Namajunas fell to Esparza by third-round submission (rear-naked choke) in the UFC's inaugural women's strawweight title fight at The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale here at the Pearl at the Palms. Namajunas was the chic pick to win the fight and become the face of the new division.
"I was very excited to go in there and win it and take it all," Namajunas said in the post-fight press conference. "I just gotta go back and really just ponder everything and try to evolve and learn from this and grow as a woman. I kind of felt like a kid in there. I just gotta take that and grow from this just like my last loss."
Esparza used her wrestling to essentially dominate the second and third rounds. Namajunas came out extremely aggressive in the first and landed big punches and knees. Esparza ate all of them, stayed composed and executed her game plan perfectly.
Namajunas, 22, is still extremely young. This was only her fifth career pro fight and her first was just last year. Maybe all the hype surrounding her -- like UFC president Dana White saying she was the next Ronda Rousey -- will one day come to fruition. It just won't be this weekend.
"This is just an investment in my future," Namajunas said. "I'm gonna tweak some things, I'm gonna work harder and I'm gonna be back."
Namajunas rolled through the competition on The Ultimate Fighter 20 relatively easily, submitting Alex Chambers, Joanne Calderwood and Randa Markos en route to the finals. As the victories, all impressive, piled up, so did the hype. Even though Esparza was the former Invicta FC 115-pound champion, Namajunas spent a long time as a favorite in this fight at the sportsbooks here in Vegas.
Did Namajunas feel any of the pressure of all those headlines about her? Maybe. She wouldn't give that a straight answer.
"It always adds pressure," Namajunas sad. "It's just a matter of when you get in there, is it gonna be too much or is it just enough? I found out tonight that I just gotta be patient and take my time with this. I got a lot of time."