Two-time All-American wrestler Carla Esparza earned a dominant decision victory tonight at Xtreme Fighting Championships 15: “Tribute” in Tampa, Florida. Esparza employed an effective game plan of takedowns and top control to defeat striker Felice “Lil’ Bulldog” Herrig after three rounds.
Displaying marked improvement in her striking, Esparza was able to hold her own in the standup battles with Herrig and shined on the ground. Herrig was game and threatened with submissions in the final round, but Esparza escaped danger and emerged victorious for the sixth time in her career.
Esparza (6-2-0) wasted no time in immediately taking Herrig (5-4-0) down to open the fight and she remained active from the top with elbows. Herrig managed to stand up, but was taken down again and Esparza wound up in side control after a judo throw. She rained down more punches and elbows that caused a giant hematoma to form above Herrig’s left eye.
It was Herrig who got the takedown in round two, but Esparza immediately reversed and resumed striking from the top. Herrig worked for submissions from the bottom, but Esparza slammed out of them and the fighters were stood up. Esparza scored with a front kick to the face and another takedown late in the round.
Esparza showcased her improved striking with a pair of quick one-twos in the final round and prevented Herrig from taking her down. Esparza tripped Herrig and landed hard elbow strikes until Herrig countered a keylock with a leg scissor choke. Esparza escaped and landed knees. The fighters were stood up and Herrig landed a vicious front kick before the final bell.
All three judges sided with Esparza, who won for the third time in her past four fights.
Winner: Carla Esparza by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) after three rounds. She improves to 6-2-0.
For Herrig, who had won five of six bouts leading into tonight’s matchup, the loss could be a significant setback. The talented striker signed a three-fight deal with XFC and had looked to continue her climb up the ranks at her new home of 115 pounds. As the flyweight division becomes more competitive, Herrig will likely face tough tests in her two remaining bouts for the promotion, which may come in 2012.