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UFC TUF 20 Finale results: Carla Esparza smashes crystal ball, flips script on 'the next Ronda Rousey'

Then I'll get on my knees and pray ... we don't get fooled again! No, no!

Esther Lin

In the main event of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20 Finale, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans got exactly what they were promised on paper: A former champion with experience against some of the best female fighters in the world, taking on a 22-year-old up-and-comer with three professional fights.

Damn you, hyperbole!

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White -- like he so often does -- helped sell Rose Namajunas as a strawweight version of reigning bantamweight queenpin Ronda Rousey. I'll admit, I was skeptical at first, but then "Thug" polished off three tough competitors on the FOX Sports 1 reality show and I was sold.

And it helped that Namajunas was so damn likable.

But for all her fancy kicks and ground wizardry, in the end, she was felled by nuts-and-bolts offense. Newly-crowned UFC 115-pound champion Carla Esparza had a simple but effective gameplan, one that used a perfect blend of wrestling and striking, something she continues to perfect as she grows as a fighter.

Namajunas will also grow -- and I bet it's going to be fun to watch.

Looking back, I guess it was unfair to compare Namajunas to Rousey. It wasn't fair to Rose and to some extent, it wasn't fair to Ronda, either. There is no one in this industry like "Rowdy" and part of that has to do with her time spent in the Olympics.

Good luck finding an MMA gym to replicate that experience.

Not just in the physical training, but also in the mental anguish that Olympians must endure. The kind of trial by fire that transforms ordinary athletes into world beaters. Storied wrestler Daniel Cormier once described what it was like to be subjected to that kind of misery.

And I'm sure that's just a taste of what took place behind closed doors.

Rousey comparisons were also a slight against Esparza, who was a heavy favorite entering the TUF house. Though I would reckon Friday night's victory now tastes even sweeter, with so much of the MMA universe writing her off before she even stepped foot inside the Octagon.

What we may have missed in all this Rousey hype was the real story of Namajunas.

Her journey to the biggest night of her budding career, one that started off with a young girl and a broken past. She eventually found the ability to love and trust again (with a little help from Pat Barry), before making an improbable run through a division full of hungry contenders.

She's as much of a fighter outside the cage as she is inside it.

"Thug" didn't get her storybook ending because it's not her time. It's Esparza's. The "Cookie Monster" went through her opponent like a bag of Chips Ahoy and to the victor belong the spoils. If anyone is going to dominate the strawweight division, it's likely to be her, based on what we saw on Friday night.

In the end, I suppose we didn't get our Ronda Rose-y, but we may have ended up with Carla St. Pierre.

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