Esparza (18-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC) challenges Namajunas (11-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) at UFC 274 in May, a rematch from their first fight in 2014 where Esparza used her wrestling to submit Namajunas and become the inaugural 115-pound title holder.
Both fighters have improved since then, but having been in there with Esparza, Suarez doesn’t see her handling Namajunas on the ground. Suarez landed nine takedowns in her September 2018 fight against Esparza at UFC 228 and thinks the former champion likely won’t have the same success against Namajunas like she did in their first fight.
“I think that Rose is gonna win,” Suarez said in an interview with Helen Yee. “I just think that maybe Rose has better grappling now than she did when they first went against each other. I did face Carla and once again, nothing against Carla, but I don’t feel like she has maybe the strength. When I fought her, I didn’t feel like she was super strong or anything like that, and I’ve never fought Rose, so I can’t really compare the two.
“But I saw her grappling exchanges with Zhang Weili, and she seemed like she made improvements, and she actually beat her in the grappling exchanges. That’s how she ended up winning, right? So I think she’s improved a little bit in that area, and Carla has the technique, but I don’t think she necessarily has the strength and it looks to me that Rose has packed on some muscle since ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ days, and I’m sure Carla has too, but I just don’t see. So I think Rose will probably (win). It might look similar to the Joanna fight.”
Suarez (8-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) hasn’t competed since defeating Nina Nunes in June 2019. She’s been sidelined by a neck injury, followed by a knee injury that required surgery, forcing her to withdraw from UFC 266 last September.
The 31-year-old undefeated wrestling standout is hoping to return by summer and will look to book another fight at 125 pounds, a weight class she sees in her foreseeable future.
“I’m thinking summer,” Suarez said. “I’m hoping maybe July, maybe ‘International Fight Week.’ I would like that. I’m just trying to test my knee out in like certain – I’ve been doing a lot of grappling lately, which is crazy because I injured it grappling so I thought that would probably be the most mentally draining thing for me in terms of like coming back and maybe a little bit weary, but I’ve been grappling almost every single day so I guess I’ve overcome that fear.
“I’m still a little bit reluctant in certain situations and hesitant, but I’m feeling really good, and the next step is maybe to do some sparring and see how it holds up during sparring and then once I feel 100 percent confident, I’ll ask to book a fight, and I’m hoping like July. The reason I wanted to go flyweight for the next fight is because I had been out for a few years, and I just didn’t really want to focus on any type of weight cut. I just wanted to focus on fighting at that point.”
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Author: Farah Hannoun
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