Zhang Weili will put her strawweight belt on the line against Rose Namajunas in one of three title fights on a stacked UFC 261 main card.
Saturday’s UFC 261 co-main event features two of the most dominant fighters in the strawweight division going head-to-head with the belt on the line. Current strawweight champion Zhang Weili will defend her title and look to add to her 21-fight win streak against No. 1 contender and former champion Rose Namajunas. This has been one of the most hyped fights of the year and could easily lead to a rematch and even a trilogy fight regardless of the outcome.
Zhang Weili UFC 261 Odds
It’s not often you see a fighter lose their first professional MMA fight and follow it up with 21 straight wins, but that’s what Zhang (21-1 MMA record) has managed to do. Zhang burst onto the UFC scene in 2018 and quickly amassed four wins over the next 13 months. She won the strawweight belt by TKO less than a minute into her fight with Jessica Andrade in 2019 and earned a Performance of the Night bonus in the process. Her first title defence was at UFC 248 in March 2020 against two-division fighter Joanna Jedrzejczyk and it produced arguably one of the best fights in UFC history. Due to the COVID pandemic, Zhang was forced to move her training camp multiple times before she eventually secured a split decision win in an epic five-round brawl.
“Magnum” has proven to be a resilient fighter who is able to brush off any bad breaks she may get in a fight. She’s a brutal striker and holds knockout power that serves her well in brawling exchanges and one-and-done shots. Zhang likes to keep opponents moving and fights at a high tempo, often countering with multiple strikes as well as attempting to land knees and elbows in clinch situations. Because of how skilled her striking is, her submission game can be overlooked, which is generally beneficial for her as she can catch opponents off-guard. Zhang will likely press forward with pressure early, so how her opponent handles this will be the biggest determining factor in this fight.
Rose Namajunas UFC 261 Odds
Namajunas (10-4 MMA record) is on a mission to get back what she thinks is hers: the strawweight belt. She took down Jedrzejczyk twice in a row, first winning and then defending the strawweight belt. Namajunas originally won the strawweight championship with a first-round TKO over Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217 in 2017. She followed that up with a unanimous decision win in a rematch with Jedrzejczyk at UFC 223 the following year. After getting knocked out and losing the belt to Jessica Andrade in 2019, Namajunas avenged her loss with a split decision win at UFC 251 in her only fight of 2020. Unfortunately for Namajunas, Andrade had already lost the belt to Zhang. Namajunas had her revenge against Andrade, the only order of business left is to get her belt back against Zhang.
“Thug” earned her nickname as an intimidating fighter, but she’s more than a brawler. You won’t see better footwork than Namajunas’. She uses her rhythmic footwork and long reach to dictate the fight and keep opponents at a distance she’s comfortable with. Typically, Namajunas likes to float around the octagon and uses her technical ability to pick her shots carefully and slowly wear down her opponents. Her submission game is just as dangerous and she makes opponents pay if they try to close the gap too closely. Namajunas is very comfortable evading and dodging attacks, so it will be interesting to see how she handles the stronger and more powerful Zhang. The longer this fight goes, the more likely Numajunas is to pull off the upset and regain the strawweight belt.
Zhang vs. Namajunas UFC 261 Prediction
This is going to be a great fight. You have power and high tempo in Zhang versus footwork and technical ability in Namajunas. They’re both well-rounded fighters who would likely split a 10-fight series right down the middle with five wins each. But, this isn’t a series. It’s one fight and if we have to predict one fight, we’re taking the champ. Look for a unanimous decision win for Zhang.