DieHardMMA Previews: UFC Vegas 261: Zhang vs. Namajunas

by Pub Sports Radio

DieHardMMA Previews: UFC Vegas 261: Zhang vs. Namajunas

By: Clint MacLean

The co-main event of UFC 261 should be an absolute treat. Rose Namajunas, the former champion, is attempting to retake the best she sees as hers, and the current champion Weili Zhang is defending her belt for the 2nd time after putting on the fight of the year in 2020. This fight will be a banger for as long as it lasts. 

The Fighters:

Weili Zhang (-200)

  • 31 years old

  • 21 – 1

  • 81% finish rate

  • 10 wins by KO/TKO

  • Height: 5’4

  • Reach 63.’

 

Weili Zhang is special. If you paid attention, Zhang’s rise in the UFC was much like the rise of Jon Jones or Conor McGregor. You just knew. Zhang has not tasted defeat since her MMA debut, and when she made it to the UFC, it was apparent she was headed for the top. I felt that her jump from facing Tecia Torres to taking on Jessica Andrade was a bit premature. Still, she absolutely walked through the former champion in the first minute of their fight and then followed it up with a fight of the year against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who is one of the all-time women’s greats. Zhang is a force and somehow is still just getting better.

 

Rose Namajunas (+170)

  • 28 years old

  • 9 – 4

  • 67% finish rate

  • 5 Wins by Submission

  • Height: 5’5

  • Reach 65.’

We were first introduced to Rose on the Ultimate Fighter, where she stood out with her nasty submission game. Since that time, she has taken the UFC by storm and captured UFC gold. After the back-to-back wins over common opponent Joanna, Rose looked unstoppable until Jessica Andrade slammed her on her head. Rose returned to face her nightmares and was able to win a split decision over rival Jessica Andrade after a long layoff, and now she wants her belt back.

The Matchup:

Rose Namajunas has turned into an extremely skilled striker who is elusive on the feet and hard to deal with. Once she gets the fight to the floor, you are in her world, and her submission game is deadly. This double threat has allowed her to reach the top of the division and stay there despite a few setbacks along the way. Rose is a great fighter and is well-rounded, but the one thing she struggles mightily with is the physicality of opponents like Jessica Andrade. Even in the split decision win over Jessica, Rose had a really rough 3rd round when Jessica finally found her range and landed a few hard shots. Rose was able to dig deep and gut her way to a win, but she looked like she was ready to fall over.

If there is a fighter at 115, who can match the physicality and power of Jessica Andrade, it is champion Weili Zhang. Zhang is young and powerful and has tasted the best that the UFC has to offer her. She is an extraordinary fighter and an athlete that is hard to match. I think that Rose will have success early on in this fight, and as long as she manages to keep this fight at range, I think that the longer the fight goes, the more it will wear on her. Zhang just went 25 minutes with Joanna and quite literally rearranged her face. Zhang is built like a brick house and wears damage well, but we cannot say the same for Rose.

This fight being for a title means it is a 25-minute affair, and Rose will have to survive those tough early rounds and deal with the onslaught that will continue to rain in the later rounds. I’m not convinced that she can. I see a late finish for the champion Weili Zhang in the 4th round after Rose has nothing left to give. #AndStill

The Pick: Weili Zhang (-200)

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