UFC Fight Night Whittaker vs. Till comes to you live from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi tonight, and the card is jam-packed with some of MMA’s biggest superstars. The card is headlined by a Middleweight bout between title contenders Robert Whittaker and Darren Till. But the action doesn’t stop there as several other MMA stars are scheduled to fight, including Shogun Rua, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Fabricio Werdum, Alex Gustafsson, Carla Esparza, and Marina Rodriguez. In this article, we will break down the action between Carla Esparza and Marina Rodriguez.
A middleweight classic is brewing!
— UFC (@ufc) July 23, 2020
Carla Esparza (16-6) vs. Marina Rodriguez (12-0-2)
The lone female fight on the main card is a Strawweight battle between two fighters ranked in the top ten, when seventh-ranked Carla Esparza takes on ninth-ranked Marina Rodriguez. Esparza was famously the inaugural women’s Strawweight champion as she won the Strawweight tournament that stemmed from the Ultimate Fighter show by beating Rose Namajunas in the finals. Esparza quickly lost the title to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her next fight and has gone 5-2 since and is building a case for a shot at the current champ, Weili Zhang.
— UFC (@ufc) July 24, 2020
For Rodriguez, she was a late starter in MMA, as at age thirty-three has only been fighting professionally for five years, but has taken the Strawweight division by storm since she joined the UFC, as she has yet to taste defeat in MMA’s biggest promotion. Rodriguez got her start on Dana White’s contender series and is 2-0-2 in her four UFC fights, with two decision victories and two draws. With a win tonight against an established star like Carla Esparza, you can expect Rodriguez to move up significantly in the Strawweight rankings as this would be the biggest win of her career.
The undefeated Marina Rodriguez is the current betting favorite, laying -182. This fight is expected to go the distance as the to go prop bet is a heavy favorite at -400.
Carla Esparza has fought just about every high-level female fighter in the world at Strawweight. She has victories over Bec Hyatt, Felice Herrig, Rose Namajunas, and Michelle Waterson on her resume. And when you look at who has been able to beat Esparza, it is a who’s who of ladies MMA, with losses coming to Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Cláudia Gadelha, and Tatiana Suarez, all fighters that are currently ranked in the UFC.
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) July 23, 2020
Esparza doesn’t lose often, but when she does, it is almost always to world-class fighters. She has experience fighting in the UFC, Invicta, and Bellator, and comes into this fight on a three-fight winning streak. She last fought on May 9th at UFC 249 and picked up a big win against the Karate Hottie, Michelle Waterson. Interestingly enough, after starting her career out by finishing nine out of her first ten wins, the last six wins for Esparza have all come by way of decision.
Marina Rodriguez was tearing things up on the local Brazilian circuit when she was discovered by Dana White’s on his Contender series. She was 9-0 with five of those wins coming by stoppage. In her last fight, she was well on her way to picking up a huge upset victory over Cynthia Calvillo before she ran out of gas in the third round, and the fight ended as a majority draw.
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) July 23, 2020
That showed the world that this girl can absolutely hang with the best fighters in the UFC as Calvillo is currently ranked second in the women’s Flyweight division, and only has one career loss, which came to, you guessed it, Carla Esparza. While a fight against Esparza will be on a similar level as the fight with Calvillo, a win over Esparza would certainly be the biggest of her career.
This is a very interesting matchup. You have one fighter that has been fighting the best in the world for over a decade in Esparza, fighting another fighter, that just showed up on the scene, but has been making a lot of waves recently. But I am going to be honest here, I was shocked to see Rodriguez as the betting favorite.
While she has impressed at times in spurts, she doesn’t have anywhere near the resume that Esparza has, and all of this recent hype surrounding her came from a fight she didn’t even win. Yeah, she looked great in those first two rounds against Calvillo, but she was lucky to survive the third, and this is why she is now a favorite against a former multi-promotion world champion? I’m not buying it.
One thing that we can be nearly certain about is that this fight is going to go the distance. Neither of these ladies are finishing anybody right now, as Marina has gone the distance in seven out of her last eight fights, and Esparza has sent the fight to the judges in eight out of her last nine. Now that we know this one is going to go to the scorecards, who do I like?
I like Esparza. She is the far more experienced fighter, and while her best days may well be behind her at this point, these two fighters are the same age, so it’s not like this is a young hot prospect coming up and fighting the old guard. Neither of these ladies are spring chickens anymore, but Esparza has won three straight fights and could have one more title run left in her.
When I look at the betting odds, I can get Esparza at +145, which is quite juicy. But when I look at the fact that this fight just isn’t going to end in a stoppage, I may as well pick up a little extra juice and take Esparza by decision victory, which pays out an even more attractive, +162.
Normally you would expect to pick up a higher premium than that by listing how the fight will end, but there is very little risk to Esparza stopping this fight, so I am just going to pick up the extra free cash. Give me Carla Esparza as she outclasses a game, yet overmatched, Marina Rodriguez, that hasn’t show me that she can beat a truly world-class fighter just yet, by decision at +162!