Seven years after becoming the first women's strawweight champion in UFC history, Carla Esparza has reclaimed the title with a split decision victory over Rose Namajunas at UFC 274 on Saturday night.
In a bout that generated plenty of negative reviews from fans and analysts online for a lack of action, Esparza did just enough to earn scores of 49-46 and 48-47 from two judges. Namajunas won 48-47 on the scorecard of one judge.
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Esparza put herself in the record books for the longest gap between title reigns in UFC history with her victory.
Neither fighter seemed interested in taking any risks in the fight. They spent most of the five rounds circling each other and rarely trying to attack. Esparza did score two takedowns in the fourth round but was never close to finishing Namajunas.
Per UFC.com, both fighters combined to land a total of 68 strikes over five rounds.
Esparza was able to earn a title shot thanks to five consecutive wins from 2019-21. She defeated Yan Xiaonan by TKO in her most recent fight last May. It was her first stoppage win since submitting Namajunas in 2014.
In that first encounter, Esparza defeated Namajunas by submission in the finale to become the inaugural UFC women's strawweight champion. It was the only time in Namajunas' career that she was submitted and just one of two times she has lost a fight via stoppage coming into Saturday's event.
Per ESPN's Kelsey Puckett, Esparza was even prepared to postpone her wedding date after getting the opportunity to fight for the title.
Esparza joins Namajunas as the only women's strawweight fighters with multiple title reigns in the division. She also held the Invicta FC strawweight championship prior to signing with UFC.
Coming into this bout, Namajunas only had one slip up in the past five years. Her first title reign ended at UFC 237 in May 2019 when Jessica Andrade slammed her into the canvas in a scary moment when she appeared to land on the back of her head and neck.
Thug Rose rebounded nicely, beating Andrade in a rematch at UFC 251. She defeated Zhang Weili twice last year, first to regain the crown and again to retain it, setting up her showdown with Esparza.
Esparza remains the kryptonite for Namajunas in the division. She is the only strawweight fighter with multiple wins over the Wisconsin native. Cookie Monster is in the midst of the most successful stretch of her career, with six consecutive wins.
Now, Esparza's quest to prove her dominance over the rest of the division will begin.