Rose Namajunas Beats Zhang Weili via 1st-Round Knockout at UFC 261 to Win Title

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2021

Rose Namajunas reacts after the second round of a women's strawweight title bout against Poland's Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 223 Saturday, April 7, 2018, in New York. Namajunas won the fight. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Rose Namajunas is once again the UFC women's strawweight champion with a first-round knockout win over Zhang Weili in the co-main event of UFC 261 from VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. 

One well-timed head kick was all it took for Namajunas to put the champion down and reclaim her belt. 

Zhang was left stunned by what happened, arguing to the ref about the finish despite wobbling on her feet even after the fight. 

UFC @ufc

TOO EASY. THUG ROSE IS BACK. #UFC261 https://t.co/oBHQTJWykt

br_betting @br_betting

THUG ROSE LEFT @ochocinco STUNNED 😱 https://t.co/oh09jdVlbh

The win vaults Namajunas into the record books. She's the first woman fighter to reclaim a belt. 

Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani

Rose Namajunas is the first woman in UFC history to win the same title on two separate occassions. Absolutely beautiful left headkick.

Her finishing time of just over a minute is also among the quickest finishes in the history of the division. She didn't quite beat Zhang in that regard but she'll probably take the title over the record. 

Michael Carroll @MJCflipdascript

Rose Namajunas now has the most finishes in SW history with five. FASTEST STRAWWEIGHT KNOCKOUTS - UFC History 0:33 - Poliana Botelho 0:42 - Zhang Weili 1:18 - Rose Namajunas #UFC261

The win completes Namajunas' journey back to being a champion in the UFC. The 28-year-old captured the belt April 2018 but lost it when she was beaten by TKO to Jessica Andrade by slam. 

Back then, losing the belt brought a sense of relief for Namajunas. Holding the championship brought the weight of defending the crown. However, this time around, she has a different perspective on her success. 

“I just had a lack of vision,” Namajunas said of her first reign, per McKenzie Pavacich of UFC.com. “I think becoming the champ was the final destination, but I didn’t really have a clear vision as to what to do with it once I got it. I sort of got lost in that and sort of got anxious for things to be what they weren’t, and I got impatient and didn’t maintain gratitude."

Maintaining her focus will certainly be required to hold on to the belt. Zhang isn't going anywhere. Namajunas may have ended her 21-fight win streak, but she's still among the best fighters in the division, and Zhang's fellow countrywoman Yan Xiaonan is waiting in the wings. 

The 31-year-old has put together a six-fight streak of her own in the UFC and has the look of a title challenger.

For now, Thug Rose has reclaimed her status as top of the food chain at 115 pounds.