by Dane McGuire
Carla Esparza is heading into her pending wedding having regained the UFC women’s strawweight championship, although the performance seems to be being universally panned due to inactivity.
“Rose and Carla are going to be pissed off at us, because we had to kind of call it like it is,” former UFC champion and current broadcaster Daniel Cormier said afterward “No one is above criticism and that fight was to be criticized.”
Esparza, who became the division’s first champion by beating Namajunas in December 2014, has said she felt she was leading the proverbial dance.
“You never want to be a part of a fight like that,” Esparza said in her post-fight interview. “I went out there and did my best and tried to come forward. I got the win, that’s what counts.”
At the post-fight press conference, Namajunas disagreed entirely.
“I won that fight. “I struck to the strategy,” Namajunas said. “I felt as if I landed more shots. I even took her down. None of her takedowns were significant or with any control time. I’d say she hit me with one good punch. …
I felt like I did the damage. I controlled the fight. I’m proud of myself because I stuck to my strategy. I know that in all of Carla’s fights she just baits people in, and she tries to get people to attack her. I’ve been in slugfests before. I’ve gotten my nose broken. I’ve stood there and shed blood in the octagon. I stuck to the strategy, and she didn’t really have any offense. She was whiffing at air the whole time. So, I thought I won.”
Esparza won the rematch at UFC 274 by split decision. UFC Stats shows Namajunas landed just 38 strikes and Esparza had 30.
“I don’t even know, man,” UFC President Dana White said. “I started zoning out like halfway through it. I don’t think anyone is clamoring for that rematch. We’ll have to figure something else out. Rose is one of the best. She’s always gonna be there. We’ll see what happens.”
Per White, the winner of Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275 in June is expected to give the new champion her next opponent.
“I would say it’s definitely in the mix as a No. 1 contender fight,” Esparza said. “That or Marina Rodriguez. Obviously we fought before, but she’s been on a tear. We fought a few fights ago, and she’s had some dominant wins over some really great fighters. I would definitely put her up there.”