Rose Namajunas: Hard to count out Carla Esparza, but ‘I’m definitely leaning more toward’ Zhang Weili at UFC 281

Former UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas has a vested interest in the upcoming title fight.

Namajunas (11-5 MMA, 9-4 UFC) recently lost her 115-pound title to Carla Esparza by split decision in a lackluster affair this past May. The fight had little to no action, but Esparza was slightly more active to secure the win.

Esparza (19-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) will now make her first title defense against former champ Zhang Weili (22-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) on Nov. 12 at UFC 281 in Madison Square Garden. Esparza is a betting underdog once again, and while Namajunas thinks the champion is being underestimated, she understands why.

“I think a lot of people are definitely sleeping on Carla,” Namajunas told MMA Junkie. “I think people are just going to assume that Weili’s gonna run her over and all this stuff, and rightfully so. I mean, Weili is obviously a machine, and she is a beast. … She definitely represented a very scary opponent that I was facing.”

Although Namajunas, who’s held the belt twice, lost to Esparza both times and beat Weili twice, she thinks a new champ will be crowned at UFC 281.

“I’m definitely leaning more toward Weili at this point, but it’s really hard for me to necessarily count Carla out,” Namajunas said. “I hope that the fight isn’t anything like my fight with Carla last time. There’s either a chance that it will be kind of similar to that, like kind of boring where they’re both just point fighting. Or one person gets the other person to come out of their game plan in a devastating fashion and maybe finishes the other person. I’m hoping for it to be an exciting fight, though.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 281.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie