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TUF 20: Esparza-Namajunas set for UFC world title

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What started as 16 has now come down to 2

Carla Esparza never lost her Invicta FC strawweight title. She was forced to relinquish it when she was asked to enter the UFC to compete in a tournament for what would be considered by most quite the upgrade –  a shot at the inaugural UFC 115 lbs strap. And she came into the TUF 20 house with a target on her back.

That didn’t stop the top seeded fighter from making it to the finals in on the strength or her world-class wrestling and much improved striking which helped her get past former Invicta atomweight champion Jessica Penne in the semi-finals.

Her opponent on Friday night, Rose Namajunas, went 3 for 3 in the TUF house: 3 fights, 3 submissions. A RNC of Alex Chambers followed by two kimuras over Joanne Calderwood and Randa Markos respectively earned her a spot in one of the most important fights of the year.

Much like the Esparza-Penne fight, the majority of this championship contest could take place on the toes. Esparza’s wrestling and Namajunas’ jiu-jitsu may cancel each other out forcing both girls to stand and trade. The problem with that for Esparza is that although she’s improved her striking and her head movement looked great against Penne she is dealing with a far superior and much trickier fighter in “Thug” Rose. Although she is for all intents and purposes the champion entering this fight, Esparza faces her toughest test to date in the up and coming 22-year-old 2013 submission of the year winner. As mentioned by Dwayne Wolff earlier this week, Namajunas is also one of those fighters that fits into that same “New Breed” mold as fellow Milwaukeean Anthony Pettis.

While Namajunas does have a lot more tools in her arsenal, Esparza’s wrestling game is so automatic and polished that it makes her impossible to bet against in any fight with confidence.

Also of note, Namajunas was the only Team Melendez fighter to win her preliminary fight in the house to advance to the second round of this tournament. After going 1-7 in that opening round and being submitted by Pettis in their title fight this past Saturday night, this could be a huge victory for Gilbert as well.

Here is your full updated card for Friday nights fights inside of Las Vegas’ Palms Casino Resort.

Main Card (FS1)

• Women’s Strawweight Title Bout: Carla Esparza (9-2) vs. Rose Namajunas (2-1)
• Featherweight Bout: Jeremy Stephens (23-10) vs. Charles Oliveira (18-4)
• Lightweight Bout: Daron Cruickshank (16-5) vs. K.J. Noons (13-7)
• Lightweight Bout: Joe Proctor (10-2) vs. Yancy Mederios (10-2)
• Women’s Strawweight Bout: Jessica Penne (11-2) vs. Randa Markos (4-1)

Preliminary Card (FS1)

• Women’s Strawweight Bout: Felice Herrig (9-5) vs. Lisa Ellis (15-8)
• Women’s Strawweight Bout: Bec Rawlings (5-3) vs. Heather Jo Clark (6-4)
• Women’s Strawweight Bout: Joanne Calderwood (8-0) vs. Seo Hee Ham (15-5)
• Women’s Strawweight Bout: Tecia Torres (4-0) vs. Angela Magana (11-6)

Preliminary Card (Fight Pass)

• Women’s Strawweight Bout: Aisling Daly (14-5) vs. Alex Chambers (4-1)
• Women’s Strawweight Bout: Emily Kagan (3-1) vs. Angela Hill (1-0)

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