Very few punches were thrown. Some takedowns were achieved. At the end of 25 minutes in the co-main event of UFC 274, Carla Esparza regained the bantamweight title.
A rematch eight years in the making anchored the UFC 274 co-main event on Saturday, with Phoenix playing host to women’s strawweight champ Rose Namajunas looking to avenge an early-career loss to Carla Esparza.
Given “Thug” Rose had been all of 2-1 as a pro when the pair first met, the loss would normally be a little less than noteworthy. But cause it came in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 20, with the inaugural women’s strawweight title on the line, it added a little more weight to the shared history of the pair.
Namajunas was keeping a healthy distance from Esparza to start the fight without strikes thrown. Esparza leapt forward with a superman punch but came up well short. A quick left hand landed for Esparza as she narrowly avoided a counter. Namajunas smoothly avoided a charge from Esparza then landed a jab. Simultaneous punches landed with about 40 seconds left.
Rose landed a jab and Esparza nearly finished a single leg takedown but Namajunas was able to avoid it. Rose got back to keeping a healthy distance from Esparza and avoided her for the entire round save for a jab.
Esparza shot for a takedown that was quickly defended, then went right back in and got her down for a moment before Rose popped back up. A punch landed for Namajunas and Esparza answered with a left hook. Esparza shot for two more takedowns as a disguise to throw strikes, but nothing came of it. Once again, Namajunas avoided Esparza for the remainder of the round.
Early in the fourth round, Namajunas defended a takedown and landed a jab. Esparza got in deep on a takedown and had her back for a moment, but was too high and fell off. Esparza came up empty on her next takedown attempt but landed a hook on the way out. Finally, Esparza completed a takedown and had Namajunas’ back for more than a passing moment. Namajunas then bucked her off and landed a strong right straight. The round ended with a leg kick from Esparza.
Namajunas avoided a takedown early on then landed a right straight. An exchange happened in the center of the cage and Esparza’s left hook was the most notable shot landed. A left hand landed for Esparza again after she faked a takedown. A right landed for Namajunas as a left connected for Esparza. Namajunas landed another right as she finally began opening up. Namajunas landed a takedown with 10 seconds left to cap off a strange UFC 274 co-main event.
Carla Esparza def. Rose Namajunas by Split Decision (48-47, 49-46, 47-48)