MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the co-main event of UFC 261, a five-round UFC women’s strawweight title fight between champion Weili Zhang and challenger Rose Namajunas. The event takes place on Saturday, April 24 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
Weili Zhang (-200)
Zhang (21-1) is the UFC women’s strawweight champion. The 31-year-old China native has won her last 20 fights in a row including all five of her fights since joining the UFC in 2018. Since entering the Octagon, Zhang has defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Tecia Torres, Jessica Aguilar, and Danielle Taylor. Zhang has just been destroying everyone in her path for the most part. On the feet, she has a ton of power which we have seen and she also has the ability to go the full 25 minutes if need be. The few times we saw her ground game she looked good, as well. Overall, there is just a lot to like about Zhang. She has all the skills necessary to be the champion of this division for a long time. This fight with Namajunas will be the toughest test of her career, but it’s a test that she can pass.
Rose Namajunas (+170)
Namajunas (9-4) is the former UFC women’s strawweight champion. The 28-year-old American has been in the UFC since 2014 and has since gone 7-3 in the Octagon with wins over Joanna Jedrzejczyk (twice), Michelle Waterson, Tecia Torres, Paige VanZant, and Jessica Andrade. Namajunas is very well rounded, with a solid striking attack and power on the feet, plus a dynamic ground game that can see her lock in highlight-reel submissions. Overall she is a tremendous talent and she has been a champion before. This fight with Zhang is super intriguing and stylistically, Namajunas matches up well with the champ. It should be a great fight, regardless of what happens.
Fight Breakdown: This should be an incredible fight between the two best women’s strawweights on the UFC roster, but I feel like Namajunas is being overlooked here. Are we forgetting what she’s accomplished in the UFC? It wasn’t that long ago that she knocked out Jedrzejczyk to win the belt and then defeated her in the rematch. Zhang’s best win is also Jedrzejczyk, and the fight was way closer. If this fight stays on the feet, I think Namajunas can have some success with her speed and movement. She is very light on the feet and if she can come in here with a stick-and-move type of gameplan, I think she can give Zhang trouble on the feet. I have a lot of respect for Zhang as a champion and for what she’s accomplished so far in the UFC, but I do think Namajunas is the toughest fight she’s had so far. Given Zhang is coming off of a layoff, Namajunas could be getting her at the right time. I look at this as a very close fight but given the big underdog odds on Namajunas, that’s the way I’m leaning here. Give me Namajunas to beat Zhang by decision.
Prediction: Rose Namajunas