A strawweight pairing between inaugural UFC division champion, Carla ‘Cookie Monster’ Esparza, and Muay Thai ace, Marina Rodriguez is in the works to feature at a UFC event on July 15th. – with a location and venue yet to be confirmed by the promotion. The planned matching would serve as Esparza’s first outing as part of a recently signed multi-fight deal with the organization.
Team Oyama product, Esparza will make a quick turnaround, following a close split decision win over former Invicta FC atomweight champion, Michelle ‘The Karate Hottie’ Waterson at UFC 249 in Jacksonville recently. The 32-year-old had campaigned for a bad-blooded rematch with former title challenger, Cláudia Gadelha, however, a pairing with Gadelha’s compatriot, Rodriguez is in the works instead. Undefeated in four outings with the UFC, Rodriguez last fought to a majority draw against Cynthia Calvillo back at UFC Fight Night D.C. in December. News of the expected pairing was initially reported by ESPN reporter, Brett Okamoto.
In the midst of a definite career resurgence, California native, Esparza – had notched three consecutive victories in as many outings, following two straight losses. Against both Virna Jandiroba, and Alexa Grasso last year – the NAIA wrestler secured a unanimous, and split decision triumph, respectively. With a record of 16-6, Esparza is a standout at strawweight – taking both the inaugural Invicta FC strawweight and UFC 115-pound gold.
Following an April 2018 appearance and knockout over Maria de Oliveira Neta on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contenders Series – Rodriguez signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC. Debuting in a pairing with Randa Markos, the 33-year-old battled to a majority draw.
In two wins since, the Rio Grande do Sul native picked up victories over former WSOF strawweight best, Jessica Aguilar, and longtime division challenger, Tecia ‘Tiny Tornado’ Torres. In fourteen professional outings – Rodriguez is undefeated. Rodriguez was scheduled to meet with her fellow Brazilian, the aforementioned Gadelha at UFC Fight Night Oklahoma City in May, until the entire card was shelved amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.