Report – Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili slated for UFC 281 on November 21. at MSG

Zhang WeiliAn undisputed strawweight championship fight between reigning division champion, Carla Esparza, and challenger, former division titleholder, Zhang Weili is set to co-headline UFC 281 on November 12. from Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. Attempting to secure her first successful title defense since beginning her second reign as strawweight champion, Californian veteran, […]

Zhang Weili

An undisputed strawweight championship fight between reigning division champion, Carla Esparza, and challenger, former division titleholder, Zhang Weili is set to co-headline UFC 281 on November 12. from Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.

Attempting to secure her first successful title defense since beginning her second reign as strawweight champion, Californian veteran, Esparza managed to clinch the undisputed crown back in May of this year in a lacklustre UFC 274 co-main event win over common-foe, Rose Namajunas. 

Carla Esparza will look to land her first-ever successful UFC title defense, when paired with Zhang Weili

As for Hebei native, Zhang Weili, the former undisputed champion snapped a run of back-to-back defeats against the aforenoted, Namajunas back in June at UFC 275 in Singapore – stopping another common-opponent, Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a blistering second round spinning back-fist knockout. Ariel Helwani was first to report the news of Carla Esparza’s title defense against Zhang Weili at UFC 281. 

The inaugural UFC strawweight champion, Team Oyama mainstay, Esparza managed to defeat Namajunas first back in December 2014, winning The Ultimate Fighter 20 as a result to boot.

Dropping the title immediately in a dominant striking loss to Jedrzejczyk, Esparza currently finds herself in the midst of an impressive run of six straight wins, adding Namajunas to prior victories against Virna Jandiroba, Alexa Grasso, Michelle Waterson, Marina Rodriguez, and Yan Xiaonan. 

Winning her strawweight title on home soil in an August 2019 knockout win over Jessica Andrade, Weili would turn in a consensus 2020 Fight of the Year performance en route to a decision win over Jedrzejczyk in her sole title defense, before dropping the title to Namajunas in April of last year in a brutal high kick KO loss. 

UFC 281 takes place on November 12. from Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York – with an official headlining bout for the penultimate pay-per-view event of 2022 yet to be determined by the promotion.

Mighty Mouse reveals details behind UFC’s threat to close down flyweight

Demetrious Johnson and Dana White have a conversation during the TUF 24 filming in 2016. | Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Demetrious Johnson details how the UFC threatened him about closing …


Demetrious Johnson and Dana White have a conversation during the TUF 24 filming in 2016.
Demetrious Johnson and Dana White have a conversation during the TUF 24 filming in 2016. | Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Demetrious Johnson details how the UFC threatened him about closing down the flyweight division.

It was 2018 when news about the UFC’s supposed plan to shut down the men’s flyweight division began to surface. The narrative, at the time, was because 125-pounders weren’t that much of a draw, with the company releasing Jose “Shorty” Torres with two fights remaining in his contract.

That piece of information was squashed a year later by UFC president Dana White himself after Henry Cejudo’s UFC 238 win over Marlon Moraes. But according to former longtime champion Demetrious Johnson, the company was serious about these plans.

In his recent appearance on the MMA Hour, he said it all began when he wanted a super fight with T.J. Dillashaw for $1 million.

“They wanted us to fight T.J. Dillashaw and I said we’ll fight him for $1 million,” Johnson recalled. “Then the thing was, I knew T.J. couldn’t make 125 healthy. I knew that and so did (coach) Matt (Hume). We knew that because he’s already shredded at 135…

“So Matt wanted to put it in the contract saying if T.J. Dillashaw does not make weight at 125, we fight him for his belt, and they said no. ‘We’re not doing that.’ Okay then, well, what’s going to happen and that’s when they were like, ‘We’re going to close the division.’

“So I said I’ll fight T.J. for $1 million. It’s a superfight! Let’s make it happen.’ But they wouldn’t do that and that’s when they were like, ‘We’re going to close the division.’ Well, close the motherf–ng division then!’ They didn’t do it and that’s when I came out with the letter and it was like, what do I have to do?

This happened in 2017 before Johnson scored his highlight reel armbar finish against Ray Borg. For him, he was merely exercising his rights as a UFC champion.

“Everything that a champion — one of the things that I want to have happen when I’m done fighting is I want Matt to be like, ‘Out of all the people I’ve ever worked with and trained, Demetrious was the easiest person I’ve trained. He always showed up on time, never had a problem with cutting weight, no problems.’ I wanted to be the easiest champion, athlete to work with.

“I show up, ‘Who do you want me to fight? I’ll fight the next guy.’ But once they started to murky this stuff — ‘Oh, you’re going to fight this champion.’ Okay, let’s add some more money. Let’s add $1 million. ‘No, that can’t happen.’

“Okay, well then if he doesn’t make weight, let’s fight for his belt. ‘No, can’t do that either.’ Okay, so where do I have leverage here? Where’s my power in being a champion?”

In the same interview, “Mighty Mouse” also revealed getting a rare personal phone call from White, only to be called a “dumbass” for sharing his opinion to a fan via Twitch.

“I’m playing a game — and when I started streaming on Twitch, I started being more vocal — and somebody in the Twitch chat goes, ‘Hey man, did you hear about The Ultimate Fighter? What they’re going to do next?’

“I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ and he goes, ‘They’re going to do The Ultimate Fighter, it’s going to be all the champions and they’re going fight you and the winner gets to fight [for the belt].’

“And I go, ‘Well that’s f–ng stupid.’ And then I was like, ‘What about the guys on a five-fight win streak? What about Joseph Benavidez? They’re just going to skip the line?’ I said that and the next day I got a phone call from Dana White.

“Dana White never called me when I was in the UFC. He called and he goes, ‘You dumbass! You just ruined this whole thing we’re trying to set up for you! Blah, blah, blah.’

“And I was like, ‘Well I just found out online from a random dude on Twitch and I gave him an honest opinion.’ And then he goes, ‘Sean Shelby didn’t call you?’ ‘No, he didn’t call me.’ And he goes, ‘Alright. Bye.’ He hangs up and the next day I get a call from Sean Shelby, ‘Hey, yeah bro —’ Too late! Too late dude.”

Johnson says he was later advised by Hume to “take fault,” which he understandably refused to do.

“I didn’t do anything wrong here. That was my natural reaction to news that was broken to me on the spot, by a fan. I have to hide my feelings?… I’m not in trouble for this. And after that it was kind of like, off she went. Slowly, slowly I just started being more me and that’s where I’m at now.”

Johnson (30-4-1) ended up being involved in a historic trade with ONE Championship in 2018. Along with ex-champion Eddie Alvarez, he was sent to the Singapore-based promotion in exchange for Ben Askren. He last saw action in April 2021 against Adriano Moraes and lost via second-round knockout.

Fighter On Fighter! Breaking Down ‘Nigerian Nightmare!’

Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Pound-for-pound king, Kamaru Usman, will go to war opposite former foe, Leon Edwards, this Saturday (Aug. 20, 2022) at UFC 278 inside Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Usman is at…


UFC 261: Usman v Masvidal 2
Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Pound-for-pound king, Kamaru Usman, will go to war opposite former foe, Leon Edwards, this Saturday (Aug. 20, 2022) at UFC 278 inside Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Usman is at the top of his game. He’s racked up five title defenses and a 15-fight UFC win streak, and though he’s no longer winning without ever coughing up a round in the process, Usman is looking mighty comfortable at the top. Frankly, champions don’t discuss jumping up two weight classes when they feel particularly threatened by the opposition in their weight class.

That does not, however, mean Edwards is an easy task. “Rocky” is in his prime and has plus skills in all areas, so Usman will have to mind his P’s and Q’s opposite his latest challenger.

Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:

Striking

Between Henri Hooft and Trevor Wittman, Usman has turned great physical gifts into genuine kickboxing skill. He’s still a bit stiff in his movement, but when a fighter hits as hard as Usman, such a flaw is easily forgivable.

The jab has developed as a major weapon for Usman — a great tool given his gigantic wingspan and muscles popping from every section of his upper body. He may have ultimately been throwing jabs mostly with his arm at Gilbert Burns, but they were thudding jabs all the same. From either stance, Usman shot out his fist direct from his shoulder to the chin, and those jabs really ruined Burns’ night (GIF). Usman punished Burns from long range with this power jab, a distance where Burns’ hooks and overhand were unlikely to reach their target. When Burns instead tried to fire kicks, Usman interrupted them by stepping forward with more hard jabs, taking full advantage of Burns’ habit of really committing his weight forward as he kicks (GIF).

Establishing the jab so effectively kept Usman in control of exchanges and allowed him to set up further offense, like this lovely pull counter (GIF).

UFC 258: Usman v Burns
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

In his rematch versus Jorge Masvidal, Usman was smoother than ever. The champion really did a masterful job of feinting and giving “Gamebred” different looks, picking up reads on what Masvidal was looking to land. When he picked up on Masvidal looking for his check hook — something of a signature technique for the Floridian — he was able to time his right hand inside the punch.

He landed a couple clean rights inside the first frame as a result. Then, he became the first man to truly knock Masvidal out cold (GIF).

In Usman’s first bout against Covington, he battled the Southpaw for five rounds in a very competitive, high-volume kickboxing match. Ultimately, Usman’s body work was a major factor in his victory. From early in the fight, Usman was jamming hard right hands into the solar plexus. In addition, his snap kick to the body landed well.

By the fifth round, Usman really found the timing and distance on his right hand. Earlier in the fight, Covington did well to jab, dip off the center line, and land as Usman tried to fire back. That combination of Usman’s body work and general fatigue left Covington a bit slower, however, and Usman capitalized by shuffling into range before unleashing his accurate cross (GIF).

Body work wasn’t as vital in the second match, but Usman’s tighter boxing was. Early on, Covington tried to establish the jab and calf kick. Usman didn’t have a terribly difficult time with either, parrying lots of jabs then answering back with his own more powerful jab. In general, Usman did well to maintain his good positioning as Covington threw, allowing him to answer with heavy counter shots and find the chin.

UFC 268: Usman v Covington 2
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Even prior to working with Wittman, Usman was jabbing in an attempt to make full use of his 76-inch reach. In Orthodox, his goal is generally to snap his opponent’s head back and establish range. As a Southpaw, however, it’s more common for Usman to flick the jab, slip his head off the center line to avoid the counter and find a home for his left. The cross is a major weapon for Usman from either stance, and again it’s a difference or power vs. loose precision. Fighting right-handed, Usman will fully commit to the cross nearly every time and try to blast his opponent (GIF). As a Southpaw, Usman is far more likely to pitch the left hand smoothly, and he’s also more likely to follow up with a second cross or right hook.

Usman does a great job of shifting between stances with the cross. For example, he can throw a cross as an Orthodox and step into Southpaw, allowing him to follow up with lead hand right hooks as his opponent circles away. Against Moraes, Usman used the established threat of the left cross to shift back right-handed, taking a new angle while Moraes covered up. From this angle, Usman dropped a right-handed cross straight to the jaw (GIF).

Another layer to Usman’s offense is his ability to use level change feints. Usman doesn’t just squat down, he reaches for the leg in a very convincing feint of a snatch single. Opposite Sean Strickland, Usman repeatedly used level-change feints from the Southpaw stance to great effect. Strickland is a right-handed fighter, and the open stance dynamic meant that his lead leg was vulnerable to the snatch single. Usman would reach out for the single frequently, instead coming up with a left cross or right uppercut-left high kick. It was seriously effective, and having to guess whether to defend a takedown or punch really stymied Strickland’s own offense.

Usman is a fairly smart kicker as well. He mostly relies on his hands, but Usman is active in attacking his foe’s lead leg. Usman tends to set the low kick up with feints rather than combinations, helping himself out by mixing targets to the thigh and calf. He’ll also suddenly go Southpaw and punt the inside of the leg. Similarly, Usman will shift Southpaw and kick to the body, a very effective strategy.

UFC 235: Woodley v Usman
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

In his bout with Tyron Woodley, Usman’s goal was to close the distance, and he did a lot correctly to accomplish that mission. He fought from the Orthodox stance, keeping his left shoulder to his chin and left arm extended, fully prepared to intercept Woodley’s overhand. As he pursued, Usman stayed behind his shoulder and jabbed, walking Woodley toward the fence.

Once in the clinch, Usman went to work. At times, he was able to pull a hand down and fold over hard elbow strikes, but it was often even more simple than that. Usman found his best success by pushing off and unloading combinations while Woodley’s back was still to the fence, and he did a lot of damage simply by hammering the ribs from the over-under position (GIF).

Usman’s clinch work was a major theme against Masvidal in the first bout as well. Though he received a lot of Internet hate for excessive foot stomping, Usman also did real damage. His uppercuts into the mid-section looked painful similar to the Woodley fight, and he found a home for heavy elbows as well. At one point, he landed a slick setup from the over-under, using his underhook hand to reach across the body and control Masvidal’s wrist. This freed up a path for Usman’s overhand side to elbow “Gamebred” clear in the face.

Wrestling

A multiple-time All American and national champion at the Division II level, Usman also accrued experience as a freestyle wrestler after college. More than any one technique, both as an athlete and wrestler, Usman is a devastating combination of great physical strength and relentless conditioning.

UFC Fight Night: Usman v Meek
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Because of his ability to switch stances, Usman is very slick at blinding his opponent with straight shots and setting up a high-crotch takedown entry on the lead leg. Once in on the leg, Usman will threaten a dump takedown. When his opponent shifts his weight back, Usman is able to instead catch the far leg and lift to complete a double leg.

Although shooting with his head to the outside does leave him more at risk of landing in a guillotine, it also has the benefit of making it easier to cut an angle and take the back if his opponent defends the shot. In his bout with Emil Meek, Usman reminded the world that his mat returns from that position are excellent.

Usman has the physical strength to lift and slam any opponent that isn’t properly defending easily, but he’ll also mix inside trips into his offense. Generally, if his opponent is able to defend the inside trip, the slam will be available, and the inverse is true as well (GIF). This proved true from the front of the body as well opposite Woodley, as Usman stepped outside of his knee while attempting a body lock takedown, scoring a big slam when Woodley attempted to turn and face him again.

UFC Fight Night: Maia v Usman
Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The only significant test of Usman’s takedown defense came opposite Demian Maia, whom he routinely shut down. In one particularly interesting exchange, Maia shot for a high-crotch single and achieved solid position. From there, he switched to the double leg, but Usman got his hips back. Maia attempted to transition both to trip out the far leg and to score a body lock throw, but both times Usman was able to defend, either by switching his hips or applying pressure from the whizzer.

It was fantastic defense.

In the rematch with Covington, “Chaos” really tried to test Usman’s defense. Though I’d argue he actually managed to score a duck and take Usman down briefly, a huge majority of Covington’s attempts were simply shut down by the sprawl. When Usman gets heavy on an opponent, there’s just nowhere to go. Meanwhile, he’s whacking their ribs with short punches.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Usman’s top game is almost entirely wrestling, pinning wrists and battering opponents largely from either the guard or turtle. That said, he does work to pass into mount and will attack with submissions if his opponent presents the opportunity — such as when he tried to kimura Strickland from half guard.

The sole submission win of Usman’s career named him The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21 champion. Opposite Hayder Hassan, Usman’s dominant takedowns and ground striking were overwhelming his American Top Team foe. Hassan tried to latch onto Usman’s head to control him, but Usman passed into mount, creating the perfect situation for an arm triangle. Once Usman’s hands were locked, it was easy for someone of Usman’s strength to drop his weight and finish the hold.

The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Usman v Hassan
Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Against Maia, Usman nearly fell victim to Maia’s high-crotch to back clinch to back take transition in the first round. However, Usman countered by somehow maintaining an overhook even as Maia climbed to his back. It was an interesting display of flexibility, strength and technique, and he managed to stall out the Brazilian.

Conclusion

Usman has shown no signs of decline, and his improved power punching has complimented his wrestling beautifully. Against Edwards, he’ll have to combine both in order to outmaneuver the crafty kickboxer.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 278 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ABC/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 278: “Usman vs. Edwards 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

Esparza vs. Zhang Reportedly Signed For UFC 281 On Nov. 12

A second title fight looks set to go down inside Madison Square Garden on November 12, with a bout between Carla Esparza and Zhang Weili reportedly agreed to for UFC 281. Joining a blockbuster headliner between middleweight king Israel Adesanya and Ale…

A second title fight looks set to go down inside Madison Square Garden on November 12, with a bout between Carla Esparza and Zhang Weili reportedly agreed to for UFC 281. Joining a blockbuster headliner between middleweight king Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira later this year will be the first defense of Esparza’s second reign….

Continue Reading Esparza vs. Zhang Reportedly Signed For UFC 281 On Nov. 12 at MMA News.

Exclusive | Jay Perrin looking for a Nate Diaz moment against Aoriqileng at UFC 278: ‘I want that more than anything’

Jay PerrinIn the early prelims of UFC 278, Jay Perrin faces off against Aoriqileng in an exhilarating bantamweight bout that promises to be an instant contender for fight of the night. Jay Perrin recently spoke with Mike Owens in a LowKickMMA Exclusive, where he discussed exactly why there is so much excitement surrounding this bout. He […]

Jay Perrin

In the early prelims of UFC 278, Jay Perrin faces off against Aoriqileng in an exhilarating bantamweight bout that promises to be an instant contender for fight of the night.

Jay Perrin recently spoke with Mike Owens in a LowKickMMA Exclusive, where he discussed exactly why there is so much excitement surrounding this bout. He stated:

“I think the matchmakers did a good job. I do. I think after my last fight I proved that I’m willing to stand there and trade with people. My boxing’s good enough to do all that. Aoriqileng is – he’s deceptive because he appears to have more tools than he does, but he’s hyper aggressive. And there’s two versions of him. He’s either gonna back up, he backed up a little bit against Cameron Else, I don’t think he’s going to do that against me. I think that me and him are going to stand in the middle and trade a little bit. And we’re gonna figure out whose gonna take a backstep first. That s**t sets my teeth on edge, I love that idea.”

‘The Joker’ went on to state that he has hopes of recreating similar moments to that of the iconic fan favorite, Nate Diaz.

“I have that photo of Nate Diaz, he’s got all the blood all over him. He’s f**king throwing – I want that more than anything. And I think Aoriqileng is the guy to give it to me. He’s got a big right hand. He’s gonna come forward at me, he’s not gonna stop. But again, I’ve said it before and this is just a fact, you got sat down by a 125er. More than one time. I’m not a 125er. I really do think one of my right hands are gonna connect on his jaw and he’s gonna fall down.”

Jay Perrin talks fighting in front of a sold out crowd

Whilst this is not Jay Perrin’s first bout in the UFC, it will be his first fight in front of a sold out arena full of fans. ‘The Joker’s’ only prior fight for the promotion came in the Apex Arena, when he dropped a competitive decision loss to Mario Bautista.

“The Apex is wonderful. But it feels more like a regional fight, if that makes sense. Because it’s so intimate. You can hear everybody. Not that you can’t hear everybody in a big crowd, but 30,000 people, all that s**t is just noise. That’s what we live for. We live for the walk I’m about to make. You can either look at it as something that’s a giant hill, or you can be like ‘look man, this is what I’ve been wanting for my whole life.’ So I can’t be anything but excited to walk out through the tunnel, finally, it’s a tunnel, that I’m gonna walk through, and there’s gonna be 30,000 people. I’ve waited since I was 14 to do this.”

Are you looking forward to Jay Perrin’s fight this weekend?

Usman Responds To If He’d Fight Jon Jones At Light Heavyweight

UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman didn’t reject the idea of a light heavyweight meeting with Jon Jones down the line during a recent media interaction. Usman currently occupies the throne at 170 pounds, where he’s defended the gold fiv…

UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman didn’t reject the idea of a light heavyweight meeting with Jon Jones down the line during a recent media interaction. Usman currently occupies the throne at 170 pounds, where he’s defended the gold five times since unseating Tyron Woodley in 2019. Having dispatched Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, and Gilbert Burns,…

Continue Reading Usman Responds To If He’d Fight Jon Jones At Light Heavyweight at MMA News.