UFC Strawweight Champion Carla Esparza will look to defend her belt for the first time later this year, facing former titleholder Zhang Weili at the promotion’s November 12th pay-per-view event.
The title fight between Esparza and Zhang was confirmed by Damon Martin of MMA Fighting on Thursday. The bout is part of UFC 281, which is booked for Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York, USA.
Esparza kicked off her second reign as strawweight champion in May, scoring a split decision victory over Rose Namajunas at UFC 274. The title victory was her sixth consecutive win since 2019 and was her second time beating Namajunas (the pair first met back in 2014, when Esparza won and became UFC’s first-ever 115-pound titleholder).
Just over a year since she dropped the strawweight belt, Zhang has a chance to earn it back in November.
Zhang lost the promotion’s 115-pound belt in April 2021, suffering a first-round knockout loss to Namajunas. She was briefly pushed out of the title picture later that year after taking a second loss to Namajunas, dropping that bout via split decision.
Zhang sees herself back in a championship fight after earning a stoppage win recently, defeating Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275 in June.
A middleweight title fight between Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira is also expected for UFC’s November PPV. Here’s an updated look at the show:
Bout 5: Israel Adesanya (23-1) vs. Alex Pereira (6-1) (UFC Middleweight Championship)
Bout 4: Carla Esparza (19-6) vs. Zhang Weili (22-3) (UFC Strawweight Championship)
Bout 3: Erin Blanchfield (9-1) vs. Molly McCann (13-4) (Flyweight)
Bout 2: Dominick Reyes (12-3) vs. Ryan Spann (20-7) (Light Heavyweight)
Bout 1: Mike Trizano (9-3) vs. Choi Seung-woo (10-5) (Featherweight)