Carla Esparza to Defend UFC Women’s Strawweight Title Against Zhang Weili

Carla Esparza is ready to defend her title…

The 34-year-old part-Mexican and part-Ecuadorian American will face off against Zhang Weili at Madison Square Garden in a UFC women’s strawweight title fight.

Carla Esparza

Esperza, the current champion, and Zhang, the former champ, has been verbally agreed to for UFC 281 on November 12 in New York, according to ESPN.

The fight hasn’t yet been signed, nor officially announced by the UFC. But bout agreements have been sent out, per sources.

Both fighters have posted about the fight on their respective social media accounts. The news of the fight was first reported by MMA reporter Ariel Helwani.

ESPN has Esparza ranked No. 1 in the world at 115 pounds and Zhang at No. 3.

Esparza (19-6) became a two-time UFC women’s strawweight champion when she beat Rose Namajunas via split decision at UFC 274 back in May. The California native was the first-ever UFC women’s strawweight champion, beating Namajunas to win The Ultimate Fighter — and the inaugural belt — in 2014. Esparza, 34, is on a six-fight winning streak.

Zhang (22-3) is coming off a second-round knockout of Joanna Jedrzejczyk in June. The Chinese-born fighter lost the title to Namajunas at UFC 261 in April 2021 and then lost the rematch to Namajunas at Madison Square Garden last November at UFC 268. Zhang, 33, became the first Chinese-born fighter and second Asia-born fighter to win a UFC title when she beat Jessica Andrade to win the 115-pound belt in 2019.

UFC 281 will be headlined by a middleweight title fight between champion Israel Adesanyaand former kickboxing rival and top contender Alex Pereira.

Marina Rodriguez to Fight Amanda Lemos at UFC 280

Marina Rodriguez has lined up her next opponent…

The 35-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist will face Amanda Lemos at UFC 280 on October 22 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Marina RodriguezRodriguez and Lemos, two of the top women’s strawweight fighters in the world, form part of one of the UFC‘s deepest cards of the year.

The winner of the bout could have the inside track on a title shot. Rodriguez is the No. 4 women’s strawweight in ESPN‘s rankings, while Lemos is No. 9.

In addition, sources told ESPN that Rodriguez and former UFC women’s strawweight champion Jessica Andrade have left manager Tiago Okamura to sign with Ali Abdelaziz of Dominance MMA, who represents the likes of welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and former pound-for-pound king Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Rodriguez (16-1-2 overall, 6-1-2 UFC) has won four straight and is coming off a split decision win over Yan Xiaonan at UFC 272 in March. The Brazilian fighter’s only career loss was a close split decision defeat to current UFC women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza in 2020.

Lemos (12-2-1), also 35, has won six of her past seven fights, including a second-round submission victory over Michelle Waterson this past weekend at UFC Long Island. The Brazilian fighter’s only loss since 2017 came to Andrade in April. Lemos has finished four of her six wins inside the UFC Octagon.

UFC 280 will be headlined by a fight between former champion Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev for the vacant lightweight title. Also on the card, lightweight standouts Beneil Dariush and Mateusz Gamrot will meet in a potential title eliminator.

Carla Esparza Defeats Rose Namajunas to Claim UFC Strawweight Championship

Carla Esparza has added to her career honors…

The 34-year-old Latina mixed martial artist upset reigning champion Rose Namajunas to claim the UFC strawweight championship on Saturday.

Carla EsparzaIn one of the most bizarre title fights in UFC history, Esparza (19-6) upset Namajunas (11-5) via split decision in the co-main event of UFC 274 inside Footprint Center.

Two judges scored the fight for Esparza 49-46 and 48-47. A third had it for Namajunas 48-47.

According to UFC Stats, Namajunas landed just 38 strikes in the five-round fight. Esparza landed 30. It was a fight in which neither woman appeared to have any confidence in her skill set. Neither was willing to take risks. Namajunas defended Esparza’s takedowns but still refused to open up with her striking. Esparza marched forward at times with caution. She was mostly ineffective.

“You never want to be a part of a fight like that,” Esparza said. “I went out there and did my best and tried to come forward. I got the win, that’s what counts.”

One of Namajunas’ coaches, Trevor Wittman, begged her to be more active from the third round on, but her other coach and partner Pat Barry appeared to be happy with the game plan. It was obvious that all three wished to avoid Esparza’s takedowns. That was a key difference when they fought the first time back in 2014, in a fight in which Esparza took Namajunas down and submitted her.

Ultimately, Esparza moved to 2-0 over Namajunas — and it’s unclear whether the sport would even allow a third matchup to happen. This 115-pound contest will be remembered as one of the worst title fights in UFC history. After the first round, each fighter was credited with a total of three strikes landed, and the action never picked up.

Esparza, whose wedding is scheduled in less than a week, improves her win streak to six. Namajunas loses for the first time since 2019. It’s the second time she has seen a title reign end.

Carla Esparza to Fight Rose Namajunas in UFC Women’s Strawweight Title Fight

Carla Esparza is hoping to dethorn Rose

The 34-year-old part-Mexican and Ecuadorian mixed martial artist will fight Rose Namajunas in a UFC women’s strawweight title fight.

Carla EsparzaNamajunas will defend her belt against Esparza in the co-main event of UFC 274 on May 7 in Phoenix, UFC chief business officer Hunter Campbell confirmed to the news.

Esparza beat Namajunas via third-round submission in December 2014 in the inaugural UFC women’s strawweight title fight. Nearly eight years later, the two women will meet again, with Namajunas as champion.

ESPN has Namajunas ranked No. 3 on its pound-for-pound women’s MMA fighter list and Esparza at No. 8. At strawweight, Namajunas is ranked No. 1 and Esparza is No. 3.

Namajunas (11-4) has won three straight fights, the last two against Zhang Weili. Most recently, the Milwaukee native, who trains out of Colorado, beat Zhang via split decision at UFC 268 in November.

Namajunas is a two-time UFC women’s strawweight champion with two title defenses under her belt.

Esparza (18-6) has won five in a row to earn the title shot. The California native is co

UFC 274 will be headlined by a lightweight title fight between champion Charles Oliveira and top contender Justin Gaethje, a longtime teammate of Namajunas.

The Namajunas-Esparza bout was first reported by Sports Illustrated.

Tatiana Suarez Medically Cleared for UFC Return in Near Future

Tatiana Suarez is cleared for combat…

The 30-year-old Mexican American professional mixed martial artist, one of the best women’s MMA fighters in the world, is finally close to returning to the Octagon.

Tatiana SuarezSuarez told ESPN in a video interview published Wednesday that she has been medically cleared by doctors and is targeting a return to the UFC in September, or perhaps even as early as August.

Suarez has been sidelined by a recurring bulging disc in her neck since June 2019.

“I’m super excited to get back out there,” she said. “It’s fun to practice, for sure. But it’s just different competing. Everybody knows that. It’s super exciting to just show what you’re working on.”

Suarez (8-0) said she was cleared for live training in February, but then she broke her hand and suffered a concussion while wrestling in her front yard with her boyfriend. Those were minor setbacks, she said, but she has been back to training now for the past several weeks and plans on starting a training camp “soon.”

When she comes back, Suarez said she plans to try her hand at a new division: flyweight. Suarez had dominated the UFC’s women’s strawweight division before the injury cropped up two years ago. But she said that cutting to 115 pounds left her feeling weak and tired on fight night and not as explosive as she is in training. Suarez said she’d like to see what it feels like to compete at 125 pounds, at least initially upon her return.

“Maybe if I’m not cutting too much weight at all, I’ll be a little more stronger and explosive,” Suarez said.

Suarez has won all five of her UFC fights and was the Ultimate Fighter 23 winner in 2016. The California native came close to competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics in wrestling, but the neck injury and a bout with thyroid cancer marred those plans.

Suarez has wins over former UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza and current flyweight contender Alexa Grasso.

When asked how she thinks she could match up with women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, one of the top three women’s fighters on the planet, Suarez said she believes very well.

“I do think I have a good skill set in terms of my wrestling [that] can give her trouble,” Suarez said.

Marina Rodriguez to Fight Michelle Waterson in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night

Marina Rodriguez is heading to the Octagon

The 34-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist will face off against Michelle Waterson in the UFC Fight Night headliner on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Marina Rodriguez

The originally scheduled main event between former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and top contender Cory Sandhagen was postponed last week due to a Dillashaw injury.

Rodriguez and Waterson are both top strawweights, but the bout will be contested a division up at flyweight due to the short-notice nature of the situation. The bout will still be five rounds, like typical UFC main events.

ESPN has Rodriguez ranked No. 6 in the world at strawweight; Waterson comes in at No. 9.

Rodriguez (13-1-2) has just one loss in six UFC appearances. She is coming off a second-round TKO win over prospect Amanda Ribas in January.

Rodriguez has lost just once in her career, to former UFC women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza in a split decision last July.

Waterson (18-8) is one of the most well-known women’s fighters in mixed martial arts. Nicknamed “The Karate Hottie,” the New Mexico resident is coming off a split decision win over Angela Hill last September. Waterson has won four of her past six bouts with the only losses coming against Esparza and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, another former UFC champion.

Amanda Ribas in Talks to Fight Michelle Waterson in UFC 257 Bout

Amanda Ribas is thisclose to returning to the Octagon…

The UFC is close to finalizing a strawweight bout between the 27-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist and Michelle Waterson for UFC 257, according to multiple sources.

Amanda Ribas

The UFC 257 pay-per-view event is the first on the company’s 2021 schedule. The promotion hasn’t announced a location for the event or a main event, although UFC president Dana White has said the event is earmarked for Conor McGregor‘s return to the Octagon against Dustin Poirier.

Ribas (10-1) is one of the most promising prospects in the division. She is undefeated since signing with the UFC last year, and has taken out the likes of Emily WhitmireMackenzie DernRanda Markos and Paige VanZant. She finished VanZant with a first-round armbar at UFC 251 in July.

Waterson (18-8) is one of the most established names of the strawweight division, with a 6-4 record in the UFC dating back to 2015. The former Invicta FC champion was knocking on the door of title contention in 2019 before she suffered back-to-back decision losses to former champions Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Carla Esparza. Fighting out of Jackson Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Waterson has since rebounded from the two-fight skid with a win over Angela Hill.

Esparza Dominates Rose Namajunas to Win Inaugural UFC Strawweight Title

Carla Esparza has earned a place in Ultimate Fighting Championship history…

The 27-year-old Latina mixed martial artist won the inaugural UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship on Friday, submitting Rose Namajunas via rear-naked choke at 1:26 of the third round.

Carla Esparza

The 115-pound title fight headlined the TUF 20 Finale inside The Palms Hotel and Casino.

Esparza (10-2) entered the tournament shortly after vacating the Invicta FC Strawweight Championship title, which she won in a unanimous decision over Bec Rawlings in January 2013.

“Oh my gosh, this is the most amazing, unreal feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” said Esparza after her win. “You know, Rose is such a phenomenal athlete. She’s so dangerous and has so many weapons. I knew it was going to be a tough fight. She caught me with a lot of things I didn’t see coming. In the end, I think wrestling brought me the win.”

Despite her history in the division, Esparza entered the fight as a slight underdog to Namajunas (2-2), who had received a lot of attention for her finishing ability.

It was Namajunas who got off to a hot start, sprinting to the center of the cage the second the fight started and connecting on a high head kick less than a minute in. Esparza ate the shot, however, and drove into Namajunas with a takedown — which would prove to be a theme throughout the contest.

Esparza was unable to keep Namajunas on her back initially, but her efforts to take her to the floor didn’t go unrewarded. According to Fightmetric, Esparza converted five of seven total takedown attempts and outlanded Namajunas in total strikes 109 to 27. Most of her offense took place on the floor.

Esparza now holds three official wins over TUF 20 house members. She defeated Angela Hill, Tecia Torres and Jessica Penne during the tournament, although those wins don’t count toward her official record. Fighting out of Team Oyama in Irvine, California, she dedicated the win to Shane del Rosario, a teammate who unexpectedly died in 2013.