Namajunas vs. Esparza 2 took place May 7 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Ariz. UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas (11-5) and Carla Esparza (19-6) met in a rematch in the co-main event of UFC 274 more than seven years after their first meeting, which Esparza won to capture the inaugural UFC strawweight title. The fight aired live on ESPN+ pay-per-view. Catch the video highlights below.
For more on Namajunas vs. Esparza 2, check out the live blog by MMA Fighting’s Jed Meshew.
Round 1: Both women come out in orthodox and Rose certainly appears to be much larger than Carla. And she’s immediately on her bike, presenting angles and inviting Carla in. Carla not biting for now. She’s trying to cut the cage (with no effect) and staying at range. Smart.
Through 90 seconds, nothing has happened, it’s a feeling out process. Rose is not rushing things and Carla can’t navigate the distance yet. No strikes have landed through 2 minutes. Carla tries to step in but Rose moves away. Halfway mark and still no strikes landed.
Carla now stepping in a little more and lands a left hand with Rose looks to counter. That opens things up and Rose popping a jab out there. Rose is giving so many angles and it’s hard to see Carla find a way in without selling out, which invites counters. Carla does land a low kick though. Maybe that’s a path forward.
One minute left and we’re still waiting for stuff to happen. Rose keeping the range and Carla content to stay outside. Statistically, both women have landed 3 strikes a piece. Nothing is happening. Carla not closing and Rose staying away. Weird, weird round.
MMA Fighting scores the round 10-10.
Round 2: Esparza MAY have one the round because she held the center more, but really, that’s the definition of a 10-10 to me. Nothing happened.
And round 2 begins similarly but Rose is now coming forward a little more. Feints from both women and they are standing closer to one another but still no action. Rose starting to corner a little more but still, nothing. Seriously, no one is doing anything. I’ve seen movie fights with more danger.
Esparza finally finds something she likes and shoots a single! She gets in on it but Rose shucks it off and we’re back to the dance. Well, at least there was something.
Halfway through the round and again, we’re not seeing action from either fighter. This is perplexingly bad. Far too cautious from both competitors and whoever loses is going to have enormous regrets.
There’s nothing. Just nothing to talk about. Feints and circling. They aren’t throwing, they aren’t trying. They are doing nothing but waiting for the other to implode. Interesting strategy.
Rose lands a left hand and immediately steps back. Carla lands a low kick. The crowd is doing the wave because nothing is happening. This is really not good. Carla lands a front kick at the end of the round.
MMA Fighting scores the round 10-9 Esparza.
Round 3: I scored the second for Esparza against my better judgment because really, noting happened. But Esparza did at least try to do something. So she gets a point.
Rose coming out with more activity to start the third. She’s popping the jab more at least. Carla not throwing much still and Rose is at least putting her hands out there some. Carla shoots and fails but lands a kick on the break.
An exchange! Carla charges in and Rose swings back and Carla drops a takedown and gets it but Rose is immediately back up. Carla lands a left hand. And another. Rose letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Rose lands an uppercut. Carla rushes in for a takedown but not even close. Both women swing and miss. Action is at least starting to pick up. And Rose lands a left.
Rose shifting and giving angles still but not enough activity to back that up. She’s looking a bit like Dominick Cruz if he broke his hands.
Jab from Rose has started to land when Carla steps in. Notably, Rose has thrown no kicks. Zero interest in that. And obviously doesn’t trust her takedown defense to commit to exchanges.
Boo birds are out in force now as Carla shoots an awful takedown and barely touches Rose. Rose glances a right hand before the horn.
MMA Fighting scores the round 10-9 Namajunas, 29-29 overall.
Round 4: The scores could be anything. The corners seem to be pleased with the performances thus far? This is weird. It’s clearly awful and not good from either.
Rose still trying to draw Carla in to counter, but Carla not biting. Rose throws big and misses, and Carla clinches. Immediate break. Rose clearly is faster and more athletic, but she’s not engaging.
Carla shoots on a single and Rose shucks it but Carla stays on the leg like a dog and jumps to the back! Rose pops up and has control against the fence. They separate and that was the biggest thing that has happened in this fight, which is saying something.
Rose needs to do something but she is simply refusing to engage unless it’s picture perfect. Carla shoots again but Rose shucks it off. Great. Defense doesn’t score points. And Jon Anik informs us that 18 minutes in the strikes are 21-18 in favor of Esparza. WOW.
Carla coming forward and Rose on her bike. Counter misses. Now she jabs from a mile away. Steps in for a right hand that lands and now Carla shoots a takedown and has the back with Rose sitting. Rose up and turns and reverses and they’re up and Rose lands a right hand. Back to the dance and it appears that Rose is bleeding from the nose.
Rose can clearly hold her own in the wrestling but has no interest in engaging. This is SO WEIRD.
MMA Fighting scores the round 10-9 Esparza, 39-38 Esparza overall.
Round 5: The scores could be literally anything in the world so who knows what is up here, but on my card, Rose Namajunas is in danger of losing her title by virtue of refusing to do anything. Her corner tells her to go out and show what she’s about. We’ll see.
Carla begins the fifth with more motion and she’s trying to press forward but Rose is on that bike. Rose lands a glancing left and then a right. Carla shoots a bad takedown and Rose shucks away.
Carla comes in with punches and Rose lands a big right. Left lands from Carla in another exchange though. Rose is not “showing what she’s about” right now. She’s doing the same that she has been all fight, which is the bare minimum.
Leg kick from Carla gets checked and Daniel Cormier says if this goes to the cards they need to have a trilogy which Joe Rogan says, completely seriously, “You want to see this again?” That is fair criticism.
Nothing happening. Rose lands a right hand but nothing to follow up. Carla tries to clinch but Rose moves away. Low kick from Rose is checked. Still, nothing happening. Whoever loses this fight is going to be kicking themselves. Horrendous way to fight for a title.
One minute left and Rose has probably won this round but who knows. Rose goes for a takedown but doesn’t even touch her with it. 20 seconds left and nothing. Carla seems to be coasting and with 10 seconds left, Rose shoots a double and gets a takedown but Carla is back on her feet before the bell.
This could easily come down to the first round and if it does, we may have a new champion.
MMA Fighting scores the round 10-9 Namajunas, 48-48 overall.
Carla Esparza Rose Namajunas by split decision (49-46, 47-48, 48-47).