Seven months after stunning the MMA world with a brutal head kick knockout to reclaim the UFC women’s strawweight championship, Rose Namajunas will look to duplicate the act in an immediate rematch with the woman she defeated, Weili Zhang, in the co-main event of UFC 268.
Namajunas became a two-time titleholder in April when she stopped Zhang in just 78 seconds of their title match. This came two fights after she lost the title to Jessica Andrade in 2019. Zhang burst on the scene and tore through the division before obliterating Andrade in 42 seconds to become champion. She made one title defense in a Fight of the Year barnburner against Joanna Jedrzejczyk. But then ran into the head kick heard around the world by Namajunas and finds herself looking to regain the title that she lost in stunning fashion.
Considering how quickly their first meeting ended, it’s difficult to figure out how the rematch will go. It’s a clash of styles as Namajunas is the smooth operator who uses her range and varied striking to pick her opponents apart while Zhang opts to overwhelm her opposition with power and aggression.
Who will come out on top?
Sporting News provides some insight on how to bet on the women’s strawweight championship clash.
All odds courtesy of FanDuel
UFC 268 odds for Rose Namajunas vs. Weili Zhang 2
Oddsmakers see Rose Namajunas and Weili Zhang as a toss up with Namajunas at -106, meaning it would take a wager of $106 to see a $100 profit should she successfully defend her title. Zhang is slightly ahead at -114, meaning it would take a $114 wager would return a $100 profit if Zhang can avenge her loss.
Namajunas vs. Zhang 2 prediction
In their first meeting, Namajunas stunned the MMA world by stopping Zhang with a head kick in just 78 seconds to regain the UFC women’s strawweight championship.
Up to that point, Zhang had won 21 consecutive fights. Because of the way the fight ended, it’s difficult to find anything to take away from that first meeting due to its brevity. Zhang has promised that she won’t fall for the same tricks and is using that loss as motivation to reclaim her title. But Namajunas is a masterful striker who has more than one way to win a fight.
Namajunas has made it clear that she’s not overlooking her opponent and is willing to do what it takes to turn back the incensed challenger. Namajunas’ previous loss came to a similar opponent in Jessica Andrade, who used her size and power to snare the title away. Zhang is a little different and a little stronger than Andrade in the striking department.
It’s obvious that Zhang will attempt to close the distance early and use her powerful striking and pressure to break down Namajunas. But “Thug” Rose has brilliant technique to make up for her lack of power.
Oddsmakers see this as a dead even fight, which makes it difficult to find value.
The challenge here is to determine how either fighter will win. Zhang isn’t much of a wrestler but has employed the help of former champion Henry Cejudo to sure up her grappling. Zhang does have seven submission victories but only one takedown in her UFC career. It’s highly unlikely that she’ll submit Namajunas and the betting line of +1500 is a reflection of that. Namajunas has impressive grappling skills but she’ll be far more inclined to keep Zhang at a distance with her striking. Namajunas is a +600 to win by submission as it’s also highly unlikely.
Both fighters’ likely path to victory will be either by knockout or decision and it’s really up to Zhang to decide how this fight will go.
If left to her own devices, Namajunas will pick Zhang apart from the outside and look to catch her opponent with a counter. Another head kick finish is unlikely and if Zhang is cautious, this could end up being a points victory for Namajunas at +380.
Don’t expect Zhang to sir on the outside as its highly likely she instead aims to keep pressure on Namajunas for 25 minutes. Her “Fight of the Year” war with Joanna Jedrzejczyk was an example of her furious aggression paying off. Namajunas might be a little more disciplined as a striker and tends to stray away from bell to bell wars. Nevertheless, Zhang won’t look to make this pretty and will do her best to break the champion. If that’s the case, Zhang by (T)KO at +300 has a bit more value than a decision victory at +280.
It’s almost impossible to pick between these two but we’ll opt with the challenger using her power to wear down Namajunas and eventually getting a late finish to cash in with a TKO victory.
Sporting News Prediction: Weili Zhang via (T)KO (+300)
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