UFC 281 fight card primer: Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili

The co-main event of UFC 281 will feature a strawweight fight between Carla Esparza (19-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) and Zhang Weili (22-3 MMA, 6-2…

By: Kristen King | 7 months ago
UFC 281 fight card primer: Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

The co-main event of UFC 281 will feature a strawweight fight between Carla Esparza (19-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) and Zhang Weili (22-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC). UFC 281: Adesanya vs. Pereira airs live from Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York this Saturday, November 12th. The main ESPN+ PPV card will start with a fight time of 10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 a.m. PT, with the ESPNews/ESPN+ prelims beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT and the early prelims kicking off on UFC Fight Pass at 6:00 p.m. ET/3:00 p.m. PT.

How do these two stack up?

Esparza: 35 years old | 5’1” | 63” reach

Weili: 33 years old | 5’4” | 63” reach

What have these two done recently?

Esparza: W – Rose Namajunas (SD) | W – Yan Xiaonan (TKO) | W – Marina Rodriguez (SD)

Weili: W – Joanna Jędrzejczyk (KO) | L – Rose Namajunas (SD) | L – Rose Namajunas (KO)

How did these two get here?

It is rare to see a UFC champion go into a defense as the underdog, but that is the position Carla Esparza finds herself in ahead of UFC 281 on Saturday.

Esparza became a two-time UFC strawweight champion at UFC 274, where she earned a split decision over Rose Namajunas. However, her performance left a lot to be desired, so her second reign has not gone over as well as she would have hoped in the eyes of the fans. She has a chance to right the ship, but it is another uphill battle, considering she faces another fan-favorite.

Weili has delivered some great performances throughout her UFC tenure. From her title-winning efforts against Jéssica Andrade to her ‘Fight of the Year’ outing with Joanna Jędrzejczyk, one thing is clear: Weili is must-see. Though her reign as UFC strawweight champion was short-lived — she lost the title and failed to reclaim it from the aforementioned Namajunas — Weili reinserted herself into contention in the only way she knows how: violently. A rematch with Jędrzejczyk at UFC 275 in June ended by second-round KO, courtesy of a well-timed spinning backfist. That performance solidified her status as No. 1 contender, and now, she will vie for gold for the third time.

Why should you care?

As much as the odds are in favor of Weili, Esparza could shock the world again. Will we see And Still or And New? Only a few hours until we find out!

Official UFC 281 Fight Poster


BLOCKBUSTER TWO TITLE-FIGHT SHOWDOWN! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to MSG (Madison Square Garden) in NYC, NY, on Sat. NOV. 12, 2022, with a must-see thriller that will see perennial fan favorite, No. 1 ranked Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya (23-1), battle No. 3 division ranked contender, Alex ‘Poatan’ Pereira (6-1), for the UFC Middleweight Championship. Meanwhile, in UFC 281’s pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event, we get the current and two-time UFC Strawweight Champion, Carla ‘The Cookie Monster’ Esparza (19-6), defending her title opposite Zhang Weili (22-3). These bouts will be preceded by an exciting Lightweight barnburner between Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier and ‘Iron’ Michael Chandler, in a must-see barnburner.

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!

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About the author
Kristen King
Kristen King

Kristen King is a writer for Bloody Elbow. She has covered combat sports since 2016, getting her start with outlets such as FanSided, MyMMANews and MMA-Prospects. She joined the BE team in 2020, covering a mix of news, events and injuries. In her time with BE, Kristen has created ‘Fright of the Night,’ a series that highlights some of the worst injuries in the sport.

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