Namajunas vs. Weile: Buckle Up

by Ben Burns

With three titles up for grabs, Saturday's UFC card has a lot of potential. The main event features Kamaru Usman in a rematch against Jorge Masvidal. Valentina Shevchenko defends her flyweight title against Jessica Andrede, a former champion herself. Both those champions are favored in the -400 to -500 range. 

Perhaps the most anticipated fight is the co-main event; Zhang Weili puts her strawweight belt on the line against Rose Namajunas, another former champ. Outside of Amanda Nunes, Shevchenko and Weili enter the weekend as the best female fighters in the sport. 

With Usman and Shevchenko such heavy favorites, let's take a look at what figures to be the most competitive of the three title fights. 

Zhang Weili vs. Rose Namajunas
If you watched Weili's last fight, an all-out war with Joanna Jędrzejczyk, you'll know why everyone is excited. It was absolutely one of the best fights of 2020. In fact, many consider it the greatest women's fight of all-time. Weili proved she had the heart of a champion. She took a lot of punishment but kept coming forward with everything she had. Now, however, she takes on Namajunas, perhaps even more dangerous than Jędrzejczyk.  

These are two serious fighters, both intent on having her arm raised. Zhang lost her first professional fight, a decision in the China MMA League in 2013. Since then, she's won 21 straight. She's focused and determined. 

Ditto for Rose; she's also extremely hungry. She's 7-2 since 2015 and 4-1 since 2017. Her lone loss came against Andrede, who took the belt from her and Namajunas would go on to avenge that loss. 

Weili rearranged Jędrzejczyk's face, en route to winning a split decision. However, Namajunas knocked her (Jędrzejczyk) out, becoming the champion. Joanna could barely stand after that 2018 upset. A young Namajunas was nearly a 4:1 underdog for that (first) fight. (Namajunas would also go on to win a rematch by decision, too.) Rose is getting more respect this time but is still a sizable dog. At most shops, Weili is roughly -200 while Namajunas pays back in the +170 range. Note that Jedrzejczyk is already saying: "She's got next." 

The O/U line for this fight is 4.5 rounds and one has to lay some extra juice to take the 'over.' In other words, we could be in for another epic battle. Good luck and enjoy! 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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