At Bellator 24, 3-0 prospect Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza walked into the Bellator cage to face undefeated Japanese superstar Megumi Fujii in the quarterfinals of the 115-pound women’s tournament. Esparza, who had taken the fight against Fujii on short notice, was able to hold her own until Fujii caught her in an arm-bar in the second round.
Flash forward to two years and Esparza, who is now 8-2 in her MMA career, will face undefeated Jewels Lightweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki for the Invicta FC Strawweight (115-pounds) championship at Invicta FC 4.
Esparza earned the title shot after scoring an impressive first-round victory over Lynn Alvarez at Invicta FC 3.
Although the Cookie Monster has finished her last-two fights by TKO, she has an extensive wrestling background and trains in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. She has been training with former opponent Felice Herrig.
If Esparza wants to get the early win, she may need to keep the fighting on her feet.
Hamasaki is a black belt in judo and four of her eight wins have come by way of submission. She is also no stranger to fighting in the Invicta cage, as her last fight was against Lacey Shuckman back at Invicta FC 2, where she scored a third-round submission victory by arm-bar.
The championship match between Esparza and Hamasaki is expected to headline Invicta FC 4. If Esparza manages to defeat Hamasaki and claim the strawweight title, she will have no shortage of challengers for her first title defense.
Who do you think will walk away with the Invicta Strawweight title? Answer with a comment below or send a tweet to @alstover with the hashtag #RantMMA