UFC 281:Weili Zhang Submits Carla Esparza to Reclaim Strawweight Title

Carla Esparza defends her strawweight title against former champion Weili Zhang in the UFC 281 co-main event.

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.

Zhang Weili is back on top of the women’s strawweight division. Weili finished Carla Esparza with a rear-naked choke in the co-main event of UFC 281 on Saturday night, becoming champion for the second time in her career.

The first round was highlighted by wild scrambles on the ground. With Zhang applying loads of pressure on the feet, Esparza was able to use her wrestling to test Weili on the ground. The women traded positions several times before Weili was able to get back to her feet, something she was unable to do late in her second bout with Rose Namajunas.

The grappling went even better for Zhang in the second round. As the fight hit the ground, she was able to lock Esparza in a crucifix from the back. With one of Esparza’s arms still trapped, Zhang transitioned to a rear-naked choke to force the tap at the 1:05 mark of Round 2.

It was a dominant performance from Zhang overall, showing improvements in her defensive grappling and eventually grappling the grappler for the finish.

A two-time champion at strawweignt, Esparza completed an unlikely climb back to the top of the mountain in her previous fight, taking a split decision over Namajunas in an odd fight that saw both women put out very little offense.

Zhang had no such hesitation about getting her offense in gear, keeping Esparza on the back foot from the opening bell. She is now 7-2 in the Octagon, her lone UFC losses coming against Namajunas.

Twitter reacts to Zhang Weili’s title-winning submission of Carla Esparza at UFC 281

Zhang Weili achieved the feat of becoming strawweight champion for a second time on Saturday when she dethroned Carla Esparza of the belt in the UFC 281 headliner.

After dropping the strap in April 2021, Weili (23-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC) climbed back to the top of the mountain with a second-round submission win over Esparza (19-7 MMA, 10-5 UFC) at Madison Sqaure Garden in New York.

Check below for the top Twitter reactions to Weili’s victory over Esparza at UFC 281

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Nick Kalikas


Who would you like to see Weili Zhang fight next following her submission victory over Carla Esparza this evening in New York City? Share your thoughts in the comment section PENN Nation!

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