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The co-main event comes in the Women’s Strawweight division, as the Champion “Thug” Rose Namajunas makes her second title defense against an old foe in Carla “The Cookie Monster” Esparza. A rematch over seven years in the making, Namajunas will seek to exact revenge on Esparza. A neophyte during the first fight, with only three professional fights, Namajunas has since evolved herself into arguably the best Strawweight ever. A winner of three straight and six of the last seven, Namajunas comes into this rematch arguably in her prime. Meanwhile, Esparza has scratched and clawed her way back to a title shot. Once regarded as the best Strawweight, Esparza finds herself a win away from reclaiming her throne. With five straight wins, the Cookie Monster is coming into this fight with excellent momentum.

As for a prediction, I have Namajunas winning. While this one of the tougher fights to call, especially considering how effective of a wrestler Esparza is, I believe Namajunas’ grappling acumen is going to give Esparza fits. Not necessarily with submission attempts, but how quickly Namajunas can escape positions and get back to her feet. In the first fight between the two, Esparza controlled Namajunas for five of the twenty-five minutes. Since that fight, Namajunas has been controlled for only a combined 9:14 in eleven fights. A striker, with excellent technique and timing, Namajunas has proven over and over that she is the standard in the division. Esparza being a wrestler, is a quality striker who more or less effectively uses it to set-up her takedowns. The concern for her, is if Namajunas can continually get back to the feet. The exertion of wrestling combined with a clear disadvantage on the feet, would put Esparza in a dangerous position in the later rounds. A scenario which I foresee playing out. So with that said, I predict Namajunas retains her title via TKO.

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