Despite their fight being lacklustre at UFC 274, Carla Esparza defeated Rose Namajunas to once again become the UFC Strawweight Champion.
The fight was controversial because there was not a lot of action throughout the initial rounds, and it's been argued by many that the 1st round should have been scored 10-10.
Esparza regained her Strawweight title for a second time, becoming the second women's fighter to win a UFC title on multiple occasions. Ironically, Namajunas was the first to do so.
We went ahead and took a look at five potential fights to make in the Strawweight division, following the aftermath of UFC 274.
The rematch of one of the greatest fights in UFC history will go down on June 11th at UFC 275 in Singapore, and the winner, according to Dana White, will receive the next Strawweight title shot. Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, both former Strawweight champions, put on an all time classic when they first competed UFC 248. Marina Rodriguez was another likely candidate to receive the next title shot, as she is currently on a four fight win streak, but White has said that the winner of the UFC 275 featured bout will receive the next crack at the 115 pound title. Rodriguez has already faced the current champion Esparza, and lost by split decision. This potential fight between Esparza and the winner of Zhang and Joanna, is almost certain to happen next, likely this fall or winter.
With the winner of Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk likely to get a title shot, that leaves Marina Rodriguez without a fight. Many believe that Rodriguez has already done enough to earn a title shot, but the current Champion Carla Esparza holds a win against her from July of 2020. This means that Rodriguez has more work to do. A fight between Rose Namajunas and Marina Rodriguez would be a great stylistic matchup. It would give Namajunas a chance to get back into the win column and would give Rodriguez an opportunity to compete against a former Champion.
Jessica Andrade burst back onto the Strawweight scene, and became a title contender in a little over 3 minutes, as she scored an impressive standing arm triangle submission against Amanda Lemos in April of 2022. Andrade, who is the former Strawweight Champion has always been an entertaining fighter to watch. I would love to see her matched up against Mackenzie Dern next, who is coming off of a win against Tecia Torres. This would be a true striker versus grappler matchup, Andrade is an excellent submission artist herself, and would likely have the striking and wrestling advantage over Dern’s grappling, but Dern has proved that nobody can match her on the ground, which makes this fight so interesting. The winner would definitely insert themselves into title contention.
Another fight I’d be interested to see is Yan Xiaonan vs. Michelle Waterson. Both fighters are on bad runs right now, with Xiaonan on a two fight losing streak, and Waterson having lost 3 of her last 4. Both fighters are in need of a win, and a fight like this is the perfect opportunity to get either woman back on track towards the top of the division. Xiaonan is certainly hungry for a win after getting pummeled by Carla Esparza, and losing a close split decision to Marina Rodriguez. Waterson is a decorated striker, and has not been able to put together a winning streak in a long time. Waterson has fought the best the division has to offer, and a matchup with Xiaonan, who isn’t ranked high in the strawweight rankings, would be a great chance for both to see where they lie within the 115 pound division, and would also make for a great fight between two elite strikers.
This is matchup between two talented strikers that intrigues me. Tecia Torres has fought the best the strawweight division has to offer, and is still a formidable opponent. She rebounded from a four fight losing streak, and came back to win three in a row before dropping a close split decision to Mackenzie Dern last month. Lemos, on the other hand is coming off of a 1st round submission loss to Jessica Andrade, but is still talented and a dangerous opponent for anyone. Her ability to finish a fights is rare for a Strawweight, as 9 of her 11 wins have come by a stoppage. Both fighters have a potential in this division, and can capitalize on that with a win to set them back on track.
The women’s strawweight division is undoubtedly the most intriguing female division in the UFC, with countless former champions and women that would like the opportunity to touch gold down the line. The return of Joanna Jedrzejczyk, the former Strawweight queen, will be so interesting to watch, as we will get to see where she lies within a murderers row of contenders. A new era in the division has begun with Carla Esparza as champion, and so these are 5 fights I would love to see get booked down the line.