5 Defining Moments: Carla Esparza

By Mark Raymundo Sep 18, 2019


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Since making her way into the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Carla Esparza has won some and lost some, but through it all she has consistently been in contention for the strawweight belt that she once held. On Sept. 21, she will continue her journey back to the belt and take on Mexican sensation Alexa Grasso. Ahead of their UFC Fight Night 159 encounter, let’s look back on five of Esparza’s career-defining moments.

1. Three in a Row

A decorated amateur and collegiate wrestler, Esparza brought her winning ways to MMA. She won her first three fights and did so in stunning fashion. In her debut, the woman they call “Cookie Monster” knocked her opponent out in just 48 seconds. Her next two opponents succumbed to second-round rear-naked chokes, including Strikeforce veteran and future Invicta FC standout Lacey Schuckman.

2. Fighting Megu

After her third pro bout, Esparza was tapped by Bellator to replace Angela Magana and face the then-undefeated legend Megumi Fujii in the quarterfinals of the promotion’s flyweight tournament. At this point, the 20-0 Japanese star was already regarded by many as the top pound-for-pound female fighter in the world. Unfazed, Esparza took the fight on three days’ notice, losing via submission in round two.

3. Making an Impact

After her disappointing Bellator debut, Esparza fought twice before she returned to the promotion. One fight went to a split decision and the other fight lasted only 53 seconds. On both occasions, Esparza had her hand raised. She would return to Bellator to face Jessica Aguilar. The two feisty former Bellator tournament contenders engaged in three hard-fought rounds, with Aguilar earning a split decision victory. Esparza may have lost, but she proved that she could hang with the best in the promotion.

4. Inaugural Champ

For her next fight, Esparza put on a great performance to beat fellow future UFC star Felice Herrig via unanimous decision. On the strength of that victory, she was signed by Invicta FC. It was there where her star would truly shine. After two convincing wins, she challenged Bec Rawlings for the inaugural Invicta FC strawweight championship. Esparza took her opponent down almost at will, raining down punches at every opportunity. The tough Rawlings refused to give up, so Esparza walked away with the decision along with the strawweight strap.

5. Crowned Queen

Esparza relinquished her Invicta FC title to take part in The Ultimate Fighter 20. With the inaugural UFC women’s strawweight title on the line, Esparza powered her way to the finals, tapping out Angela Hill and decisioning Tecia Torres and Jessica Penne. Standing across from her for the finale was Rose Namajunas, whom Esparza dominated with her grappling before eventually submitting her with a rear-naked choke. With the victory, the Team Oyama product topped the tournament and earned her second major championship. Advertisement

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