Former Invicta FC strawweight champion Carla Esparza entered The Ultimate Fighter 20 season as the favorite to win the show. She was seeded No. 1 among the sixteen women competing for the inaugural UFC women’s strawweight title.
On Saturday, at The Ultiamte Fighter: A Champion Will Be Crowned Finale in Las Vegas, Esparza proved she’s still the top 115-pound female fighter in the world by submitting Rose Namajunas via rear-naked choke in the third round.
Namajunas started fast, pressing forward and dictating the striking exchanges. She employed a diverse attack of punches, kicks and spinning techniques. But the story of the fight was Esparza’s wrestling. She secured three takedowns in the opening round.
Esparza secured a takedown early in the second frame and dominated the round. She grounded and pounded Namajunas. The round ended with Esparza taking mount and Namajunas giving up her back.
The third round started where the second frame ended. Esparza scored another takedown and Namajunas again gave up her back. Esparza applied a body lock to keep Namajunas in position and worked to secure a rear-naked choke. She slipped her arm under Namajunas’ chin and squeezed. Namajunas was forced to tap out or black out. She opted to tap out.
“This is the most amazing and unreal feeling that I’ve ever had in my life,” said the elated Esparza after being presented with the UFC belt.
“Rose is such a phenomenal athlete. She’s so dangerous and has so many weapons,” added the 27-year-old Californian. “I knew it was going to be a tough fight. And it was. She caught me with a lot of things I didn’t really see coming. In the end, I think my wrestling brought me the win, and all the training I’ve done.”
Esparza dedicated the win to her former teammate, the late Shane Del Rosario, who passed away in December 2013.
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