Carla Esparza’s name has been mentioned often when it comes to a UFC women’s Strawweight title shot. Unfortunately, up until this point it’s been as a back up in case UFC couldn’t get who it really wanted to sign a contract. For months it was an open question as to whether then-champ Zhang Weili would face Rose Namajunas or Esparza. In the end, she faced Namajunas and lost.
Now, Esparza’s name is in the conversation again, and she’s hoping after Saturday it’s not as a second choice.
Esparza dispatched Yan Xiaonan at UFC Vegas 27 with an impressive amount of ease, taking down the highly-touted Chinese prospect multiple times and slicing her head open with bloody elbows that forced a stoppage halfway through the second round (watch highlights here).
It was Esparza’s fifth win in a row ... but more important, a resounding finish.
“I definitely saw myself getting the finish in the fight,” Esparza said at the post-fight press conference. “I’ve been working a lot on getting the passes and securing those finishes. I feel like I’ve had the jiu-jitsu for a long time but I’ve been kind of content staying in the guard and coasting to these wins. I knew to secure hopefully a title shot I had to start getting some finishes.”
And with this finish, did she do enough?
“I believe so,” she replied. “Nothing is secure until you sign on that dotted line and you hear from Dana. But, in my mind, yeah.”
UFC President, Dana White, was very complimentary of Esparza’s performance, but stopped short of dubbing her the next challenger for Namajunas’ belt.
“She looked like a beast tonight,” White said. “She came out and absolutely dominated. You can tell by the way she was fighting that she was trying to make a statement. Statement made, message received! We see you! I don’t know what we’re going to do next, if we do the rematch [between Rose and Weili] or if we give it to her.”
With China being such an important market and a Zhang vs. Namajunas fight the bigger, hotter fight, there’s still a decent chance Esparza gets passed over for a title shot. But, with this solid and violent win, she’s a much more legitimate contender for that next title shot slot.
For complete UFC Vegas 27: “Garbrandt vs. Font” results and play-by-play, click HERE.