This weekend at UFC 275, Zhang will enter the Octagon for the first time since back-to-back losses to Namajunas in 2021. While the first, a head-kick knockout, saw the title ripped from her grasp, the rematch saw “Magnum” fall on the wrong side of a narrow split-decision verdict.
But as she prepares for an attempt to rebound in another rematch on Saturday, this time against Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Zhang is in a position to secure another chance at regaining her place on the throne after just one win.
That opportunity has been granted to her after Namajunas was unseated by Carla Esparza at UFC 274 in what many have branded the worst title fight in modern UFC history.
Across five rounds, neither woman engaged on the feet. While the way that the bout played out was confusing, the encouragement from Namajunas’ corner to continue with the same tactics was perhaps most baffling.
Now, as she looks to capitalize on the opening granted to her by “Thug Rose,” Zhang has discussed what went wrong for her former opponent in Arizona. According to the Chinese star, Namajunas had the completely wrong attitude when the cage door closed.
“I feel like, definitely Rose was feeling a lot of pressure when she stepped into the Octagon,” said Zhang during her appearance at UFC 275 media day. “Definitely she wanted to take care of her belt and didn’t want to fight hard, wanted to fight more strategically and easily against Carla.
“But, as a champion, as an MMA fighter, you should not think about that. You should always, in the fight, (put) your everything into the Octagon, and fight your heart out. I don’t think Rose should fight with an attitude like (she did),” concluded Zhang.
While the Chinese contender has shared the cage with the likes of Namajunas, Tecia Torres, and Jéssica Andrade during her time in the UFC, she is yet to go toe-to-toe with newly-crowned strawweight queen Esparza. Should she leave Singapore with a second victory over Jędrzejczyk this weekend, it stands to reason that will change.
From there, “Magnum” will target a second reign with the gold, which would likely lead to a third date with Namajunas down the line should the American rebound from her disappointing defeat at UFC 274.
Do you agree with Zhang Weili? Did Rose Namajunas fight with the wrong attitude at UFC 275?