Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili Set for UFC 281

The UFC Strawweight championship will be on the line in New York this upcoming November.

This was first reported by Ariel Helwani during the MMA Hour yesterday and then confirmed today by the UFC Strawweight champion Carla Esparza who announced that she is going to be defending her gold vs. Zhang Weili on November 12th at UFC 281 in Madison Square Garden.

At UFC 274 in May, Esparza defeated Rose Namajunas to win the women’s strawweight title for the second time. The fight was largely lackluster and Esparza won by split decision. With the win, Esparza extended her winning streak to six.

One month later, Weili knocked out Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a spinning backfist in Round 2 of their UFC 276 bout. Prior to that fight, UFC president Dana White had declared the winner would be the next title challenger.

In the wake of Weili’s victory, Esparza initially indicated injuries would likely force her out until 2023. Zhang had asked for UFC 280 on Oct. 22. With Esparza cleared of her injuries, the bout will take place later than Zhang wanted, but earlier than Esparza’s original timeline.

With the addition, the UFC 281 lineup includes:

Champion Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira – for the UFC Middleweight title

Champion Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili – for Women’s Strawweight title

Erin Blanchfield vs. Molly McCann

Dominick Reyes vs. Ryan Spann

Seungwoo Choi vs. Mike Trizano

Renato Moicano vs. Brad Riddell