How Carla Esparza’s Title Victory Can Change the Future of UFC Title Fights
“Most uneventful title fight,” “low action fight,” and everything in between has been said about UFC 274’s co-main event between then-champion Rose Namajunas and challenger Carla Esparza. Most are highlighting the lack of engagements in this title fight, but the truly noteworthy part is how the outcome of this fight really flipped the script on championship-level fights.
The Unwritten Rule
An unwritten rule in combat sports, especially in the UFC, is that “to dethrone the champion, you must decisively beat the champion.” In other words, to beat the sitting champion, the challenger can’t leave any doubts that the contender won the contest. Carla Esparza taking the belt from Namajunas changes this status quo.
The commentators meticulously arguing about the level of aggression, the significance of each strike, the values of takedowns and cage control are signs that a contest was very close. This recent strawweight title fight is no exception. Tyron Woodley vs Stephen Thompson 2, Israel Adesanya vs Yoel Romero, and Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko 2 were all title fights that were extremely low in activity. This inevitably led to an analysis of the criteria previously stated, where the champion of these contests all won via decision except for Namajunas vs Esparza 2. Although Esparza did not decisively beat Namajunas in the contest based on this unwritten rule, the challenger did exhibit slightly more aggression and Octagon control.
The future of how sitting champions approach their title defenses will be interesting to see after this fight, as some titleholders were obviously using this unwritten rule as a safety net. For instance, they wish to have the challenger come in as the aggressor initiating first, a position that they may deem as being disadvantageous. However, now with this most recent changing hands of the title, champions may now modify their approach to avoid a similar outcome of the co-main event of UFC 274.
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