Carla Esparza captured the vacant Invicta FC strawweight title with a lopsided decision win over Bec Hyatt at Invicta FC 4 on Saturday night.
Throughout the five-round bout, Esparza utilized her wrestling to control Hyatt on the ground. While Hyatt kept pushing herself and scored a knockdown in the closing second of the fight, it was too little too late for the 23-year-old Australian.
Esparza survived the late flurry to hear all three judges award her a 50-45 edge on their scorecards.
A former Bellator competitor, the 25-year-old Esparza now finds herself atop the 115-pound division with four-fight winning streak, which includes a victory over the highly ranked Felice Herrig.
Since Hyatt was actually the third proposed opponent for Esparza at Invicta FC 4, there should be plenty of challengers for the all-women's organization to pick from for the strawweight champion's first title defense.
Undefeated Jewels champion Ayaka Hamasaki was originally slated to compete against Esparza for the 115-pound Invicta belt. However, Hamasaki pulled out of that fight to defend her Jewels title, which she successfully kept by beating Emi Fujino.
With Hamasaki out, Shooto fighter Claudia Gadelha was pegged as a replacement opponent for Esparza. Gadelha also dropped off of the fight card due to a broken nose, leaving the door open for Hyatt to step in on late notice.
Because of the scheduling conflicts surrounding her Jewels commitments, Hamasaki may not be looked at as a potential title challenger by Invicta FC again.
Instead, Gadelha and Joanne Calderwood, who picked up an impressive win over Livia von Plettenberg at Invicta FC 4, appear to be the leading candidates to face Esparza next.