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!
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