The last two fights for the TUF 20 Finale were determined on Wednesday night, as Carla Esparza and Rose Namajunas emerged victorious in their semi-final bouts. That earned the pair the right to fight for the inaugural UFC strawweight title. Esparza has long been viewed as one of the top 115lb fighters in the world, as she was the last Invicta champion at the weight class. Her performance on the show has done nothing to dissuade those opinions, as her victories over Angela Hill, Tecia Torres and Jessica Penne have all been solid. Namajunas was one of the dark horses heading into the show, and she has arguably been the most impressive fighter amongst the entire cast, defeating Alex Chambers, Joanne Calderwood, and Randa Markos all via submission to advance to the finals. Namajunas looks like a completely different fighter than she was in Invicta, and is a legitimate threat to walk away with the belt. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting line for the championship belt, as well as the line for the fight between the other two semifinalists, Penne and Markos, tonight at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Take a look: ——————– UFC Strawweight Title Carla Esparza -130 Rose Namajunas -110 Jessica Penne -130 Randa Markos -110 Jeremy Stephens -125 Charles Oliveira -115 Daron Cruickshank -165 KJ Noons +125 Yancy Medeiros -230 Joe Proctor +170 Felice Herrig -380 Lisa Ellis +260 Tecia Torres -600 Angela Magana +400 Joanne Calderwood -565 Seo Hee Ham +375 Bec Rawlings -270 Heather Jo Clark +190 Aisling Daly -285 Alex Chambers +205 Angela Hill -165 Emily Kagan +125 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: Namajunas has been incredibly impressive in the TUF house, and I believe her to be the far more dangerous fighter in this matchup. Esparza is more of a round-winner, and she has experience in five-round bouts from her time as the Invicta champion. I always tend to lean towards the more dynamic fighter in a longer bout, especially if that fighter has shown no cardio issues in the past. If this goes all five rounds, Esparza will likely emerge the winner, but I’ve got a feeling that Namajunas is able to find a submission at some point during the bout to become the division’s first champion. I like the very slight favorite in the Penne/Markos bout. Jessica Penne is a very good submission grappler and a slightly superior striker to Randa Markos. The Canadian has a wrestling advantage, but Markos likely won’t be able to affect too much offense from top position while Penne constantly looks for subs and sweeps. I wouldn’t be surprised if Markos gets tapped for the second consecutive fight against a woman who was the second-best submission grappler in the house. Both favorites may get bet up in these scenarios — although the hype on Namajunas is growing quickly — so the dogs may become even more tempting in both spots later in the week.
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