Carla Esparza announces UFC 281 title fight vs. Zhang Weili

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UFC 281 has its second title fight, pending finalization.

In addition to the middleweight championship, the women’s strawweight title will be on the line when Carla Esparza (19-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) defends it against Zhang Weili (22-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC). The event takes place Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

An additional person with knowledge of the matchup confirmed the targeted booking to MMA Junkie but asked to remain anonymous since the promotion has yet to make an official announcement. Esparza also announced the news on Instagram. MMA reporter Ariel Helwani was first to mention the date and event.

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 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

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie