A look at why Amanda Lemos is the most likely first challenger for new UFC strawweight champ Zhang Weili

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After successfully regaining her strawweight title at UFC 281 against Carla Esparza, Zhang Weili can look forward to 2023, as she turns from hunter to hunted once again. Out of all the potential opponents, there’s one that stands out and that is Amanda Lemos.

Amanda Lemos is coming off a TKO win over Marina Rodriguez.


Just coming off a massive win against Marina Rodriguez, Amanda Lemos has definitely got a say in this discussion. She’s on a two-fight win streak, both of which are impressive finishes. Lemos has won seven of her last eight fights and has one of the highest finishing rates in women’s MMA. Now ranked at no.3 some believe she has to go through Rose Namajunas to gain an opportunity at the belt, but with her stats being that good, she might have the best case to fight for the belt next.

There have been other names thrown into the hat but for each, there are great factors as to why they don’t deserve a title shot just yet.


Rose Namajunas

Namajunas has not fought since her loss to Esparza this past May.

“Thug Rose” hasn’t fought since her split decision loss to Esparza for the title at UFC 274 so one would argue: “Shouldn’t she have a win under her belt before challenging for the belt again?” However, Namajunas has two wins over the current champion. One by knockout and another by split decision, both in championship fights, and despite her lack of activity since UFC 274, she could be given a chance to become the Strawweight Queen again simply due to the history.

The major question behind that is: Would that be fair? The answer? No, and this is why Rose is unlikely to get the next title shot over Lemos. She needs a win to get back on track for a title shot.

Marina Rodriguez

Marina Rodriguez is coming off a devestating defeat to Amanda Lemos.


If it wasn’t for Amanda Lemos, Marina Rodriguez would’ve clearly been next in line for the title. However, after losing to Lemos in early November, Rodriguez will need to bounce back in 2023. There’s a potential rematch with former two-time champion Carla Esparza or a first-ever meeting with Rose Namajunas to become the number-one contender. However, Rodriguez can definitely not be next in line for Weili after losing to Lemos.

Carla Esparza

Esparza was submitted by Zhang Weili at UFC 281.


An instant rematch? No chance. Weili’s win was convincing. Esparza may have to go through some rematches to get her title back for the third time. The trilogy with Namajunas is not necessary but as mentioned earlier, Marina Rodriguez has a good case for a rematch since their fight was decided by a split decision.

Jessica Andrade

Jessica Andrade is moving back up to flyweight for her next bout.


Despite being ranked fourth in the strawweight rankings, Jessica Andrade has been fighting at both 115lbs and 125lbs. The former champion looks as if she’s permanently moving up to the flyweight division. She faces Lauren Murphy at UFC 283 and she could either return to strawweight or stay at flyweight depending on the result. If she’s successful, it’s unlikely she’ll return to her original division. She has a win over Lemos which also puts her in good standing for the title shot, but inactivity at 115lbs might push Lemos to the title shot before Andrade.

Xiaonan Yan

Xiaonan Yan is coming off an impressive win against Mackenzie Dern.


Xiaonan Yan would definitely need one or two big wins over a top 5 opposition in order to get a title shot but after her win against Mackenzie Dern, following two losses to Carla Esparza and Marina Rodriguez, the Chinese fighter is back on track for a title charge by 2024. It’s also likely if Yan Xioanan finds herself in the title picture, the UFC would want to return to China for an all-Chinese main event. It’s a bit too early for Yan as of right now.


Fight fans, who do you think deserves the next shot at the UFC strawweight championship? Let us know in the comments section below.

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