Carla Esparza Steps In To Face Juliana Lima At UFC 197Former UFC women’s strawweight champ Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza makes her long-awaited return to action on April 23rd at UFC 197: “Cormier vs Jones 2” in Las Vegas, Nevada. Esparza steps in on short notice to face Juliana “Ju Thai” Lima. The L.A. Daily News confirmed the matchup today.

Lima was originally slated to face Jessica “Jag” Aguilar on the card, but Aguilar was forced to withdraw from the fight after suffering a torn ACL in training. Lima has won back-to-back UFC bouts, while Esparza competes for the first time since losing her UFC title more than one year ago.

Esparza (10-3-0) captured her first MMA title in early 2013 when she defeated “Rowdy” Bec Rawlings to become the inaugural Invicta FC Strawweight Champion. She subsequently signed with the UFC and capped off a stellar run on The Ultimate Fighter 20 by submitting “Thug” Rose Namajunas at the TUF 20 Finale. The victory earned Esparza the newly-created UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship, but she was rushed back into action for her first defence and relinquished her title to Joanna Jędrzejczyk at UFC 185. Esparza looks to get back into championship contention with a win next month.

Lima (8-2-0) suffered a Unanimous Decision loss to Jędrzejczyk in her July 2014 UFC debut, but she has since bounced back with a pair of quality wins inside the Octagon. She first defeated Nina “The Strina” Ansaroff, then earned one of her most impressive victories to date by dominating Ericka Almeida at UFC Fight Night 67 in May. Lima had planned to face off against Aguilar in a title contender’s bout, but she now receives an even bigger opportunity in the form of a fight against a former UFC champion.

UFC 197: “Cormier vs Jones 2” takes place on April 23rd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event is headlined by a UFC Light Heavyweight Championship rematch between champion Daniel “D.C.” Cormier and former titleholder Jon “Bones” Jones.



(Photo Credit: UFC)