This Saturday the UFC returns to Arizona with a stacked lineup, headlining the card are a pair of title fights in the Strawweight and Lightweight divisions as ‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas takes on former strawweight champion Carla Esparza is one of the most anticipated rematches in the division’s history, the main event is a tilt between Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira who is defending his belt for a second time when he takes on a longtime contender and #1 ranked lightweight Justin Gaethje.
Rose Namajunas (11-4) vs Carla Esparza (18-6): A rematch nearly 8 years in the making, Rose and Carla faced each other for the inaugural strawweight title during the TUF finale. Carla was already 12 fights into her career and was on a 4 fight win streak, she faced a young up and coming Rose who was only 2-1. During their fight Carla dominated the grappling exchanges and managed to dominate Rose on the ground, Rose showed promise of what was to come but was still very green and a more seasoned vet Esparza sank in the RNC in the 3rd round. Rose is on pace to being considered one of the GOATS at strawweight, so if Carla can repeat her success, we could be looking at an upset of major proportions.
Striking: Carla had to learn the hard way that you can’t just be a dominant wrestler and not evolve your other skills, especially striking. In her 1st ever title defence (after beating Rose) Carla faced a human buzz saw in Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who ran through her like a hot knife through butter. This caused her to revamp her approach to a fight and work on her and has shown major improvement. Rose on the other hand continues to work with coaches Pat Barry and Trevor Whittman and is widely considered one of the elite strikers in all of MMA, her KOs of Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Zhang Weili are proof of just that, still not a believer? Watch her sparring video with 125 champ Valentina Schevchenko. Advantage: Rose
Grappling: This might be the most interesting department to consider in this matchup. Both fighters are excellent grapplers but of different kinds. On one hand, Carla is one of if not the best wrestler in the division, she can take fighters down at will and hold them there, in her last fight against Yan Xiaonan she dominated the Chinese fighter and TKO’d her in the 2nd round via crucifix. Rose on the other hand uses her grappling to avoid bad positions and to get back to he feet, she no longer gets dominated or frustrated which will serve her in this fight. Advantage: Carla
Endurance: When I use the word endurance I don’t only mean cardio, endurance is also how much punishment and heart the fighter has. Both fighters here are cardio queens, both fighters here can take major hits and keep coming, but I feel like Rose has shown the heart of a champion more often and can face adversity much better. Advantage: Rose
Final prediction: Rose via 2nd round TKO.
Charles Oliveira (32-8) vs Justin Gaethje (22-3): Charles is quickly becoming one of the most versatile fighters in all of MMA, one of the best grapplers in the game Charles has shown a tremendous evolution in his striking, he TKO’d Michael Chandler to win the belt and more than held his own vs the Diamond. JG is gearing up for his second official title fight (was interim champ), he is coming off one of the best LW fights of all time when he beat Michael Chandler by UD.
Striking: It’s no secrete that JG is the most dominant striker of the two. As his nickname indicates, he is a human highlight reel. In 22 victories he has 19 by KO or TKO and has KO over granite chin fighters and legendary strikers like Tony Ferguson, Edson Barboza and Cowboy Cerrone, his leg kicks are legendary and can take out his opponent’s knees. The champ has turned his weakness into a borderline strength, Charles has shown he can be methodical yet dangerous when he wants. JG tends to get reckless and turn wild like a shark smelling blood, this could prove costly if the champ catches him with a shot and takes his back for instant submission. Advantage: Gaethje
Grappling: Again, same as the striking department there is no question who the better pure grappler is. JG is a very good wrestler and has no fear if the fight hits the floor, but remember what Khabib did to him in their fight when he submitted him in the second round. Charles has 20 career wins by submissions and is the UFC all-time leader with 15. All he needs is a split second and he will either put you to sleep or take a limb with him back to Brazil. Advantage: Charles
Endurance: If you had asked me this question in 2020, I would have said that without a doubt JG has the most endurance. There was a point in time when many questioned whether Charles could take the punishment or if he had the will to withstand a stand-up war. Yet in his last 3 fights, Do Bronx has shown the heart of a lion and proved all the haters wrong. JG is the lightweight Korean Zombie, the man has a legendary chin and is even more dangerous when rocked, much like the champ he can go the full 5 rounds and not look tired. Advantage: Gaethje
Prediction: In 9 UFC fights JG has won performance or fight of the night 8 times. He can turn every match into a full-blown war but has to be careful not to slip up even for a second. The champ Oliveira has more ways to end this fight than the challenger, there is a new focus and improved skillset which he brings to every fight and even though he wasn’t supposed to beat Tony Ferguson, Kevin Lee, Michael Chandler or DP he did. Prediction: Charles Oliveira 2 round submission.