The co-main event for UFC 281 on Saturday features an intriguing title fight between challenger Weili Zhang (22-3) and champion Carla Esparza (19-6).

The five-round bout at Madison Square Garden will decide the strawweight championship and warm up the crowd for the eventual main event between middleweights Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira

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Bodog has the Esparza vs Weili odds, which are pretty steep. The No. 2 contender Weili is currently the -425 chalk. 

Carla Esparza vs Weili Zhang Odds

Esparza vs Weili Odds
FighterOdds
Carla Esparza+315
Weili Zhang-425

Odds as of November 8 at Bodog

If we analyze the Esparza vs Weili odds using our odds calculator, we’ll find that Weili’s -425 status translates to an implied win probability of 80.95 percent, whereas Esparza’s +315 underdog status awards her an implied chance of 24.10 percent. A successful $10 bet on the favorite pays out just $12.35, while a bet on the underdog pays out $41.50. 

For more information on the functionality of these betting lines, including the Esparza vs Weili odds, head over to our How to Bet on UFC page. Also, feel free to visit our many UFC betting sites, as well as our main UFC betting news page for all the latest news from inside the Octagon.

Our full UFC 281 odds and picks are available here.

Carla Esparza vs Weili Zhang Odds & Betting Analysis

It was only a matter of time before Weili, a former strawweight champ, got another crack at UFC gold. The 33-year-old is one of the most exciting – and fearsome – female fighters in company history, and a title shot was the natural step after she knocked out Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275. “Magnum” is a big favorite vs Esparza at UFC 281, with her -425 status representing the second-steepest chalk of her UFC career. 

Esparza enters this fight coming off an unexciting split-decision victory over Rose Namajunas, which earned “Cookie Monster” the 115-pound strap for the second time in her career (she was the division’s inaugural champion in 2014). That said, the 35-year-old is on a six-fight win streak, having cashed as the underdog in three consecutive bouts. 

Esparza vs Weili Preview: Weili’s Power Creates A Striking Mismatch

Weili is a beast at 115 pounds. Over the last few years, she’s established a reputation as a machine-like striker, thriving off forward pressure and often outmuscling weaker opponents. In the strength department, this is a brutal mismatch for Esparza. 

Esparza stands no chance of hanging with Weili on the feet. So, before Esparza shoots for a takedown, it’ll be up to the China native to inflict as much damage as possible. Expect Weili to come out very strong vs Esparza, use her quick hands to dig into the body and try to score a quick knockout. 

If you’re especially keen on Weili’s stoppage potential and want some plus money, take a look at betting the UNDER 2.5 rounds (+145) or the UNDER 3.5 rounds (+110). 

Can Weili Fend Off Esparza’s Grappling?

Esparza is the division’s best pure grappler, holding the active records for most takedowns landed (44), control time (58:31) and top position time (55:15). Since the 35-year-old doesn’t possess any legitimate submission skills, her strategy is contingent on smothering opponents, which will be problematic against Weili. Esparza’s camp is apparently preparing for this power discrepancy by having Carla spar and roll with male mixed martial artists.

If there’s a vulnerability for Esparza to expose, though, it’s Weili’s subpar takedown defense. The 33-year-old has successfully defended just 60 percent of takedown attempts, leaving some room for Esparza to attack the legs, especially as a counter to Weili’s explosive strikes. 

Of course, sometimes the threat of a takedown is just as dangerous as the move itself. It’s possible Weili is hyper-aware of Esparza’s grappling prowess and subsequently reins in her offense (like what happened to Namajunas at UFC 275).

Esparza vs Weili Pick

Weili has tangled with the likes of Jessica Andrade, Namajunas and Jedrzejczyk, all of whom possess far more threatening skill sets than Esparza. The Cookie Monster is an excellent wrestler but doesn’t bring much else to the table.

Coming off a knockout of the UFC Hall of Famer Jedrzejczyk, Weili should be fired up to reclaim her belt. And judging by how we’ve seen Weili hit the pads heading into UFC 281, this fight could be over quickly.

Pick: Weili by KO/TKO (+120); UNDER 3.5 Rounds (+110)

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