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Why you won’t want to miss Namajunas vs. Esparza at UFC 274

UFC 274: Oliveira vs. Gaethje is happening on Saturday, and while many MMA fans are looking forward to the headlining lightweight championship bout, the co-main event is not one to miss, either. Women’s strawweight champ “Thug Rose” Namajunas will be defending her title against challenger Carla Esparza in a rematch that has been almost a decade in the making. Here’s what you need to know about this highly anticipated matchup and how you can tune in and stream UFC 274 online this weekend so you don’t miss a moment.

Rose Namajunas (12-4) is a two-time UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion and one of the most dominant female fighters in the world of mixed martial arts. She first won the strawweight championship in 2017 at UFC 217, where she unseated reigning champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk via first-round TKO. Namajunas then defended her title in their rematch but lost it in 2019 against Jessica Andrade. “Thug Rose” immediately avenged her defeat when she defeated Andrade at UFC 251 the next year, but Andrade had already lost the strawweight title to Chinese fighter Zhang Weili, whom Namajunas would have to defeat to reclaim the gold. She did so with an explosive head kick KO at UFC 261 in 2021, then successfully defended it in her rematch with Weili at UFC 268 last November.

But what makes this co-main event at UFC 274 interesting isn’t Namajunas’ recent challenges in the UFC, but that her history with the strawweight title challenger, Carla Esparza (19-6), dates back to the champ’s first days with the league. Namajunas signed with the UFC in 2014 and made her debut on The Ultimate Fighter 20. For the finale, she had to face Esparza, who trapped Namajunas in a rear-naked choke in the third round to clinch the victory and become the first-ever UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion. (Esparza would subsequently lose the title to Jedrzejczyk, whom Namajunas would go on to defeat years later.) That was Namajunas’ first official match in the UFC and a stinging defeat to start what would eventually become an incredibly successful career. It happened eight years ago, and the two have not met in the Octagon since.

That changes on Saturday at UFC 274, where Namajunas will defend her title reign against the woman who beat her in her UFC debut to claim the strawweight championship. Thug Rose has developed considerably as a fighter and is the current favorite to win, but not by an insurmountable margin. Whether Namajunas will avenge a defeat that happened almost a decade ago and settle a years-old score, or Esparza will once again trample Thug Rose to reclaim her old belt remains to be seen, but if you want to watch the UFC 274 live stream online, then you’ll have to sign up for ESPN+ and grab the pay-per-view. The main card action begins at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT).

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