Skip to main content
Zhang Weili of China reacts after her victory over Amanda Lemos of Brazil in the UFC strawweight championship fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Athletes

Where We Stand: Women's Strawweight Division | August 2023

Zhang Weili Kept Her Crown In Dominant Fashion And Has A Pair Of Intriguing Challengers Awaiting Her

Zhang Weili put on yet another dominant performance en route to defending her strawweight title for the second time. Despite a valiant effort from Amanda Lemos, “Magnum” showed why she is considered one of the best mixed martial artists in the world. 

The incredibly likeable champ now has a couple different options ahead of her in the division’s contender pipeline that present wildly different problems. It’s up to her who gets the next crack at the belt, but you can be sure the 34-year-old will prepare herself completely for that next challenge.

This is where we stand in the women’s strawweight division:

Champion: Zhang Weili

Last Fight: Unanimous Decision Win vs Amanda Lemos (8/22/2023)

Next fight: N/A

Zhang Weili of China reacts after her victory over Amanda Lemos of Brazil in the UFC strawweight championship fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Zhang Weili of China reacts after her victory over Amanda Lemos of Brazil in the UFC strawweight championship fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: “Magnum” was at her relentless best in Boston as she defended her throne. She also picked up a performance bonus for her efforts, making it five in her last five wins. When she is on, she’s as entertaining and impressive as anyone on the roster, and the fans show their appreciation for that wherever she goes. Her two likeliest challengers are fellow countrywoman Yan Xiaonan and the undefeated Tatiana Suarez. Both are intriguing matchups. Against Yan, Zhang would face a swift and diverse striker, whereas Suarez would likely test her defensive grappling abilities. Once that is sorted, the where and when will come. Until then, we’ll all anxiously wait for our next chance to watch her do her thing.

1) Carla Esparza

Last Fight: Submission Loss vs Zhang Weili (11/12/2022)

Next fight: N/A

Carla Esparza | Career Retrospective
fight pass logo
Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

This video is not available in your country

There was a problem while loading content. Please try again.

Carla Esparza | Career Retrospective
/

Outlook: Esparza’s second attempt to successfully defend the strawweight belt ended in defeat, and now, “Cookie Monster” is in a peculiar spot. She’ll likely need to string together a few wins again if she wants to challenge for the title, but the belt has changed hands so often that a couple big wins could grant her another opportunity. She has fought most of the best in the division, but fights against Lemos or Andrade could be made, and those matchups would benefit everyone involved as the contenders try to jockey for that No. 1 contender spot.

2) Rose Namajunas

Last Fight: Split Decision Loss vs Carla Esparza (5/7/2022)

Next fight: vs Manon Fiorot (9/2/2023)

Rose Namajunas kicks Zhang Weili of China in their UFC women's strawweight championship bout during the UFC 261 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 24, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Rose Namajunas kicks Zhang Weili of China in their UFC women's strawweight championship bout during the UFC 261 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 24, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)


Outlook: Namajunas hasn’t been seen since losing her belt to Esparza in anticlimactic fashion, but “Thug Rose” put a new challenge in front of herself that she says is the right motivation she needed. Namajunas will make her flyweight debut at UFC Fight Night: Gane vs Spivac against top contender Manon Fiorot. A win over Fiorot in Paris would catapault her right into flyweight title contention, but whether a move back down to strawweight is in the books for her is uncertain. At the moment, she could very well earn another shot at the title with Zhang on top, as she holds two wins over her previously. 

3) Xiaonan Yan

Yan Xiaonan of China reacts after her knockout victory over Jessica Andrade of Brazil in a strawweight fight during the UFC 288 event at Prudential Center on May 06, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Yan Xiaonan of China reacts after her knockout victory over Jessica Andrade of Brazil in a strawweight fight during the UFC 288 event at Prudential Center on May 06, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: Yan responded to her first two losses in the Octagon with a couple of her best performances to date. First came a majority decision win over Mackenzie Dern in a main event, and she followed that with a first-round TKO of Andrade at UFC 288. That could set up an all-China championship fight against Zhang, and the stylistic matchup lends itself to what should be an entertaining bout. If she doesn’t get that shot right away, a fight against Lemos could be one that puts her over the top should Suarez get the shot instead. 

4) Tatiana Suarez

Last Fight: Submission Win vs Jéssica Andrade (8/5/2023)

Next fight: N/A

Tatiana Suarez secures a guillotine choke submission against Jessica Andrade of Brazil in a strawweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Bridgestone Arena on August 05, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Tatiana Suarez secures a guillotine choke submission against Jessica Andrade of Brazil in a strawweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Bridgestone Arena on August 05, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: It’s a true testament to Suarez’s championship mettle that she could return to competition after nearly four years away and look better than ever. First came a submission win over Montana De La Rosa, and then, in her proper return to the strawweight division, she submitted Andrade in the second round. Long deemed a future champion, Suarez might’ve secured her title shot with that performance. Whether she did enough to leapfrog Yan is yet to be seen, but the undefeated Suarez is every bit the top contender she was before injuries kept her away from the Octagon.

5) Amanda Lemos

Last Fight: Unanimous Decision Loss vs Zhang Weili

Next fight: N/A

Amanda Lemos of Brazil punches Montserrat Conejo of Mexico in their strawweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Amanda Lemos of Brazil punches Montserrat Conejo of Mexico in their strawweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: Lemos looked game and had a few successful moments against Zhang, but it wasn’t close to enough for her to bring another belt back to Brazil. At 36 years old, she’ll need to rebuild a case for herself quickly if she wants back into a title fight. Fights against Dern, Esparza and Suarez all make sense, but she might need to fight down the rankings if she wants to get back into the Octagon sooner rather than later.

In the Mix: Jéssica Andrade, Virna Jandiroba, Mackenzie Dern

Mackenzie Dern | Submission Showcase
fight pass logo
Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

This video is not available in your country

There was a problem while loading content. Please try again.

Mackenzie Dern | Submission Showcase
/

Outlook: 

Andrade has had a tough go of it in 2023. After looking her championship best in January when dismantling Lauren Murphy at UFC 283, the former strawweight champion has lost her last three, all via finish, to gut her title aspirations for the time being. To her credit, her fights against Blanchfield and Suarez were replacement appointments, but they sit as losses, nonetheless. At just 31 years old, Andrade has plenty of time to bounce back, and she has shown the ability to do as much. 

Brazilian grappling specialists Virna Jandiroba and Mackenzie Dern still need to string together a couple wins before getting into contention. Dern and Andrade are set to meet at UFC 295, which will be a critical fight for both women. Andrade must stop her three-fight skid while Dern desperately wants to string together consecutive wins for the first time since 2021. For Jandiroba, she had a good opportunity to get her third straight win as she was booked to fight Suarez, but she underwent knee surgery, and her timetable for return is unknown.