Over the weekend, the UFC finalized a massive fight in the strawweight division. MMA DNA was the first to report that verbal agreements were in place between Yan Xiaonan (13-1, 1 NC) and Carla Esparza (17-6).
The matchup is scheduled to take place at the UFC‘s Fight Night on May 22nd. Given the current ranking of both of these strawweights, the winner of this matchup will likely be the next in line for a shot at the title.
Last week we learned that the UFC was close to finalizing Zhang Weili – Rose Namajunas. That matchup would take place in April and the winner of this matchup would be ready to step in there next against whoever wins that fight.
It’s been an interesting run in the UFC for Carla Esparza. She made her debut with the promotion via The Ultimate Fighter. In the year she was on the show, the promotion had created the strawweight division. The winner of the show would be crowned strawweight champion.
Esparza would go on to submit Rose Namajunas in the finale to become champion. However, she lost her first title defense by TKO to Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Since then, Esparza hasn’t been able to work her way back to the title.
Every time Esparza has come close to another UFC title shot, she’s faltered. However, she’s currently on a four-fight win streak and she’s just one more win away from getting back to the title. However, there’s a stiff test in front of her.
UFC’s new top contender
When it comes to starting your UFC career, it doesn’t get much better than Yan Xiaonan. Xiaonan made her debut with the promotion back in 2017. Since her debut, she’s defeated all challengers on her way to a 6-0 record with the promotion.
Every time she’s fought, she’s looked better and better. Her competition level has risen every time the UFC has put her in the octagon as well. It’s been a slow build but her last three wins came against Angela Hill, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and Claudia Gadelha.
All six of her wins have gone to the scorecards, but not a single one was a split decision. The UFC has been making a large investment in China over the last couple of years. Xiaonan is a big part of the promotion’s plan to expand in the Asian markets.
A dream scenario could be forming for the promotion should Xiaonan win in May and Zhang Weili win in April. If both of these strawweights win, the UFC could put together an event featuring an all-Chinese main event for the first time in history and they could do it in China.
You have to imagine with these matchups and the recent investment in that market, this is what the UFC is hoping for. However, both ladies have very tall orders in front of them and I’m just excited to see how it all plays out.