UFC 281: Zhang Weili chokes out Carla Esparza to earn second championship reign

UFC 281: Zhang Weili chokes out Carla Esparza to earn second championship reign

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 12: Weili Zhang celebrates after defeating Carla Esparza to win their Women Strawweight fight UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

UFC 281: Pros react to Weili Zhang regaining strawweight title from Carla Esparza by Thomas Albano

UFC 281: Zhang Weili defeated Carla Esparza.

Zhang Weili defeated Carla Esparza via submission (rear-naked choke), Round 2 – 1:05 at UFC 281 on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, live from Madison Square Garden In New York, NY.

“I come back, oh my god. Now it feels like a dream. Every day I train every day to get this belt back…  I have so many ways to finish her” said Weili who attempted to start the interview in English before using the translator.

UFC 281: Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili: Round-by-round recap

Weili quickly took the center of the Octagon. Esparza landed a sharp right hand. Weili landed a solid strike and then started to open up with more kicks. Weili landed a powerful right and then followed it up with a head kick. Esparza landed a takedown and the women scrambled for positioning. Weili went for a choke but Esparza defended and took position on top of Weili. The fight moved back to the feet with the women trading strikes. Esparza landed her second takedown but Weili transitioned and started landing some powerful shots.

Early in the second round, Weili stunned Esparza with a punch and head kick combo. Esparza countered with another takedown. The women again transitioned with Weili taking Esparza’s back with a crucifix. Weili had one chin under the chin of Esparza, who was holding Weili’s other hand. As soon as Weili was able to free her other arm, she locked in the choke and forced Esparza to tap out. Weili celebrated by performing a backflip.

Esparza won the UFC women’s strawweight title for the second time after she defeated Rose Namanujas at UFC 274. The title victory came seven years after Esparza first won the championship. Esparza entered UFC 281 on a six-fight winning streak. However, Esparza left New York, failing to defend her title for a second time.

Weili entered UFC 281 looking to become the third woman to win a second reign as champion. After losing two title fights to Namajunas at UFC 261 and 268, Weili rebounded in her last fight. At UFC 275, Weili scored one of the best knockouts of the year, landing a spinning back fist against Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The victory earned Weili another title fight and sent Jedrzejczyk into retirement.

UFC 281: Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira took place on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, live from Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. Follow along with FanSided MMA for all your news and highlights.