Carla Esparza Becomes First UFC Women's Strawweight ChampionFormer Invicta FC champion Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza made history once again tonight in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada. Esparza submitted highly-touted rising star “Thug” Rose Namajunas to become the inaugural UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion.

Tonight’s championship fight capped off the first all-female season of The Ultimate Fighter, which featured 16 of the top female strawweights in MMA. Also tonight, another former Invicta FC champion, Jessica Penne, earned a hard-fought Split Decision victory over Randa Markos on the main card.


Esparza (10-2-0) and Namajunas (2-2-0) wasted no time in getting the action started tonight and both women landed quick strikes in the frenetic opening minute. Esparza caught a jumping switch kick and took Namajunas down, and she scored with some solid punches from the top. Namajunas returned to her feet and displayed an impressive arsenal of kicks. Esparza landed punches and knees on the feet and she scored two more takedowns before the end of the round.

In round two, Esparza took the fight to the ground again and she avoided a Namajunas armbar attempt. She postured up and landed hard shots from the top that allowed her to move to side control. From there, Esparza kept the pressure on with elbows to the sides of Namajunas’s head. She mounted Namajunas and unloaded with punches, but Namajunas rolled to her side and survived until the bell.

Esparza scored another takedown in round three and quickly transitioned to Namajunas’s back. She flattened her out and used punches to set up a rear-naked choke. Namajunas defended, but Esparza locked on the choke and Namajunas was forced to submit at the 1:26 mark of round three.

Tonight’s impressive victory earned Esparza the inaugural UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship and the TUF 20 tournament trophy. The skilled wrestler has won five straight fights since suffering a contentious Split Decision loss to WSOF champion Jessica “Jag” Aguilar in June 2011. Esparza now awaits the winner of tomorrow’s top contender’s bout between Claudia “Claudinha” Gadelha and Joanna Jędrzejczyk at UFC on FOX 13.


In one of the best fights on tonight’s card, Penne (12-2-0) edged out fellow TUF 20 semi-finalist Markos (4-2-0) after three rounds of entertaining grappling.

Penne took Markos down in the opening round and opened a cut below Markos’s right eyebrow in the process. She passed to mount and landed punches until Markos kicked her off and returned to her feet. She kicked at a downed Penne’s legs and dove in with a right hand. Penne countered with a triangle choke and a brief gogoplata attempt, and she finished the round by landing punches from top position.

Markos rallied with a takedown and crisp punching combinations on the feet in round two. Penne reversed a later takedown, but Markos swept back into top position and mounted the former Invicta FC titleholder. Penne scrambled out and landed punches from Markos’s half-guard before the bell. Markos got off to a strong start with punching flurries in round three, but Penne took her down into side control and transitioned to a rear-naked choke. She released the choke and punched from the top, but Markos trapped her in a tight inverted triangle choke in the final seconds.

The close bout went to the scorecards and one judge saw it 29-28 for Markos. The remaining two had it 30-27 and 29-28, respectively, for Penne, who took the Split Decision win and joined a short list of future title contenders for Esparza’s new belt.


Tonight’s preliminary card featured six women’s bouts that included many members of the TUF 20 cast.

In one, Felice “Lil’ Bulldog” Herrig (10-5-0) submitted veteran Lisa Ellis (15-9-0) in the second round after a wild opening round that saw both women threaten with submissions. Ellis nearly choked Herrig out with a standing guillotine choke mere seconds into the bout. Herrig escaped and attempted a triangle armbar and an arm-triangle choke. In round two, Herrig mounted Ellis and worked for submissions until she was able to force Ellis to tap out to an armbar at the 3:05 mark of the second round.

“Hurricane” Heather Clark (7-4-0) took a well-deserved Unanimous Decision victory over former Invicta FC title challenger “Rowdy” Bec Rawlings (5-4-0) in a back-and-forth bout. Clark landed a powerful right hand early in the fight that allowed her to control much of round one on the ground. She reversed a takedown and threatened with rear-naked chokes in round two. Rawlings had her best success in round three by landing punches and stuffing Clark’s takedowns. It was not enough, however, and scores were 29-28 thrice for Clark, who picked up her biggest win to date.

In a fast-paced striking battle, Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood (9-0-0) outpointed Deep Jewels Featherweight Champion Seo Hee Ham (15-6-0), who was making her Octagon debut. Ham put together combinations of leg kicks and punches early on, but Calderwood found her range in the later stages of the round and she scored with some nice knees. Ham bloodied Calderwood’s nose in round two, but Calderwood scored a takedown and she dominated the final five minutes after taking Ham down again. Ham survived an arm-triangle choke, but Calderwood finished the round strong with ground and pound. Scores were 30-27 twice and 30-26 for Calderwood, who remains unbeaten.

Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres (5-0-0) kept her unblemished professional record intact with a lopsided Unanimous Decision win over “Your Majesty” Angela Magana (11-7-0). Torres dropped Magana with a left hook in the opening round and she continued her dominance on the feet in rounds two and three. She mixed things up well with punching combinations and kicks that kept Magana guessing. Torres rocked her late in round three and finished the round with ground and pound. The bout went to the judges and scored were 30-26 and 30-27 twice for Torres.

Earlier in the night, Aisling “Ais The Bash” Daly (15-5-0) earned her first UFC victory with a first-round submission of Alex “Astro Girl” Chambers (4-2-0). Daly tried for armbars and she mounted Chambers on two occasions in the opening round. The second time, she was able to trap Chambers in a tight armbar that forced Chambers to submit at the 4:53 mark of round one.

Angela “Overkill” Hill (2-0-0) proved again that she is better than her #16 ranking on TUF 20 by mauling Emily Kagan (3-2-0) en route to a very one-sided Unanimous Decision win. Hill battered and bloodied Kagan with punches, knees, kicks and elbows throughout the fight. Kagan managed to briefly get the fight to the ground in the final round, but it was nowhere near enough to steal the round or the fight. Scores were 30-27 and 30-26 twice for Hill, who walked away with a commanding victory.

Full play-by-play for bouts on tonight’s TUF 20 Finale card can be found here.



(Photo Credit: Esther Lin, /

  1. Great night of fights. I really hope none of the 8 girls who lost last night get cut from the UFC. I think all of them showed up and gave their best. Very entertaining fights end-to-end. And Carla is indeed worthy of the title – I don’t know who else could have withstood those blistering opening minutes against Rose. This division has a fantastic future.

    I hope everyone can watch the Gadelha vs. Jędrzejczyk fight tonight. I didn’t realize that was a contenders fight for the right to go against Esparza for the title. But that makes all the sense in the world. Man have the women arrived!

  2. Everyone from TUF 20 who lost gets cut except for Namajunas and Markos. The UFC occasionally keeps one or two TUF fighters who lost on the undercard if they see potential in them, but from what I’ve heard, the prelim losers will be immediately cut. This excludes Seo Hee Ham, as her contract is completely separate from TUF. She will not be cut.

  3. Thank you Robert. Very interesting insights. So this would mean that Ellis, Magana, Rawlings, Chambers, and Kagain are likely out. It’s a tough business. Hopefully we’ll get to see all of these girls again in Invicta FC. I would think Shannon would be delighted to have them back. 🙂

  4. I disagree….none will be cut. This is womens UFC. The building of a division requires bodies and there simply is not enough to start cutting everyone from the show who lost their first UFC fight. My prediction…maybe one or two get cut if they lose a second fight but I doubt it

  5. If you follow UFC fights enough you will discover that cutting fighters has nothing to do with wins or losses (jake shields, jon fitch)…it has to do with making people in the seats want to watch you win or lose. All these girls laid it on the line. The only one whose head was never in the game was Lisa Ellis…and I don’t think she cares either way.

  6. Bottom line…you can’t compare this TUF with any of the previous TUF’s…apples and oranges.