On the main card of the UFC 261 pay-per-view, which had already seen Jimmy Crute and Anthony Smith’s fight end by way of a leg injury, Weidman suffered one of the worst leg breaks in MMA history. Just 17 seconds into the opening round, the former UFC Middleweight Champion threw the first strike of his fight with Uriah Hall. But his leg kick was checked by “Prime Time” with devastating effect.
The fans in attendance, who made up the first crowd to watch UFC action live in over a year, witnessed Weidman’s leg fold as he stood back, as did the fighters waiting to make the walk to the Octagon later in the night.
A couple of fights after the incident, Zhang Weili looked to defend her strawweight gold against former champ Namajunas. With just over a minute on the clock, “Thug Rose” knocked the Chinese star out and took the title.
According to Zhang, Weidman’s injury caused her to lose focus heading into her own bout. Speaking during the My Bronze Age documentary, “Magnum” revealed she’d interacted with the middleweight prior to his leg break.
“The fighter in my previous fight, who was in the same waiting room as me [Weidman], his leg was snapped. I even touched gloves with him when he left for the fight, and I said ‘good luck’. I saw his leg snapped like that… I felt like my mind wasn’t completely focused on the match.” (h/t South China Morning Post)
Zhang added that against the best in the UFC, losing focus leads to dire consequences, like it did for her on April 25.
“I wasn’t as focused. You can’t lose focus for even 0.01 seconds. No, no. It’s that cruel.”
The 32-year-old will be hoping to avoid a similar occurrence in her next fight, which she hopes will be a rematch for the belt against Namajunas. Having removed the distractions in her life, Zhang says she’s as strong as ever ahead of her return to action.
“After losing the fight I started to reflect back. It feels different all of a sudden. This time I feel like perhaps what I’ve learned is more than what I would learn from a win. Right now I feel great. I think my mental strength is way stronger than before.”
While Zhang trains hard in anticipation of running it back with the champ, a number of other strawweights have continued to stake their claim for a meeting with “Thug Rose” inside the Octagon.
With a five-fight winning streak that includes victories over top contenders Yan Xiaonan, Marina Rodriguez, Michelle Waterson, Alexa Grasso, and Virna Jandiroba, Carla Esparza is currently leading the charge. Having defeated Namajunas in 2014 to become the inaugural 115-pound queen, a rematch between “Cookie Monster” and the champ would certainly have an intriguing storyline.
With the likes of Mackenzie Dern and Joanna Jędrzejczyk also in the mix, the strawweight division is certainly the strongest women’s weight class in the UFC, and there are a host of exciting matchups to come at the mountaintop in the coming years.
Do you think Zhang Weili can exact revenge on Rose Namajunas and reclaim the title if the pair rematch?