touch of the gloves. Namajunas immediately takes the center and starts with a little pressure. Weili lands the first strike of the night with a low kick. Another powerful leg kick from Weili.

Weili really targeting the lead leg of Thug Rose in the opening minute. Namajunas appears to be just gauging the range here early on as she eats another leg kick. Thug Rose steps forward and lands clean with her first combination. Nice jab from the champion.

Another really good combination from Namajunas lands. Weili lands a big leg kick and then gets a body lock. Namajunas defends well at first, but Weili gets her to the ground and lands the takedown. Halfway through the round and Namajunas is looking for submissions off her back.

Thug Rose attacking with her legs but she eats some good shots from Weili. Weili settles into the guard but Namajunas forces a scramble and they’re back to striking. Namajunas immediately pushes forward with pressure.

Good leg kick and a combination from Weili. The two come together and they both land decent shots. Another good low kick lands for Weili. The round comes to a close and the first round at UFC 268 goes to the former champion.

Round 2

Entering the second at UFC 268 and the first round is about what I expected from the first fight. Namajunas immediately takes the center to start the second but she eats a big leg kick from Weili. Lots of movement on the outside from Weili.

Good lead left hand lands for Weili and Namajunas steps forward with a nice combination to counter. Big jab lands for Thug Rose and she looks for a head kick. This is a very tactical battle here in the second round. Weili steps forward and lands a huge combination.

However, Namajunas counters back with a big combination of her own. Both step forward with massive rights that just miss. Big leg kick for Weili lands but Namajunas lands a nice counter left hook. Inside leg kick from Weili and Namajunas counters again.

Another leg kick from Weili but Namajunas lands one of her own on the counter. Big left hand from Weili and Namajunas stumbles backwards. Namajunas goes for a head kick but Weili catches and takes Namajunas to the ground.

Huge ground and pound from Weili here. Namajunas scrambles again and they’re back to striking. Big straight right lands for Namajunas and the two come together in a clinch. Weili tries for a takedown but Namajunas ends up getting one. The round comes to an end but I still give the round to the former UFC champion.

Round 3

Entering the third at UFC 268 and this fight is razor close. Namajunas again goes right to the center and opens with a head kick. Powerful low kick from Weili. Weili looks a little tired here at the start of the third round.

Namajunas lands a beautiful right straight. They trade low kicks but they are fighting at Namajunas’ range. Low kick from Weili and Namajunas tries to change but nothing lands. Wild shot misses badly from Weili and Namajunas lands a really nice leg kick counter.

Big overhand right for Namajunas who is looking really good here. Just when I say that, Weili lands a big leg kick and a body kick behind it. Namajunas blitzes and they both miss big. The two come together and throw big shots

Weili slips and the two clinch against the fence. Good shots in the clinch for Namajunas and they break. Powerful leg kick from Weili finds it’s home. Weili steps forward but eats a huge combination. Leg kick and a big combination from Weili hurts Namajunas.

Weili shoots for and gets a takedown. Namajunas forces a few scrambles but Weili ends up in the mount to finish the round. Very close round at UFC 268 and Weili might’ve stolen it in that final minute.

Round 4

Entering the fourth at UFC 268 and Namajunas really needs to turn things around. Namajunas steps forward but eats a 1-2 from Weili. Huge right hand down the middle lands for Weili. However, Namajunas lands a big right hand counter.

Another huge right hand from Namajunas lands. The right hand is fighting it’s home at will here for Namajunas in the fourth round. Stinging low kick lands for Weili and Weili grabs a clinch. Weili spins to the back and takes Namajunas to the ground.

Namajunas is trying to defend but Weili takes her back. The champion is trying to spin and Namajunas ends up on top halfway through the round. Namajunas steps over into half guard. Weili forces a scramble but Namajunas stays on top.

Good shots from the top from Namajunas. Another good shot from the top lands for Namajunas. Weili continues to try and get separation but Namajunas is doing a very good job of controlling her here as we enter the final minute.

Namajunas settles into the guard and continues to look for elbows. Nothing big comes of the final thirty seconds and this round goes to the champion. I have it 3-1 Weili at UFC 268.

Round 5

Entering the final round at UFC 268 and this fight is as close as it gets. Both trade kicks to start the final frame. Weili steps forward with a big shot but Namajunas counters with a big shot. Namajunas looks more fresh here in the final frame.

Nice right straight for Namajunas. Thug Rose steps forward and lands a big takedown just a minute into the round. Weili trying to force a scramble but Namajunas is doing a beautiful job of controlling the top here.

Big right hand for Namajunas and the champion is pulling it out here in the fifth round. Good elbow from the champion and Weili is fading badly as she’s just laying on her back here. Another good right hand lands for Namajunas.

Weili trying to get some separation but can’t do much. Namajunas is too good here with her top pressure. Under a minute left and there’s no doubt about this fifth round. It’s all Namajunas and she might be pulling this fight out here.

Namajunas stands up but comes right back into the guard with a big straight left. The fight comes to a close and Namajunas easily wins the fifth round. I have it 3-2 Weili but I think Namajunas will get the nod.

Rose Namajunas def. Zhang Weili by Split Decision (48-47, 47-48, 49-46)

UFC 268 Preview: Rose Namajunas – Zhang Weili 2

Tomorrow night in the co-main event of UFC 268, we will see a rematch for the strawweight title. The champion Rose Namajunas (10-4) is back to defend her title against the former champion, Zhang Weili (21-2).

These two are having an immediate rematch after their first fight back at UFC 261 in April. That night, Namajunas was able to shock the world and became the strawweight champion for the second time. That win snapped a 21-fight winning streak from Zhang Weili.

The win was also Namajunas’ fifth win in her last six fights. The champion’s struggles have never been from a physical standpoint, they’ve always been from a mental standpoint. When Namajunas is in the right frame of mind, she’s proven that she’s the best strawweight in the UFC.

That said, Zhang Weili is going to try and prove that her loss to Namajunas in April was a fluke. Namajunas caught Weili flush with a head kick very early in the first round. We never really got to see these two really go at it. Perhaps we will get a closer fight at UFC 268.

UFC 268 Prediction

I can’t sit here and write that I picked Rose Namajunas to win back at UFC 261. At the time, I really thought that Weili was the cream of the crop at 115 pounds and I didn’t see anyone taking that title from her. However, Namajunas changed everything with one kick.

However, there were glimpses in that short fight that spoke volumes to me. The speed and looseness of Namajunas is something that Weili couldn’t match. While Weili might be the physically stronger fighter, Namajunas is much quicker and loose on the feet.

When these two are striking, I don’t know if Weili is going to be able to beat Namajunas to the punch. If this fight stays at range, I think Namajunas wins a kickboxing match just with straight shots and striking from the outside.

It’ll be interesting to see if the former champion tries to take the fight to the ground at UFC 268. Weili has been training with high level wrestlers like Henry Cejudo so I could see her playing to her physical strength and wrestling.

That said, Namajunas is extremely good with submissions off her back so even if Weili gets her down, it’s no picnic. I think we are going to see a tremendously competitive fight, but I just think that the point advantage on the feet for Namajunas is going to be too much in the end.

Prediction: Rose Namajunas by Split Decision

Was Zhang Weili the right choice for UFC 268?

At UFC 268, we will see a rematch for the strawweight title. However, it’s not the rematch that a lot of people in the MMA community thought we were going to see. Rose Namajunas (10-4) will defend her title against Zhang Weili (21-2) in November at UFC 268.

These two first met back in April at UFC 261. Namajunas always has a flare for the dramatic when capturing world titles and April was no different. She knocked Weili out with a head kick and stopped her just over a minute into the first round.

The loss snapped a massive winning streak for Weili and it was also her first loss in the UFC. Weili lost her first ever professional MMA fight. After that, she won 21 in a row on her way to becoming the strawweight champion.

She knocked out Jessica Andrade to become the champion and defended successfully in 2020 against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a fight of the year effort. Namajunas was looked at as her biggest challenge in the strawweight division.

However, nobody expected her to lose in the fashion she did at UFC 261. Given how lopsided and quick the fight was, many thought that Weili wouldn’t get an immediate rematch with the champion.

Was Weili the right choice for UFC 268?

When the fight was announced a couple of weeks ago, a lot of UFC fans were confused by the booking. Many believed that Carla Esparza (18-6) would be the next in line for a title shot.

Given the way the first fight with Weili and Namajunas went, most didn’t think an immediate rematch would take place. The UFC had Esparza as the top contender if Namajunas wouldn’t take the fight against Weili in April.

When Namajunas took the fight, Esparza went on to fight Yan Xiaonan and dominated her and got a second round TKO. That dominant performance was a fifth straight win for the former UFC champion.

Given the fact that Esparza was a former champion and holds a win over Namajunas, I figured she’d get the nod. However, the sexier fight in terms of numbers in the eyes of the promotion is the rematch with Weili.

Weili’s run is certainly remarkable, but I do think Esparza should’ve gotten the spot at UFC 268. Despite getting passed over, Esparza was in good spirts posting on her Instagram that she’s “Got next”.

UFC announces Rose Namajunas – Zhang Weili 2

One of the biggest women’s fights of the year will get a part two. Tonight at UFC Vegas 35, the promotion announced that we will see a strawweight title rematch in November at UFC 268 as Rose Namajunas (10-4) will defend her title against Zhang Weili (21-2).

These two ladies first fought back in April at UFC 261. The card was the first PPV card with a full crowd and their first fight was one of the most highly anticipated female fights in the promotion’s history.

Zhang Weili looked like she was going to reign over the strawweight division for a long time. The first UFC champion born in China had dominated virtually every opponent that stood in her way on her way to capturing the title.

She won the Fight of The Year in 2020 when she defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her first title defense. However, UFC 261 was going to be her toughest fight to date. Many had looked at Rose Namajunas as the best in the world when she was truly focused on fighting.

Well, Namajunas was focused at UFC 261. Zhang Weili was just feeling out the fight in the opening 90 seconds when she was met with a brutal head kick that put her out. Namajunas became the first woman to regain a UFC title after losing it.

Second UFC reign for Namajunas

The journey of Rose Namajunas has been something to see inside the UFC. Namajunas was first introduced via The Ultimate Fighter when the promotion held the show to crown a 115 pound champion.

While Namajunas was looked at as a favorite, she lost in the finals to Carla Esparza. Following that loss, Namajunas focused on improving and she gradually rose to the top of the UFC’s strawweight division.

She pulled off a massive upset when she knocked out and dethroned Joanna Jedrzejczyk to become the strawweight champion. She proved she was the best by beating Jedrzejczyk in an immediate rematch.

Namajunas finds herself in virtually the same position now. She knocked out Zhang Weili at UFC 261 and now she’s fighting her in an immediate rematch. It’ll be interesting to see if history repeats itself in November.

UFC: Joanna Jedrzejczyk says either herself or Zhang Weili should be next for Namajunas

Former UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4) is working hard to prepare for her octagon return. The former champion hasn’t fought since March of 2020 when she lost a split decision to Zhang Weili (21-2).

The two women had a war at UFC 248 and Jedrzejczyk came up just short in her attempt to regain the strawweight title. After dominating the 115 pound division and defending her title five times, Jedrzejczyk is now 0-4 in her last four title fights.

That said, Jedrzejczyk has still only lost in title fights in her entire career. She’s lost twice to the current strawweight champion Rose Namajunas (10-4), she lost to Valentina Shevchenko at flyweight, and she lost to Weili.

The only three women to defeat her in her career are at the very top of the sport. Jedrzejczyk has been very vocal that she wanted another UFC title shot upon her return to the octagon. The former champion wants to get a third crack at Rose Namajunas.

However, it’s not the easiest of sells when she’s just 2-4 in her last six fights. That said, you can easily say that Jedrzejczyk is still one of the very best fighters in the UFC.

On paper, it appears that Carla Esparza (18-6) should get the next UFC title shot. She’s won five fights in a row and she holds a victory over Namajunas. However, Jedrzejczyk doesn’t believe that Esparza is deserving of the next shot at the champion.

Who should get the next UFC title shot?

In an interview with The Schmo this weekend, Jedrzejczyk said that she believes either herself or Zhang Weili should be next for Namajunas. While she acknowledged the winning streak of Esparza, she said she didn’t believe it was the right fight to make.

From a business perspective, the former UFC champion is correct. If you were to line up the three leading contenders, the least sexy fight is the rematch between Carla Esparza and Rose Namajunas.

Despite the fact that Esparza is the only one of the three to hold a victory over Namajunas, there’s significantly less interest from the fans. Ultimately, this is going to come down to what the UFC prioritizes.

I do not believe that Jedrzejczyk is getting the next shot at the title. However, I do believe she will fight the other contender who doesn’t get the shot. With that, the next shot will either go to Zhang Weili or Carla Esparza.

If I had to guess, I think the UFC would prefer to put Weili in that title fight. However, I think Namajunas is the type of champion who would want to give it to the deserving contender. It’ll be an interesting storyline to follow over the coming weeks.

Rose Namajunas next opponent still not clear after UFC Vegas 27

This past Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 27, Carla Esparza (18-6) took on Yan Xiaonan (13-2, 1 NC). Many people were thinking that the winner would likely get the next crack at the UFC strawweight title.

Xiaonan had the most hype coming into the matchup. She was a perfect 6-0 in the UFC and none of her fights had really been that close. Carla Esparza is a former UFC strawweight champion, but she often gets overlooked by everyone.

Esparza was the first strawweight champion for the promotion when she defeated Rose Namajunas (10-4) back in 2014. However, the reign was short lived as Esparza was destroyed by Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her first title defense.

Since then, Esparza has gone 8-3 in the UFC, but a few of those wins were razor close split decisions. Heading into UFC Vegas 27, Esparza had won four fights in a row, but she needed a signature win to get in the title conversation.

Well, Esparza completely dominated Xiaonan at UFC Vegas 27. Xiaonan had no answer for the wrestling of Esparza and Esparza battered her on the ground. Ultimately, she picked up the second round TKO victory on Saturday night.

Next UFC title challenger still not clear

After her dominant win, Esparza made her case in her post-fight interview that she deserves the next shot at Rose Namajunas. Esparza holds a victory over the current UFC champion and now she’s won five fights in a row.

Dana White was interviewed after the event where he was asked about Namajunas’ next challenger. I was expecting him to come out and say that they will likely be doing Namajunas – Esparza 2 next.

However, that’s not what Dana White said. White indicated that the rematch with Esparza is definitely an option, but so is the rematch with Zhang Weili (21-2). Weili was the strawweight champion who was just knocked out by Namajunas last month.

She is really pushing for the immediate rematch with Namajunas and the UFC is seriously weighing that as an option. In reality, Esparza has earned the next shot at the champion. However, we know that sometimes the UFC will favor the bigger fight.

Despite the one-sided nature of the title fight at UFC 261, the Namajunas – Weili rematch is likely bigger business. While Esparza definitely deserves the shot, I’m not certain she’s going to get it. This will definitely be something to watch over the coming weeks.