The UFC’s newest division, the women’s strawweight division, crowned its first champion in December, and few were surprised to find that it was TUF 20 favorite and former Invicta FC strawweight champion Carla Esparza having her hand raised after dispatching challenger Rose Namajunas.

Esparza was the favorite heading into The Ultimate Fighter 20, which focused on an elimination tournament to crown the division’s first ever champion, and she more than lived up to the hype. Her performance against Namajunas in the final was dominant, and showed just how strong her wrestling really is.

That’s not to say there aren’t questions about her game.

Is She More Than Just A Wrestler?

First and foremost: will we see a Carla Esparza who shows an improved striking game at UFC 185? Her opponent, noted striker Joanna Jedrzejczyk, is undefeated in her career, and boasts fast hands and several finishes by strikes. What we really want to see at UFC 185 is how Esparza herself has grown in that department. And while standing toe-to-toe with her opponent would likely be suicide, there is more to striking than standing and swinging. Lets see her jab, lets see her footwork, lets see how she combines these with her takedowns.

Esparza does have a number of TKO victories to her name, but a long way to go in that department.

Can She Entertain Outside of Fighting?

Personality goes a long way in MMA. Chael Sonnen knew it. Conor McGregor knows it.

On The Ultimate Fighter 20, names like Bec Rawlings and Felice Herrig often stole the show, for better or worse. When it comes to women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza, it feels like we barely got to know her. That hasn’t really changed in the build up to UFC 185, and it needs to.

Should she win Saturday night, the champ needs to inject a bit of personality in her post-fight interview. She needs to sell the division, as she’s the face of it. Otherwise, she’s going to remain open to the same criticism that champs like Mighty Mouse get: great in the ring, but unable to sell a fight save to the most die-hard of MMA fans.

Can She Become Another Rousey-like Dominant Champion?

Ronda Rousey has set the bar for all female fighters, especially champions. While the comparison is probably unfair, it’s inevitable. The big question then becomes: Can Esparza establish herself with the sort of dominance that Rousey has?

With her fist title defence at UFC 185, she has a chance to start down that road, and all eyes will be on her.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.