Thursday, January 01, 2015

2014 Big Bad Blog Fighter of the Year-Carla Esparza

Carla Esparza
I bet you thought that Ronda Rousey would be my Fighter of the Year for the fourth straight year. Of course it's certainly possible that Ronda could return to that lofty honour in 2015 but Carla Esparza's survival in The Ultimate Fighter house to win the UFC Women's Strawweight Championship is a tremendous accomplishment and the highlight of her career. The big question now is how long can she keep the belt. I'll get to that. Carla entered TUF as the Invicta Strawweight Champion and the heavy favourite to win the UFC title. But as Joanne Calderwood admitted afterwards, the TUF house is not for everyone. And I thought Carla let the TUF drama get to her a little bit especially that foolishness with her BFF Felice Herrig and Randa Markos. Her wins in TUF over Tecia Torres and Jessica Penne were not dominant enough for my liking. And that's why Rose Namajunas was the favourite going into the championship match. But in the four months since the TUF fights were filmed, Carla seemed to calm down training with her usual team at Team Oyama. So when she came to the cage for the title fight, she looked to be well prepared to take care of business and make a statement. That's what I like to see. Rose looked very nervous and Carla took advantage of that and won in a dominant fashion. But the competition level in the Strawweight division is much higher than the Bantamweight division. Carla's first challenger will be Joanna Jedrzejczyk. That won't be easy as Joanna has Muay Thai skills that are comparable to Carla's wrestling skills. And as we saw in her win over Claudia Gadelha, Joanna is well coached and has excellent ground defense. And if Carla gets past Joanna, there are others gunning for that title. But successfully navigating the landmine that is The Ultimate Fighter to win the title makes Carla Esparza the 2014 Big Bad Blog Fighter of the Year. Congratulations!

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