Former strawweight champion Zhang Weili failed to reclaim her title at UFC 268.
After 25 minutes, Weili (21-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) fell for the second straight time to champ Rose Namajunas (11-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) in Saturday’s co-main event. After ending up on the wrong side of a split decision, the first Chinese champion in UFC history believes she was on the right path to victory.
“I feel very good, but it’s a shame I didn’t win the fight,” Weili told MMA Junkie and other reporters through a translator at the post-fight press conference. “I think the overall gameplan worked well, but I did maybe 60 or 70 percent of what I could do. I feel sorry for the coaches because they did a tremendous job for me in this training camp.”
The differences in plans were apparent as the fight played out, thanks to her training at Fight Ready in Arizona with former UFC two-division champion Henry Cejudo. Weili attacked the legs of Namajunas more frequently throughout the contest and engaged in the clinch. Although she did not get the opportunity to show her full gameplan in their first meeting because it ended so quickly, Weili believes the approach was the correct one.
“The kicking was part of the plan, but I think I only did a small percentage of what we had planned and I could do so much better,” Weili said. “I’m very much looking forward to another rematch with Rose. I believe I will get that belt back.”
Before facing Namajunas, Weili amassed a 21-fight win streak, becoming the fifth strawweight champion in UFC history.
Now with two straight losses to Namajunas on her record, the path back to another title shot is unclear at the moment. Carla Esparza will likely face the champion next, but Weili’s next opponent could be any other top-ranked strawweight.
Until the next one, whenever it may be, Weili plans to return home to China and come back to Arizona to start her training camp even earlier than she did for the rematch against Namajunas.
Photos: Best of Zhang Weili
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Twitter reacts to Rose Namajunas’ split decision title defense over Zhang Weili at UFC 268