NEW YORK – Zhang Weili is champion once again and she earned the title back in unusual fashion Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
With a modified arm-trapping rear-naked choke, Weili (23-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC) locked in a rear-naked choke and tapped Carla Esparza (19-7 MMA, 10-5 UFC) at 1:05 of Round 2.
The women’s strawweight title bout was the UFC 281 co-main event at Madison Square Garden in New York.
In reverse-homer fashion, the crowd at Madison Square Garden adored themself to Weili and booed Esparza, who perhaps antagonistically chose “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” as her walkout song.
The first round was closely contested with back-and-forth scrambles. Esparza had her moments, but Weili appeared to land the more significant strikes.
In Round 2, Esparza shot for a takedown. She got it – sort of. Weili landed on the bottom, but eventually snatched Esparza’s back in a scramble. Weili trapped Esparza’s left arm with both of her legs. There was brief hand-fighting before Weili eventually locked in the choke.
GIVE HER THE BELT BACK 🏆@MMAWeili recaptures gold at #UFC281!! pic.twitter.com/su4ioC7DIP
— UFC (@ufc) November 13, 2022
A dream come true for @MMAWeili to recapture her strawweight crown 👑 #UFC281 pic.twitter.com/uuLbDF4OeQ
— UFC (@ufc) November 13, 2022
Weili becomes UFC women’s strawweight champion for the second time and extends her winning streak to two, also including a knockout of Joanna Jedrzejczyk in June. She moves to 2-1 in UFC title challenges and is the only Chinese champion in promotion history. Her only UFC losses have come against Rose Namajunas.
Esparza has her six-fight winning streak snapped. Over two championship reigns, Esparza has yet to notch a title defense. At UFC 274 in May, Esparza won the strawweight title against Namajunas in a lackluster and somewhat controversial split decision.
Up-to-the-minute UFC 281 results include:
- Zhang Weili def. Carla Esparza via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 1:05
- Dustin Poirier def. Michael Chandler via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 3, 2:00
- Frankie Edgar vs. Chris Gutierrez via knockout (knee) – Round 1, 2:01
- Dan Hooker def. Claudio Puelles via TKO (kick) – Round 2, 4:06
- Renato Moicano def. Brad Riddell via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:20
- Ryan Spann def. Dominick Reyes via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 1:20
- Erin Blanchfield def. Molly McCann via submission (kimura) – Round 1, 3:37
- Andre Petroski def. Wellington Turman via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Matt Frevola def. Ottman Azaitar via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 2:30
- Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Silvana Gomez Juarez via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Michael Trizano def. Seungwoo Choi via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 4:51
- Montel Jackson def. Julio Arce via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Carlos Ulberg def. Nicolae Negumereanu via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 3:44
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 281.
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