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UFC Fight Island 3: Esparza vs Rodriguez Preview

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For the fourth and final time in July, there will be UFC action hosted on Fight Island! On July 25th, Fight Island will play host to UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs Till. This card will feature Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza vs Marina Rodriguez in a women’s strawweight fight that is sure to entertain. Ranked at #7, Esparza will be looking to hold off Rodriguez, #9, from jumping ahead of her in the UFC women’s strawweight division.

Both fighters will be looking to make a jump up the rankings with a strong performance and jumpstart a championship run in the process. Esparza will be looking to return to the top of the division after an up-and-down career since winning the inaugural UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship back in 2014. On the other side, Rodriguez will be seeking to continue her fast rise up the rankings by beating a well-prepared, veteran fighter. Which fighter will walk away with another win added to their record?!

Carla EsparzaTale of the TapeMarina Rodriguez
16-6MMA Record12-0-2
115 poundsWeight115 pounds
63 inchesReach65 inches

Esparza’s History

Carla Esparza holding her arms up in victory. Esparza vs Rodriguez.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – SEPTEMBER 21: Carla Esparza celebrates her victory over Alexa Grasso of Mexico in their women’s strawweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event on September 21, 2019 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Before her start in the UFC, Esparza fought for Bellator and Invicta FC, as well as some other smaller promotions. Not long after defeating Bec Rawlings for the inaugural Invicta FC Strawweight Championship, Esparza was invited to participate in the 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter. This season would feature the UFC’s debut of the women’s strawweight division, with the first-ever UFC Strawweight Champion being decided in the finale.

Esparza was outstanding in the tournament. She earned wins over Angela Hill, Tecia Torres, and Jessica Penne on her way to a championship match-up with Rose Namajunas. In the title fight, Esparza dominated Namajunas with brilliant grappling and ground strikes before earning the win by way of a rear naked choke. And just like that, Carla Esparza had as good a start to her UFC career as one could possibly have.

Unfortunately for Esparza, her immediate success in the UFC was short-lived. Esparza’s next fight was a title defense attempt against the undefeated Joanna Jędrzejczyk. Esparza would lose this fight by TKO in just the second round, ending her championship run. Following that loss, Esparza went on a 3-3 run. In those six fights, she defeated Juliana Lima, Maryna Moroz, and Cynthia Calvillo but lost fights to Randa Markos, Cláudia Gadelha, and Tatiana Suarez.

After dropping two fights in a row to Gadelha and Saurez, Esparza has been on a three-fight win streak. She started the streak off with a win over Virna Jandiroba. She then followed that win up with wins over Alexa Grasso and Michelle Waterson. Will Esparza be able to earn her fourth win in a row by defeating Rodriguez and rejoin the title conversation?

Rodriguez’s History

Marina Rodriguez throwing a kick.
WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 07: (R-L) Marina Rodriguez of Brazil kicks Cynthia Calvillo in their catchweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Capital One Arena on December 07, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Marina Rodriguez has never lost a fight in her professional career. With two draws on her record, she has come close to tasting defeat but has managed to elude experiencing a loss. Like many new UFC fighters these days, Rodriguez got her shot by way of Dana White’s Contender Series. After nine wins in her native Brazil, Rodriguez earned her shot on DWCS by way of a first-round TKO victory over Maria Oliveira.

Since her appearance on DWCS, Rodriguez has enjoyed an interesting UFC career. In her UFC debut, Rodriguez fought to a majority draw with Randa Markos. She followed her first draw up with decision wins over Jessica Aguilar and Tecia Torres. In her most recent fight, Rodriguez once again fought to a majority draw, this time with Cynthia Calvillo. Will Rodriguez be able to keep her undefeated record when she goes up against Esparza?

Esparza vs Rodriguez Prediction

This fight really could go either way. Both fighters are very hungry and will be looking to jumpstart a championship run with a win. On paper, these fighters appear to be evenly matched. Both are solid strikers, with the advantage leaning towards Rodriguez on the feet. Esparza is very good at getting takedowns, but Rodriguez has good takedown defense. Ultimately, this fight is going to come down to whoever impresses the judges the most.

Esparza vs Rodriguez Result: Rodriguez by unanimous decision.

Marina Rodriguez holding up a Brazilian flag. Esparza vs Rodriguez.
MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY – AUGUST 10: Marina Rodriguez of Brazil poses for a portrait backstage after her victory over Tecia Torres during the UFC Fight Night event at Antel Arena on August 10, 2019 in Montevideo, Uruguay. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)

Carla Esparza is a very good fighter that isn’t too far out of title contention. A win against Marina Rodriguez would give her a fourth win in a row and put her in line to fight one of the top contenders for the strawweight belt. Unfortunately for Esparza, I don’t see her winning this one.

Rodriguez is hungry and has never tasted defeat. She is also the bigger fighter and is a significantly better striker. Esparza will be looking to take the fight to the ground but I think Rodriguez will be able to keep the fight standing with her great takedown defense. I don’t see this fight ending with a finish, so Rodriguez should have no problem staying ahead on the judges’ scorecards if she can keep the fight standing up. Look for the judges to award Rodriguez with the seventh win by decision in her career.

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Jeff Swartz is a combat sports writer and editor for With a focus on the UFC, Jeff also covers other major combat sports promotions like Bellator, ONE, World Lethwei Championship, Sparta Sports & Entertainment, and much more!