The eleventh episode of The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion Will Be Crowned featured the last two quarterfinal match ups. Top seeded Carla Esparza faced No. 3-seed Tecia Torres while the last Team Melendez figihter left, Rose Namajunas, took on No.2-ranked Joeanne Calderwood.
Carla Esparza and Tecia Torres Have History
“Carla and myself have history outside of the UFC. We both were at Invicta formerly. My last fight was Felice (Herrig). I beat Felice by unanimous decision. As my hand was getting raised, Carla walked into the cage without me knowing and called me out,” explained Torres. “The way in which she did it was kind of awkward. I gladly accepted right then and there. So before coming here, I thought that would be my next fight in Invicta.”
“She was one of the people I was expecting to be in the finals possibly. I had no idea that I was going to be fighting her in the house because she was on the opposite side of the bracket from me. Tecia lost to Randa (Markos) in the first fight. I never thought it was fair that Tecia got a second chance because I don’t think anyone should be a second chance like that. I knew eventually I was going to fight Tecia.”
The Fight: Esparza vs. Torres
Heading into the fight, both ladies had opposite game plans. Torres wanted to keep the fight standing where she felt she had a striking advantage. Esparza wanted to get the fight to the ground where she thought she’d be able to submit Torres.
Both fighters were careful in the early going. Torres pawed with her jab at distance. Esparza quickly looked to get the fight to the ground, but Torres defended the first attempt. She shook off Esparza’s second takedown attempt seconds later. A third takedown attempt came and Torres was still standing.
Esparza desperately pursued the takedown. She eventually secured one midway though the round but was unable to control Torres. Torres fought her way back to her feet and the two battled for position along the cage. Esparza tossed Torres to the canvas. She delivered a few right hands before Torres worked her way back to the standing position. Torres pressed forward, and Esparza changed levels and took her down, likely securing the round.
Torres landed shots in the opening moments of the second round. She defended Esparza’s first three takedown attempts, but Esparza kept trying. She powered forward and secured a double leg takedown midway through the frame. Torres got back to her feet, but Esparza took her back. Torres turned into Esparza and worked for a takedown of her own. Esparza secured a single leg takedown with seconds remaining in the round.
After ten minutes of fighting, Esparza’s wrestling was enough to earn a majority decision from the judges.
“I thought it was a great fight. I gave it my all. It didn’t go to a third round, but I felt awesome in the fight. I thought I did great. Obviously, I’m not going to get the belt the first time around, but I definitely think that I’ll be there with the fights I put on. They were so close and so good of fights that I know I’ll be back,” said Torres after being eliminated from the competition.
“It was a super tough fight. I am worn out mentally and physically,” said Esparza following the win. “I wish I would have done a little bit better, but I came home with the win.”
The Fight: Joanne Calderwood vs. Rose Namajunas
Namajunas came out aggressive. She threw combinations and circled away. Calderwood countered and pressed forward. Namajunas pulled guard and threatened with submission attempts. Calderwood defended them and Namajunas got back to her feet. They exchanged knees to the body inside the clinch position before Namajunas secured a takedown. Calderwood worked her way back to her feet and tossed Namajunas to the canvas. Namajunas isolated a leg, but Calderwood got it free. Manajunas isolated an arm and used it to gain top position. The round ended with Namajunas inside Calderwood’s guard.
The two meet in the middle of the cage and exchanged to start the second stanza. Calderwood pressed forward and inflicted damage with knees and elbows from the clinch position. Namajunas changed levels and looked to take Calderwood down. Namajunas attacked Calderwood’s left arm. She locked on a kimura that forced Calderwood to tap out.
“I respect the hell out of Jo-Jo. She’s one of the toughest people in here. It was really an honor to even be in a ring with her,” said Namajunas after the submission win. “To get the win was the icing on the cake.”
“I’m just gutted, and I hope it was a good fight,” said an emotional Calderwood after the loss. “Hopefully I’ll be fighting as soon as I get out, you know, just straight back at it. The losing doesn’t matter. It’s more that I didn’t… that I tapped. I didn’t perform, obviously. I’m just gutted that I lost, but it’s part of the game.”
The Semifinals Are Set
Esparza faces her friend and teammate Jessica Penne in the semifinals while Namajunas takes on Randa Markos. The two winners will fight during the season Finale to determine the inaugural UFC women’s strawweight champion.