The rematch of the inaugural UFC Women’s strawweight championship eight years in the making is finally happening. Current strawweight champion Rose ‘Thug Rose’ Namajunas will look to avenge her loss against the former and inaugural champion Carla Esparza.
Legal sportsbooks in Canada and the United States are already on the action with moneylines and props available. One of the most anticipated fights of the past decade shouldn’t disappoint regardless of how you bet it.
Namajunas vs Esparza comes in with stellar history
Namajunas (11-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) first faced Esparza (18-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC) back in 2014 during The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion Will Be Crowned finale. Esparza won that fight with a third-round submission, winning the tournament and becoming the UFC’s first-ever strawweight champ. She would go on to lose the belt just months later against Joanna Jedrzejczyk by TKO at UFC 185.
Namajunas later went and got the belt from Jedrzejczyk with a TKO win herself at UFC 217 in 2017. She held onto the strap until 2019 when a slam from Jessica Andrade knocked her out cold.
Since then, she beat Andrade in a rematch and won the belt back from Zhang Weili in 2021.
Meanwhile, since losing the belt in 2015, Esparza has seen continued success in the UFC. Since losing to Jedrzejczyk, Esparza has gone 8-3. She is currently on a five-fight win streak with victories over Yan Xiaonan, Marina Rodriguez, Michelle Waterson, Alexa Grasso, and Virna Jandiroba.
Namajunas vs Esparza: How to watch
When: Main Card starts at 10 p.m. ET.
Where: PPV on ESPN Plus
How do fighters stack up ahead of rematch?
Namajunas is 4-1 in her last five bouts. However, both Namajunas and Esparza have one finish each in their last five fights. Namajunas scored a head kick knockout over Weili and Esparza had a TKO finish over Xiaonan.
Expect Namajunas to try to stay on her feet. Both women are experienced strikers who have shown they like to strike. Namajunas is quick and has proven she also has the power to put opponents away.
However, Esparza is a great wrestler and grappler, so expect to see her shoot for takedowns if she begins to get frustrated with the stand-up game or if she simply sees the opening is there.
Whoever wins on Saturday could face Andrade next. Andrade is a former strawweight champ herself and recently returned to the division after losing a flyweight title shot against Valentina Shevchenko. Andrade won last month against Amanda Lemos in her 115-pound return.
Later this summer, Jedrzejczyk and Weili are fighting again in a rematch of arguably one of the greatest MMA fights of all time at UFC 275 next month. Depending on how that turns out, the winner could be back in title talks as well. That’s probably more likely for Jedrzejczyk since Weili’s last fight was a title loss to Namajunas.
Saturday’s matchup is an exciting one for longtime UFC fans. Namajunas is a deserving champion who has avenged most of her losses in the past besides Esparza and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. She’s also a fan favorite who has been shown love from the crowd in her last couple of fights.
Esparza is a highly-deserving contender. She’s the former champion on a hot streak against some of the division’s top talent. Not many former champs see a second run like this in the UFC.
So it’s only right the two strawweights face each other again in a moment revisiting the birth of the division. Since they last faced each other, the sport has grown exponentially for women and in general. It will be an exciting, new, yet nostalgic feeling for fight fans on Saturday night when these two meet under the lights.
65 inches inches
Zhang Weili: W (Dec.)
|Last 5||Yan Xiaonan: W (TKO)|
Zhang Weili: W (KO)
|Marina Rodriguez: W (Dec.)|
Jessica Andrade: W (Dec.)
|Michelle Waterson: W (Dec.)|
Jessica Andrade: L (KO)
|Alexa Grasso: W (Dec.)|
Joanna Jedrzejczyk: W (Dec.)
|Virna Jandiroba: W (Dec.)|