The UFC APEX is set to host a UFC championship double header on April 24. The event was already scheduled to feature UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defending her title against Jessica Andrade. And now it has added Weili Zhang defending her UFC strawweight title versus Rose Namajunas.
The UFC officially announced the bout, which has been rumoured to be in the works for months, yesterday on Twitter.
Zhang was last seen in the Octagon on March 7, 2020. There, at UFC 248, she threw down with former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2020’s Fight of the Year. Zhang won the bout, by split decision, to defend her title for the first time. She won the belt in 2019, beating Jessica Andrade by 42-second TKO.
To earn her title shot versus Andrade, Zhang put down a 19-fight winning streak including four wins in the UFC (over Danielle Taylor, Jessica Aguilar and Tecia Torres). The Beijing based fighter has only lost once in her career; her pro debut back in 2013.
Rose Namajunas has been in this spot before. She was one half of the UFC’s first ever strawweight title fight back in 2014. She lost that bout, to Carla Esparza, to wrap up The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion Will be Crowned Finale.
After that loss Namajunas bested Angela Hill, Paige VanZant and Tecia Torres. After stumbling against Karolina Kowalkiewicz in 2016, ‘Thug’ Rose tapped Michelle Waterson to earn a second title shot.
This time, at UFC 217 in 2017, Namajunas faced—and defeated—the previously undefeated Jedrzejczyk by first round TKO. Namajunas then defended her title versus Jedrzejczyk, before losing it to Andrade (via KO slam).
Last year Namajunas exacted revenge on Andrade, beating her by split decision on Fight Island. Ever since that win last summer, Namajunas has been assumed to be next woman up for Zhang.
However, UFC President Dana White cast doubt over this notion, with comments that accused Namajunas of not wanting to fight. Namajunas and her team fought back against those comments.
And it now seems they did a pretty good job of convincing White of their eagerness to take on Zhang.
In addition to those two title fights, UFC 261 also boasts Chris Weidman vs. Uriah Hall and Anthony Smith vs. Jim Crute.