NEW YORK, 14 November (BelTA - Xinhua). - In an action-packed UFC 281 card, China's Zhang Weili returned to the top of the women's strawweight division, regaining her belt against two-time title holder Carla Esparza, while in the main event, Alex Periera upset middleweight king Israel Adesanya.
"I have many ways to finish the fight, submission is only one of them," Zhang said after becoming the third UFC female fighter to regain the strawweight belt on Saturday.
"Today is my dream come true and I've come back," Zhang said, expressing great thanks to her fans support in China, the U.S. and worldwide.
The first round saw Zhang dominate the stand-up against the wrestler Esparza. Struggling, Esparza made concerted efforts to bring the fight to the ground. However, Zhang, who had been dominated on the ground previously, showed even more progression in her wrestling and BJJ, nullifying the American's wrestling offense.
The first round ended with Zhang in the ascendancy on the ground, foreshadowing the finish.
The second started in the same way the previous round started, with Zhang easing the stand-up before Esparza was forced to try and take the fight to the ground.
This time, Esparza found herself second best in the wrestling department before Zhang used her superior jiujitsu skills to take the American's back and lock in the winning rear naked choke.
In the main event, the two middleweights were fighting their first MMA fight after the two had previously fought in kickboxing, with Periera winning both meetings.
Out the gate, both men, as expected, settled into their usual kickboxing styles, with Adesanya using his slick counterpunches and leg kicks to control the early action. Wary of Pereira's power, it was actually the New Zealander who found the last power shot to rock Periera just before the horn for the end of the round sounded.
The second saw the kickboxing chess match continue, with both men exchanging strikes after the break giving the Brazilian time to shake off the damage from the first. However, the second ended with Pereira landing a big head kick and a takedown to secure the round.
After an engrossing kickboxing clash in the first two, Adesanya secured his first-ever career takeout to display some rare wrestling skills. Pereira, in his eighth MMA fight - fifth UFC bout, was second best on the ground, with Adesanya dominating the ground and pound.
Adesanya began to push the pace of the fight in the fourth. With Periera fatiguing from the wrestling defense, Adesanya started turning up the heat. While the Brazilian was still able to land power shots, Adesanya continued to sit out of range or inside the clinch.
Going into the final round, Adesanya started two rounds up on his opponent. Periera looking for a knockout, began to try to walk down the New Zealander. Adesanya, seemingly comfortable, saw his resistance break after Periera began to empty the tank.
The Brazilian caught Adesanya and began to land a flurry of shots, forcing referee Marc Goddard to stop the fight, handing a shock win to Periera.
In the feature bout, Dustin Poirier also won via rear naked choke in a three-round war against Michael Chandler. The bloody battle went back and forth between Poirier's elite boxing and Chandler's pressure wrestling before Poirier found Chandler's back in the third round to win via submission.
Further down the card, New Zealander Dan Hooker returned to winning ways against Peruvian Claudio Puelles with an angry kick to the solar plexus, while legend Frankie Edgar was knocked out with a knee to the head in his final-ever fight against Chris Gutierrez.