UFC 281 goes down this weekend (Sat., Nov. 12, 2022) in the famous Madison Square Garden arena in New York City.

Before the fighters arrive on the east coast, they were captured on camera for UFC Embedded to share what some of their camp preparations entailed. For Strawweight champion, Carla Esparza, she’ll head into her clash with former champion, Zhang Weili, as one of the biggest underdogs a UFC champion has ever been.

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CHAMPIONSHIP DOUBLE-DIP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to “The Fight Mecca,” Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y., on Sat., Nov. 12, 2022, featuring two highly-anticipated championship showdowns. In UFC 281’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event, Middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, will look to settle the score with former kickboxing foe and No. 5-seeded contender, Alex Pereira. In the ESPN+-streamed PPV co-main event, women’s Strawweight champion, Carla Esparza, intends to defend her newly-won title for the first time against former champion and No. 2-ranked contender, Zhang Weili.

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“Preparation for this fight’s been pretty grueling,” Esparza’s coach, Colin Oyama, said. “A good four-five months to get ready for this matchup, so I felt like it went really well. The No. 1 thing I’ve noticed about Weili is just physical strength. Obviously, she’s very strong, really explosive for a female, and definitely poses problems. Carla’s sparred and rolled against a lot of men this time instead of women. I think her having to deal with guys on the mat, deal with guys on the wall, and every other area has prepared her to deal with the stronger female.

“As far as an athlete, Weili’s probably the biggest puncher we’ve ran into,” he concluded. “So, I feel the longer the fight goes, the more it will favor us.”

In terms of resume and results, Oyama is surely onto something, as Zhang has scored 11 knockouts in 25 of her career victories. The last was one of her more spectacular, finishing Joanna Jedrzejczyk via a second round spinning back fist at UFC 275 in June 2022 (watch highlights).

Esparza will look to successfully defend her title for the first time after winning it in May 2022 against Rose Namajunas via a split decision (watch highlights).

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 281 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPNews at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 281: “Adesanya vs. Pereira” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the complete UFC 281 fight card and PPV line up click here.