Dana White confirmed with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that Esparza would “100%” be next for the strawweight title. This news comes after a month of uncertainty where it didn’t appear that Esparza was going to get the shot.
Back in April, Rose Namajunas (11-4) knocked out Zhang Weili to become the first woman to become a two-time UFC champion. After the fight was over, many expected that Esparza would be next.
However, the UFC wasn’t so sure about it. The word around the promotion was that they didn’t believe the Esparza fight was a big fight for Namajunas in terms of interest. With that in mind, they decided to do an immediate rematch with Weili.
Esparza was perplexed by the decision as most were in the MMA community. She said that she would wait for her title shot, however, Dana White mentioned that it might be a mistake to wait.
Namajunas defeated Weili in the rematch at UFC 268 to retain her title. After the fight, she said that she wanted to face off with Esparza next and she was confused by the promotions reluctance. Now, it appears that the UFC has given in.
UFC making the rematch
Esparza has done everything needed to earn a rematch and the storyline is there for a fight with Namajunas. These two first met for the inaugural UFC strawweight title back in 2014.
Esparza submitted Namajunas to become the first strawweight champion. However, he reign didn’t last long as she lost the title in her first defense. Ever since then, she’s been working towards getting back to the top.
While she’s had some bumps in the road, Esparza has been on an incredible run as of late. The former UFC champion has won five fights in a row which includes wins over some of the more compelling contenders in the division.
Her last two wins came over Marina Rodriguez and Yan Xiaonan. The Yan fight was incredible impressive as she scored a TKO victory. That win alone should’ve earned her a UFC title shot.
Despite losing the first fight, I’m expecting Namajunas to be a massive favorite in the rematch. While both have improved since the first fight, Namajunas is completely transformed. Esparza is getting the title shot she wanted, but it’s a massive mountain to climb whenever they fight.