UFC Vegas 27 packs a bona fide top-contender bout in its co-main event slot with Yan Xiaonan vs Carla Esparza. Both strawweights enter on impressive winning streaks, but only one will leave with theirs still intact.
#3 ranked Xiaonan has reeled off six straight unanimous decision wins since joining the UFC back in 2017. “Fury” currently boasts the longest winning streak in the strawweight division. Meanwhile, #4 ranked Esparza has rebounded impressively since losing back-to-back bouts in 2018. In her previous fight, “The Cookie Monster” handed Marina Rodriguez her very first defeat.
The winner of Yan Xiaonan vs Carla Esparza will join Joanna Jedrzejczyk as the division’s number one contender. All of the top strawweights currently have their eyes set on newly crowned champ Rose Namajunas.
Yan Xiaonan (13-1, 1 NC)
Possessing a background in Sanda (Chinese kickboxing), Xiaonan has been fighting professionally since 2009. She competed for various promotions across Asia before becoming the very first Chinese female fighter to sign with the UFC. The 31-year-old immediately made her presence known within the division, beating the likes of Angela Hill, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and Claudia Gadelha.
“Fury” stands 5’5″, while hosting a 63.0″ reach. The strawweight contender has prepared for her upcoming bout by training at Team Alpha Male as well as utilizing the UFC Performance Institute. In both of her wins last year, Xiaonan doubled up her opponents in significant strikes.
Carla Esparza (17-6)
Nearly seven years ago, Esparza secured the inaugural UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship by submitting “Thug” Rose in The Ultimate Fighter 20 finale. She failed to defend her belt, but all these years later “The Cookie Monster” is still contending in arguably the deepest women’s division on earth.
The 33-year-old stands just 5’1″, but she makes up for it with a solid 63.0″ reach. Nowadays, the California native puts her work in at Team Oyama MMA & Fitness along with Russ Miura Jiu-Jitsu. Esparza is in the midst of her most successful stint to date, defeating four consecutive ranked opponents.
Yan Xiaonan vs Carla Esparza Breakdown
Xiaonan’s kickboxing is world-class and she may own the best sidekick in the sport. On top of that, her leg kicks and ax kick are so swift that her opponents often don’t have time to react to them. “Fury” can throw hands as well. She actually likes to set up her combinations through her kicks (i.e., she’ll throw her kicks with combos directly behind them). There’s no doubt that Xiaonan’s Plan-A at UFC Vegas 27 will be to strike.
In her last two fights, Esparza proved that she can win through her grappling or her striking. Against Rodriguez, she went 5/9 on takedown attempts and was able to control the fight with her wrestling/BJJ. Conversely, versus Michelle Waterson, she went just 1/10 on her takedowns but still won by going strike-for-strike with “The Karate Hottie”. Still, bet on Esparza searching for takedowns early and often at UFC Vegas 27.
Yan Xiaonan vs Carla Esparza will be decided by who can execute their game plan more effectively. Notably, Esparza’s height disadvantage may leave her very susceptible to eating some of her opponent’s head kicks. It’s imperative that she has success in the grappling department because out-striking Xiaonan is a difficult task. It must be mentioned that “Fury” is no slouch when it comes to the clinch and on the mat. In fact, she has the ability to still have success on the mat against Esparza, whereas it’s hard to imagine “The Cookie Monster” winning the fight on the feet.
How do you see the UFC Vegas 27 co-main event playing out? Drop your prediction for Yan Xiaonan vs Carla Esparza in the comment section!
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