The co-main event for UFC 281 will be the setting where the promotion’s strawweight title will sway in the balance when the champion, Carla Esparza, meets a former champion in Weili Zhang.
This will be the first title defense for Esparza since recapturing her belt from Rose Namajunas at UFC 274 back in May of this year. Fun fact: Carla won the UFC’s inaugural 115-pound championship by defeating Namajunas, but then lost her crown in her very next match.
Weili Zhang took the UFC by storm, marching her way straight to a title shot to capture gold. It was Rose Namajunas who took her throne, but Zhang has rebounded by brutally knocking out Joanna Jędrzejczyk with a spinning backfist at UFC 275 this past June.
Will Esparza finally earn that title defense that has eluded her career, or will a former champ in Zhang have her time to reclaim the top of 115-pounds?
Be sure to save this tab for when the fight goes down. And check back here for the official result, analysis and full video highlights.
Weili Zhang def. Carla Esparza by submission (RNC) at 1:05 of round 2: Strawweight Title
Zhang took the center of the Octagon, pressing forward and keeping Esparza on her back foot. As soon as Zhang started to land, Esparza shot in for the takedown. Zhang was hip to it and spun around to her back. Ultimately, Esparza came up with top position. Zhang worked up to her feet, and then out-scrambled Esparza to get on top.
Esparza went back to her wrestling in the second act, but Zhang was ready for it. Zhang was able to stuff the attempt to initiate another wild scramble, and came up with a back mounted crucifix. From that position, Zhang was able to lock up a rear-naked choke and get Esparza to tap.