Zhang Weili taps out Carla Esparza in UFC 281 co-main event

Two-time women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza put her title on the line against former champion Zhang Weili in the UFC 281 co-main event on Saturday.

Esparza made history by becoming the inaugural strawweight champion when she defeating Rose Namajunas at The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale in December 2014. She was defeated in her first title defense against Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Jedrzejczyk held the title until 2017 until she was defeated by Namajunas.

Namajunas successfully defended the belt once before losing it to Jessica Andrade. Andrade was defeated in her first title defense by Weili. Weili was able to defend the title once before losing to Namajunas. Esparza defeated Namajunas a second time at UFC 274 May to recapture the title she held eight years ago.

Like her first title reign, Esparza wasn’t able to defend the belt.

Weili pressured Esparza in the opening round while Esparza circled on the outside. Weili picked up her aggression and landed right hands. Esparza caught a kick and secured a takedown. They scrambled for position on the ground and Esparza eventually ended up in top position. Weili got back to her feet and landed a kick to the body. Esparza worked to get the fight to the ground again. Weili defended the takedown attempt and gained top position. In the final seconds, Weili disengaged.

Early in the second frame, Weili caught Esparza with a right hand as Esparza closed the distance. Esparza desperately tried to get the fight to the ground, but Weili defended. During a scramble, Weili locked on a rear-naked choke. Esparza fought to get free but was forced to tap out. The official time of the stoppage was 1:05 of the second round.

“Today is like a dream come true,” said Weili after the fight. “Every day since I lost the belt, every single day, every single night I was dreaming of this moment.”

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