Report – Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili slated for UFC 281 on November 21. at MSG

Zhang Weili
Mandatory Credit: Paul Miller - USA TODAY Sports

An undisputed strawweight championship fight between reigning division champion, Carla Esparza, and challenger, former division titleholder, Zhang Weili is set to co-headline UFC 281 on November 12. from Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.

Attempting to secure her first successful title defense since beginning her second reign as strawweight champion, Californian veteran, Esparza managed to clinch the undisputed crown back in May of this year in a lacklustre UFC 274 co-main event win over common-foe, Rose Namajunas. 

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Carla Esparza will look to land her first-ever successful UFC title defense, when paired with Zhang Weili

As for Hebei native, Zhang Weili, the former undisputed champion snapped a run of back-to-back defeats against the aforenoted, Namajunas back in June at UFC 275 in Singapore – stopping another common-opponent, Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a blistering second round spinning back-fist knockout. Ariel Helwani was first to report the news of Carla Esparza’s title defense against Zhang Weili at UFC 281. 

The inaugural UFC strawweight champion, Team Oyama mainstay, Esparza managed to defeat Namajunas first back in December 2014, winning The Ultimate Fighter 20 as a result to boot.

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Dropping the title immediately in a dominant striking loss to Jedrzejczyk, Esparza currently finds herself in the midst of an impressive run of six straight wins, adding Namajunas to prior victories against Virna Jandiroba, Alexa Grasso, Michelle Waterson, Marina Rodriguez, and Yan Xiaonan. 

Winning her strawweight title on home soil in an August 2019 knockout win over Jessica Andrade, Weili would turn in a consensus 2020 Fight of the Year performance en route to a decision win over Jedrzejczyk in her sole title defense, before dropping the title to Namajunas in April of last year in a brutal high kick KO loss. 

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UFC 281 takes place on November 12. from Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York – with an official headlining bout for the penultimate pay-per-view event of 2022 yet to be determined by the promotion.

Aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Follow along at @Ross_Markey on Twitter for all the latest news, fight announcements, opinion, and feature pieces.