The top seed, Carla Esparza, starts to feel the pressure of being the favorite heading into her fight against sixteenth seeded Angela Hill.
The Pressure of Being the Favorite
Esparza, the Invicta FC strawweight champion, hadn’t fought since January 2013 and worried about ring rust being a factor in her match up against Hill.
“I haven’t fought in over a year and a half, so it’s a slight disadvantage as far as ring rust goes. But I also feel like people don’t know what I’m going to bring to the table because they don’t know what I’ve been working on,” said Esparza.
“I feel kind of scared because do I even remember what it’s like to be in there, or to get hit like that, to have someone in there gunning for me, trying to hurt me,” she said. “I’m really happy, but I’m super nervous and jittery at the same time.”
“I would feel so low if I messed it up. I feel more pressure from the outside people: friends, family, teammates. I don’t want to let them down,” said the top ranked 115-pound female fighter in the world. “It’s like, you’re already expected to win and do well, and it’s like, oh man, I can’t fail. I don’t want o fail or I’ll be embarrassed and feel stupid.”
The Fight: Carla Esparza vs. Angela Hill
It was a classic clash of styles with Hill wanting to keep the fight standing to work her striking experience while Esparza wanted to close the distance and get the fight to the ground.
Hill came out with a defensive stance. She landed a solid right hand and stuffed Esparza’s first takedown attempt. She threw a leg kick and that was the opportunity Esparza was waiting for to get the fight to the ground. Hill tried to scramble to her feet but gave up her back. Esparza pounded away with punches from the back mount position while looking to secure a rear-naked choke. Hill defended the submission attempt and briefly gained top position. Esparza kicked her off and took her down again. Hill gave up her back and tried to stand. Esparza locked in a rear-naked choke that forced Hill to tap out.
“I went out there and did my thing. I went in there and followed the game plan. I listened to my coaches, got the takedown and just tried to control and finish,” said Esparza after the win. “I’m always worried before a fight, but I was scared about having some ring rust. Getting hit is never going to be fun whether it’s been a week or a year. I felt pretty good in there, but I’m here to get the belt. I’m here for the whole thing, so that win was great, but I’ve got to keep it going.”
“It’s the first time I’ve lost in my amateur and pro career. It’s definitely a new feeling,” said an emotional Hill following the loss. “I’ve still got a lot to work on, so I’ll be in the gym tomorrow training even harder. I’m going to come back much stronger.”
Thus far, Team Pettis is sweeping the competition with four consecutive wins. Esparza’s victory kept matchmaking control with Team Pettis and they called on Felice Herig to take on Team Melendez Heather Jo Clark. The two have fought before and do not like each other.