Zhang Weili: Does the former UFC champion deserve a rematch against Rose Namajunas?

Zhang Weili

Former women’s strawweight champion Zhang Weili has demanded a rematch with Rose Namajunas, following the hostile reception she received at UFC 261.

Weili was knocked out in the first round of the title fight after the Lithuanian-American connected with a head-kick, much to the delight of the 15,000 strong Florida crowd.

Zhang’s team want a rematch in a neutral venue and have cited Abu Dhabi as a possible location.

The questions remain then –– does Zhang deserve a shot at redemption, or are there other challengers more worthy?

It is either to sympathise with the Chinese fighter. She had made an exceptional start to her UFC career, winning the strawweight belt off Jéssica Andrade and then defending it against Joanna Jędrzejczyk in what proved to be an epic contest.

 Weili

Given that Jędrzejczyk is ranked third in the division and has already lost to Namajunas on two occasions, it seems reasonable to assume that Zhang would likely pose a bigger threat than the Polish fighter.

However, Yan Xiaonan faces Carla Esparza at UFC Fight Night 188 on May 22nd, with both fighters arguably deserving of the shot at being the number one contender.

Xiaonan is still yet to lose in the UFC and is unbeaten in mixed martial arts for over a decade, while Esparza has previous history against the reigning champion –– beating her way back in 2014.

Although Zhang may have to wait in line, it is clear the crowd did impact her performance against Namajunas.

Speaking in a question and answer session with a Chinese media outlet on YouTube, Zhang said: “It was my first time experiencing the situation. And I didn’t expect it to be so serious. Even if she had 70 per cent of the audience on her side, and just a small amount of my side, it wouldn’t have been that loud.”

The 31-year-old lost focus and was punished, but a rematch would surely make for box-office viewing. For now, though, Weili may just have to bide her time and beat whoever else is put in front of her.

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