Namajunas — who had stopped Zhang with a first-round head kick knockout in their first meeting in April — did enough to tally two judges’ scorecards and retain her title via split-decision on Saturday, inside Madison Square Garden. Judges Douglas Crosby (48-47) and Eric Colón (49-46) saw the fight in favor of Namajunas, while Michael Bell awarded Zhang a 48-47 scorecard.
The win was Namajunas’ third in a row, bringing her to an impressive 11-4 mark as a professional. Zhang dropped to 21-3 with the defeat, her second consecutive loss at the hands of the Lithuanian-American champion.
Namajunas vs Esparza 2 could be next for reigning UFC strawweight champion
Namajunas was able to once more best Zhang despite the latter’s alterations to her fight camp, which included training alongside former UFC flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo. The victory was Namajunas’ first defense since she recaptured the thrown at UFC 261, and her second title defense overall. Dating back to her 2018 win over former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Following the victory, Namajunas expressed interest in a fight with inaugural strawweight champion Carla Esparza. If the name rings a bell, it should. Esparza defeated Namajunas in the 2014 finale of The Ultimate Fighter Season 20, which crowned the first 115-pound women’s champion in UFC history.
“She was on my mind before going into this one,” Namajunas said in her post-fight press conference. “That seems sort of like the logical step, but I’ve got to see what the UFC is thinking I guess. But yeah, I would love to fight Carla.”
Esparza (18-6) has won five straight and is currently ranked second in the division.
–Field Level Media