Who Will Be the UFC Women’s Strawweight World Champion at the End of 2021?

UFC Womens Strawweight World Champion 2021

We witnessed what many believe to be the greatest women’s fight of all time in 2020. Joanna Champion and Weili Zhang put together one of the most incredible striking displays of skill, heart, toughness, power, and the durability and conditioning of these two!!!

The output + the input of both of them has never been matched. The amount of shots that were landed and absorbed on both sides combined with the world class skill level of both combatants may have never been matched.

This article isn’t about this fight being the best fight of all time, but it is a good segway into a discussion about the UFC Women’s Strawweight Division and who the champ will be by year’s end.

The current champion from China, Weili Zhang, is currently the betting favorite at dead even odds of (+100). She faces a unique challenge with Rose Namajunas as well. It was Thug Rose, of course, that dethroned Joanna a few years back.

The Colorado native I think everyone loves is next down on the betting board at (+300). Dana White stated a couple of weeks ago that Rose didn’t want the title shot right now and that he was going to book Weili vs Carla Esparza.

Dana has said that Rose didn’t like having the pressure of being the world champion and that she didn’t want to fight for the title right now. That’s a shame, but it’s cool. Rose puts on some of the best fights in the division, no matter her opponent.

Please Note:
As far as handicapping the Weili Zhang and Carla Esparza matchup, I’m going with the champ all the way. I realize that Carla presents an entirely different challenge for Weili than Joanna did but does anyone need me to refresh their memory about what happened to Carla when she fought Joanna?

It wasn’t pretty, so I don’t think we will see Carla take down and control the uber strong and explosive Zhang.

BetOnline.AG has betting odds on who the world champion will be in the UFC Women’s Strawweight Division by the end of 2021.

Let’s look at those and make a prediction or two.

Claudia Gadelha: +2000

I love to bet on this woman. You know she will fight for your money and do her best to get the takedown and keep the fight on the mat, even if it means landing 34 or 40 strikes in an entire 3 round unanimous decision. This happens even when she has control for most of the fight.

As a fan, you hate it, but as a bettor who would rather her hold her opponent down than try to land hard strikes and risk the other woman getting to her feet.

Then, Claudia gets beat up for a bit, and her gas tank is weak, so it empties when she has to work to take her opponents down more than once per round.

I do think Claudia was a “victim” of USADA when the UFC brought them in to up the drug testing protocols x1000.

She has been very impressive, though, considering the falls from grace we saw from fighters like Vitor Belfort.

I don’t see her threatening for a world title or even as a true contender any longer.

Mackenzie Dern: +1400

This one is kind of interesting. Mackenzie definitely brings enough danger to any matchup in the division, including against the champ. The multiple time world champion grappler and BJJ player can tap anyone out.

Unfortunately for her, her wrestling or her ability to get the fight into her realm on the mat is below average. MMA is not a game where you can win a world title by being below average at anything, much less a skill you absolutely need before you can even attempt to dominate your opponent.

Her power is good, and her hands are getting better working with Jason Parillo, but she still can’t compete on the feet against girls like Weili or Joanna. Mack could still be a world champion, but I highly doubt it will happen this year.

Weili is already fighting Esparza, and I heavily favor her in that matchup, so she may have 1-2 more fights, and that will be it for 2021. Mack might be the champ at the end of 2022, but we will see.

Amanda Ribas: +900

I’ll be straight up with you. I think Amanda is the best fighter in the division. She was raised on the mats by her father, a BJJ Blackbelt, and competed for the Brazilian National Team in Judo competitions.

She has a very bubbly personality and seems like a sweetheart, but Brazil has another female world champion who owns 2 belts at the moment, Amanda The Lioness Nunes. Why does this matter?

Well, Weili, the current champion, is Chinese, and the UFC 100% wants her to be the champion. There is no secret that China is a large market, and I will leave it there. You can figure it out.

I think Amanda Ribas could defeat Weili, and I would line the fight very closely, but I don’t think the UFC is in a big hurry to get there. Remember that Hollywood owns the UFC now, and that town on its way down has since sold out to China years ago.

Tatiana Saurez: +600

Okay, I know I said that I thought Amanda was the best girl in the division, but Tatiana Saurez is right up there with her. Great wrestling usually beats great Judo, and both are very good at their art.

Tatiana was Olympic level, though, and I don’t think Amanda ever got to that point as a Judoka. I do give Ribas the edge in the submission skill or BJJ department, but Tatiana would likely be on top if they hit the mat, and that would help her stay out of submissions.

I believe Tatiana is surely a title contender. She made every other woman on The Ultimate Fighter look like an amateur. Tatiana has had health problems in the past, including beating cancer.

I don’t know if that is why she hasn’t been fighting very much. I have heard there are other injuries holding her back as well, but it’s hard to back her with your money when she doesn’t fight often and still needs 1 or 2 big wins to even get a title shot.

She is coming off of a neck injury and plans to compete for the next time in the Summer. That leaves one slot left to fight for the belt, and she isn’t going to get there in time.

Joanna Champion: +400

This is a possibility here. Her biggest hurdle was Rose who she lost to twice but Rose doesn’t want the belt according to Uncle Dana.

Everybody and even their grandmama wants to see the rematch with her and Weili. Joanna actually outlanded the Chinese superstar in that fight and if it wasn’t for her cro magnon fivehead that appeared and began asking about intelligent life on this planet halfway through the fight.

Damage is scored highly in mixed martial arts as it should be and that was something that the judges couldn’t ignore.

I think Weili fights Carla, beats her, and then likely fights Joanna again at the end of the year.

Please Note:
Now, we are getting (+100) on Weili which sounds about right for a rematch but also (+400) for Joanna. She is currently in contract negotiations and that worries me because those who fight the boss on something usually get crapped on somehow.

The first fight was so good, though, that I think a rematch is the move.

I say throw a few bucks on Joanna here at (+400).

Weili Zhang: +100

You can’t tell me this is a safe bet or even likely to be the case at the end of the year. I think it’s 50/50 right where the books have it so there is no betting edge.

We can find plenty more (+100) bets that are more likely to hit and will pay you out a lot quicker than one with variables ranging from contracts to covid-19 or even world war 3.

I love Weili’s game but I see the remtch happening with Joanna and I don’t know how you can choose her when the former world champ is at (+400).

My Pick
Joanna Champion

In Conclusion

This is going to be a fun year for the UFC, and the Strawweight Division is pretty interesting. Amanda Ribas and Tatiana Suarez will be the talk of 2021 and may even fight for the world title against Weili, Joanna, or between themselves!

Thug Rose is waiting in the wings.

We really don’t know what to expect from the emotional fighter from Colorado, so I left her out of the conversation as far as being the champ at the end of the year.

She has a lot of deep beliefs that don’t really support her ego, and that is great for most but for someone who is at the highest level of fighting…It might help you learn skills and lessons, but fighters need an ego, a big one, especially if they want to compete at the highest level.

That leaves Joanna and Weili, and I truly believe it comes down to these two right now and the UFC still in the process of building the names of Amanda Ribas and Tatiana Suarez.

I think you have to go with either of the two ladies at the top right now. They put on one of the greatest mixed martial arts contests of all time, and you better believe the company wants another fight and surely for the title.

World champs usually fight twice a year, and Weili’s second fight of 2021 will likely be against Joanna. So, I guess we narrowed it down pretty well.

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Mike Pruitt / Author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.