Carla Esparza has a date and an opponent for her first defense of the UFC strawweight title belt.
Esparza will co-main event UFC 185 opposite Joanna Jedrzejczyk on March 14 in Dallas. The bout was announced on UFC Tonight on Wednesday.
The talented American wrestler captured the inaugural title by winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 20. On the show, she defeated Angela Hill, Tecia Torres and Jessica Penne to earn her spot in the finals against Rose Namajunas. The former Invicta FC champion dominated Namajunas before submitting her with a rear-naked choke to wear UFC gold.
Jedrzejczyk was rising on the flyweight scene before dropping in weight to join the UFC roster. She looked outstanding in her debut against Juliana Lima and then narrowly beat top-ranked Claudia Gadelha by split decision at UFC on Fox 13. It put her in the cat bird's seat for being the first contender.
This matchup should be a classic grappler vs. striker affair.
Jedrzejczyk's boxing may be the best in the division. She has underrated power in her hands. She works the body extremely well, and head shots follow shortly after. Esparza, on the other hand, is a grinder. Her wrestling wears out her opponents.
Esparza has a career record of 10-2 and is currently on a five-fight win streak. Her last loss was to Jessica Aguilar by split decision at Bellator 46 in 2011. Jedrzejczyk did not make her pro debut until 2012, and she is a perfect 8-0 in her professional career.
This is an outstanding strawweight bout that should be pure action from bell to bell. The aggressiveness of Jedrzejczyk will put pressure on the champion, and Esparza's wrestling will test Jedrzejczyk's ability to go deep into a fight.
The American Airlines Center plays host to a hot fight card coming up in two months' time. Two title fights are set, and the rest of the card is filling out nicely as well. This is a big spot for the women's strawweight division to prove it can help bolster a pay-per-view fight card.
This is an important fight not only because of the title, but also because of how new this division is.
Esparza and Jedrzejczyk are tasked with elevating the division in front of a large audience in Dallas.
UFC 185 is headlined by a UFC lightweight championship bout between Anthony Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos. The event will be live on PPV March 14.