UFC 281 has its second title fight, pending finalization. UFC women's strawweight champion Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili is being targeted as per reports. The promotion is on verge of treating the fans with two title fights for its return to Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 12th, 2022.
Esparza confirmed the plans for the fight on her Instagram post made on Thursday. This comes after a report from Ariel Helwani regarding the booking.
The fight will be Esparza’s first title defense after she dethroned her longtime rival Rose Namajunas to become UFC women’s strawweight championship in a fight that ranks among the worst in UFC history. Despite the lack of action, the split decision came in favor of Esparza which extended her current undefeated streak to six fights in a row. She also won the inaugural women’s strawweight title against Namajunas in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter 20 back in December 2014.
Meanwhile, Zhang will be looking for a fresh second reign of her own after she initially won the strawweight title back in 2019. She dropped the title in back-to-back losses to Rose Namajunas, but she bounced back in a rematch against the Polish fighter Joanna Jedrzejczyk in an impressive fashion with a spinning backfist TKO in June. The win put her back on top as Dana White had already confirmed the winner would be the next title challenger.
It wasn’t expected that Esparza will be stepping in the cage that early as her injuries indicated that she will be out until 2023. Zhang was pushed for the fight to happen at UFC 280 on October 22. With Esparza cleared of her injuries, the bout will take place later than Zhang wanted but earlier than Esparza’s expected timeline.
The showdown between Carla Esparza and Zhang Weili will serve as the co-main event at UFC 281 with the middleweight champion Israel Adesanya defending his title against longtime rival Alex Pereira in the main event at MSG, New York City.