Weili Zhang Expected to Defend Title Against Rose Namajunas at UFC 261

By: Jay Pettry
Feb 26, 2021

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Should everything come together, an upcoming Ultimate Fighting Championship will be bolstered by a duo of major women’s championship matches.

On Friday, ESPN broke the news that the promotion was aiming to book champ Weili Zhang (21-1) against Rose Namajunas (9-4) for the strawweight belt on UFC 261. The fight is not official at the moment, but it is in the works for the April 24 pay-per-view card. In addition to the matchup news, the promotion appears to have abandoned its plans to stage the card in Singapore, and will likely remain at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas instead.

Zhang has looked practically unstoppable since dropping her first career match to Meng Bo in 2013. Rattling off an impressive 21-fight win streak including five victories inside the Octagon, the champ from China maintains a stellar finish rate of 81 percent. This string includes a mauling of Jessica Aguilar, a demolition of then-champ Jessica Andrade and her first title defense against former divisional queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk. In their March 2020 meeting, both Zhang and Jedrzejczyk engaged in unbelievable battle that easily captured Sherdog’s 2020 “Fight of the Year” award along with universal accolades.

Ex-champ Namajunas rebounded from an emphatic 2019 loss where she surrendered her title to the aforementioned Andrade with a rematch in July 2020. In that three-round affair, “Thug Rose” threw down with her rival for three hard rounds, and she picked up a split decision win to earn another crack at her old belt. To get there, Namajunas had to knock out Jedrzejczyk to win the strap, and then defend in a five-round brawl to hold on to her gold.

This anticipated scrap, should it come to fruition on UFC 261, will join a flyweight title tilt between Valentina Shevchenko and Andrade on April 24. Neither the Shevchenko-Andrade tilt, nor the Zhang-Namajunas new offering, are expected to headline the card. The UFC Apex-staged event will also play host to a middleweight rematch pitting former champ Chris Weidman against the resurgent Uriah Hall, while Anthony Smith comes to blows with Jimmy Crute at light heavyweight as well.

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