More than seven years removed from the first ever UFC women’s strawweight championship, Rose Namajunas (11-4) and Carla Esparza (18-6) are going to run it back.
MMA Fighting confirmed an initial report from Sports Illustrated that Namajunas will defend her title against Esparza in the co-main event of UFC 274 on May 7th. Esparza capped off season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter by choking out Namajunas to become the inaugural UFC champ at 115 lbs way back in December 2014.
Namajunas is the only woman to be a two-time UFC champion. ‘Thug’ Rose won the belt the first time in a stunning upset KO of Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217 in 2017. After winning a rematch over Jedrzejczyk, Namajunas was slam KO’d by Jessica Andrade and lost the title in dramatic fashion. She beat Andrade in a non-title rematch and then recaptured the crown with a head kick KO of Zhang Weili at UFC 261 last year. Rose ended her 2021 with a rematch decision win over Zhang at UFC 268.
Esparza’s reign as champion did not last long, as Joanna Jedrzejczyk TKO’d her at UFC 185 in March 2015. In more recent times, Esparza is on a five-fight winning streak and is coming off a dominant second-round TKO of Yan Xiaonan last May. Her other victories during this title shot earning stretch include a pair of split decisions over Michelle Waterson and Marina Rodriguez, a majority decision over Alex Grasso, and a unanimous decision over Virna Jandiroba.
Incredibly, this will be Namajunas ’5th rematch in what will soon be her 16th professional fight. She’s won the previous four rematches all by decision.
UFC 274 takes place at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The main event is a lightweight title fight between champion Charles Oliveira and former WSOF king and one-time UFC interim champion Justin Gaethje.