A highly anticipated strawweight title fight co-headlines tonight’s UFC 281 event when Carla Esparza puts her belt on the line against Zhang Weili.
Ahead of the big fight, WMMA Rankings has teamed up with seven members of UFC’s strawweight roster.
These fierce and highly-touted prospects all have their eyes on someday claiming that world title. Tonight they make their official pick on who they believe walks into 2023 as champion of their division.
Ariane Carnelossi 14-3-0
“I believe in Zhang’s victory. I think Esparza’s takedown game won’t work in this fight, I believe in a victory for China by way of TKO in the third-round after some ground-and-pound. They are both great athletes, Carla’s wrestling game is great, but I see Zhang’s movement being stronger and more precise. I think the evolution of Zhang’s wrestling game will make the difference in this fight.“
Brianna Fortino 9-3-0
“I think Weili should win the fight. She has the better stand-up, she’s going to be quicker and I would bet she’s stronger too. With that being said, if Carla can stay out of range and close the distance to get the takedown, she might have a chance. If Carla can get the takedown early, I think she may be able to get Weili to be a little gun-shy like Rose was in their last fight.”
Elise Reed 6-2-0
“I think Weili will take it, I think if Carla can keep her grounded then it makes it a bit of a closer match-up. This will be a classic striker vs. wrestler at the most high level in WMMA, so it should be a fun fight. Weili has a bit more footage against Carla, considering Rose lost to her and she was a striker as well. So I think Weili will look to use range and strength to get an advantage and beat her on the feet. Additionally, Weili has been working with Cejudo so she may be able to prevent a lot of what Carla is looking to do. I will definitely be watching!“
Iasmin Lucindo 13-5-0 “I believe Zhang will get her belt back! She’s very focused and knows what to do, which is to nullify Esparza’s grappling game.”
Maria Oliveira 13-5-0 “I think Weili will be the new champion.”
Montserrat Ruiz 10-2-0 “I am going with Zhang Weili. She is the more complete fighter.”
Polyana Viana (13-5-0) “I think Zhang Weili wins this. She re-captures the UFC strawweight title.”
UFC 281 takes place on Saturday, November 12, 2022, from Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York, United States. The main card, featuring Esparza vs. Weili, will be aired live on pay-per-view from 10 pm ET.