Update 11:42 p.m. ET The fighters are on their way to the cage, and we’ll be underway shortly!
The women’s strawweight championship will be on the line in the World’s Most Famous Arena on Saturday, as champion Carla Esparza takes on No. 2 Zhang Weili in the co-main event of UFC 281 in New York City
Esparza (20-6) has won six straight bouts, including a split decision victory over Rose Namajunas to claim the belt in May of this year. The 35-year-old “Cookie Monster” will be in her first defense of the strap, and she’ll look to get the bout on the mat as she has 19 takedowns in those last six outings.
Weili (22-3) was defeated twice by Namajunas in 2021, but is undefeated in the octagon otherwise at 6-2. The 33-year-old “Magnum” has 18 career stoppages, 11 by KO or TKO, and defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a spinning backfist in June to earn her third title opportunity.
Weili is favored to win in this bout with -340 odds at DraftKings Sportsbook.
We’ll be providing live updates throughout the fight with round-by-round scoring until a winner is determined.
Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili round-by-round results
Round 1 10-9 Weili
A terrific round full of reverses and scrambling on the mat. We’ll give it to Weili for her punching advantage despite the two takedowns from her opponent, but both had plenty of fight control while down there, and both reversed each other plenty. A clinic in mat-based MMA from both fighters.