Saturday, July 25th
UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Till
Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
Top 10 Strawweight contenders collide on the main card this Saturday as Marina Rodriguez seeks to extend her unbeaten record against former champion Carla Esparza. Can Esparza win her fourth contest in a row or will Rodriguez continue to surge up the rankings?
Carla Esparza (16–6) is the former UFC strawweight champion, the first person ever crowned in the division.
Her UFC debut was for the title in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter series 20 after she had worked her way through the competition to face Rose Namajunas (who has also since been champion). Esparza won the fight after sinking in a rear-naked choke and submitting Namajunas early in round 3.
Esparza lost her title to Joanna Jędrzejczyk three months later by TKO with less than a minute left of the second round, and Jędrzejczyk went on to defend her title five times. Esparza, who has been based in California her whole life, has accrued a 7–4 record in her UFC career.
Other than her debut title win, “Cookie Monster” has won all her UFC bouts by decision, four unanimously. Her losses have been due to TKO twice and two split decisions.
Esparza’s last fight was against Michelle Waterson at UFC 249 in May, a fight she won by split decision and which increased her winning streak to three fights. With a background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling, Esparza will look to clinch and use elbows and knees in that position, aiming to control the position and inflict ground and pound damage if the fight goes to the floor.
Marina Rodriguez (12–0–2) turned professional three months after Carla Esparza won her UFC championship. At 5 feet 7 inches tall, Rodriguez will have a 6 inch height advantage in this contest and may try to keep her adversary at distance and utilise her own striking game.
Rodriguez won her UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series: Brazil, stretching her professional record to a perfect 10–0 and making her promotional debut against Randa Markos in Brazil, fighting to a draw in September 2018. Rodriguez is now 2–0–2 in the UFC, her two victories coming by unanimous decision.
The Brazilian last fought in December against Cynthia Calvillo, a bout that took place at a 120.5lbs catchweight after Calvillo missed weight badly. The fight ended in a draw.
Still unbeaten, Rodriguez has six finishes and six unanimous decision victories to her name. Five of these finishes have been by TKO, four of which came in the first round.
Both women could try and work in the clinch but are more than capable if the fight goes to the ground. Amanda Ribas has said she would like to fight the winner of this battle, with Esparza already showing an interest in the matchup if she ends Rodriguez’s unbeaten record and emerges as the victor.
Prediction: Esparza by decision.
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