The first of two title fight rematches atop the UFC 268 card in New York City saw Rose Namajunas return to the site of her first world championship win.
This time, of course, she would be running it back with Zhang Weili, who she defeated in April to spark her second championship reign. “Thug” Rose appeared to be a different fighter in 2021: confident, calculated, and more prepared for the pitfalls of stardom that come with being a UFC champion.
Zhang? She just wanted her belt back. And had changed camps to do it, training alongside Henry Cejudo under Eric Albarracin at Fight Ready in Arizona.
Could Zhang regain UFC gold for China? Would Rose remain the strawweight queen and continue her reign in the UFC? These questions and perhaps more were answered in the co-main event at UFC 268.
Zhang kicked the fight off, quite literally, with a lot of leg kicks to the lead leg of Rose. Rose worked counters but the takedown improvements from Weili came through as she was able to take Rose down multiple times. It was especially powerful in the third round where Weili got Rose down and moved right to mount position as the seconds ran out.
The standing exchanges were beautiful, with both women landing shots and hurting each other. They fought through several very close rounds going into the last stanza of the fight. To add to the intrigue, the entire bout had the feeling of a rivalry forming during the fight.
Back and forth they went until the fifth and final round, where Rose landed a right hand and shot right into the take down. The rest of the fight was Rose on top landing shots and Zhang regaining full guard and throwing up kicks when available.
CLUTCH takedown by @RoseNamajunas 🌹
[ #UFC268 | We’re LIVE on ESPN+ PPV: https://t.co/xRVlqJBhNX ] pic.twitter.com/bbguPiNv4s
— UFC (@ufc) November 7, 2021
After a close five rounds the fight went to the judges and with scores of 48-47, 48-47, 49-46 Rose Namajunas retained her title via split decision. It was a very different fight from the pair’s first meeting — but “Thug” Rose remains the UFC’s strawweight Queen.
Official Decision: Rose Namajunas def. Zhang Weili by Split Decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)