At UFC 274 this past May, Usman saw teammate and friend Rose Namajunas suffer defeat to Carla Esparza for the second time in her career. While the first meant she failed to capture the inaugural 115-pound title, the second led to her losing her grip on the belt, which she’d held for just over a year.
With “Thug Rose” out of the equation for the time being, the door has been opened for Zhang to mount another challenge having staked her claim for a shot by knocking Joanna Jędrzejczyk out at UFC 275 in Singapore.
“Magnum” will now meet two-time champ Esparza at UFC 281, set to be held in New York City’s Madison Square Garden on November 12.
Zhang initially won the title in 2019 by ending the short reign of Jéssica Andrade. But after defending it in a Fight of the Year-worthy war with Jędrzejczyk, the Chinese star had her rule and 21-fight win streak snapped by Namajunas via KO last April.
Having seen “Thug Rose” get the better of Zhang at UFC 261 and in a razor-close rematch seven months later, fellow Onx Sports-associated fighter Usman has admitted that it won’t be a good feeling seeing the woman who was defeated twice by Namajunas back on top.
Usman Notes Namajunas/Zhang Series
During an appearance on episode #128 of the JRE MMA Show, Usman and host Joe Rogan discussed Namajunas’ much-talked about setback this year, as well as her future and the current state of the strawweight division.
After expressing his desire to see Namajunas pull one back in her series with reigning champ Esparza, “The Nigerian Nightmare” turned his attention to the next title fight at 115 pounds, making his feelings on a potential second Zhang reign known.
“To this day, I still think that Rose, some of the things that she can do is amazing,” Usman said. “(Last fight was) not her best, obviously… I think she’s in a place where she’s made peace with it… I would love to see her get that one back.
“But they already announced that Carla’s fighting Zhang Weili, which is — I mean, that would be sad to watch. Let’s say Zhang Weili goes and takes the title from Carla, that would be sad to watch her walk around with the title when Rose has bested her twice,” Usman added.
While Namajunas left no doubt in her first clash with “Magnum,” sleeping her with a vicious left head kick in the first round, their MSG-held rematch went the full five rounds and had the MMA community split.
Per MMA Decisions, 52.5% of the 1,048 fans who provided their scorecards awarded the fight to the challenger, with 49.8% scoring it 48-47 in the Chinese fighter’s favorite. But of the 22 media members who submitted their takes, 14 had it for then-champ Namajunas.
What do you make of Kamaru Usman’s comments on Zhang Weili’s upcoming title challenge?