A key strawweight fight has been booked for a UFC Fight Night event in May.
Carla Esparza and Yan Xiaonan are expected to face off on May 22, in a 115lb battle that could very well produce the next title contender. Esparza had previously teased that she had fight news coming up.
MMA DNA was first to report the news.
Esparza (17-6), 33, was the UFC’s inaugural 115lb champion, crowned after the culmination of The Ultimate Fighter 20 in 2014. After losing her title to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, the “Cookie Monster” has been working her way back to a title shot ever since.
Frankly, she’s the closest she has come. Prior to news of Weili Zhang vs. Rose Namajunas being booked for UFC 261, UFC President Dana White had suggested that Esparza could be next in line for a title shot. While that was likely to put pressure on Namajunas to sign on for the Zhang fight, there’s no question that a win over Xiaonan would put Esparza on the short list for the next crack at gold.
Since April 2019, Esparza has put together four straight wins, defeating Virna Jandiroba, Alexa Grasso, Michelle Waterson, and Marina Rodriguez in that stretch.
China’s Yan Xiaonan (13-1, 1NC) arguably has an even better case to fight for gold. The 31-year old has won all six of her fights inside the octagon, including victories over former title challengers Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Claudia Gadelha. All six of her wins have come via unanimous decision.
The UFC’s May 22 card does not currently have a location, venue, or broadcast plans announced. Reported for the event thus far are the following bouts:
Raulian Paiva vs. David Dvorak
Felicia Spencer vs. Danyelle Wolf
Denys Bondar vs. Victor Rodriguez
Carla Esparza vs. Yan Xiaonan