Randa Markos pulls off massive upset win over former champ Carla Esparza
Randa Markos never got the opportunity to face Carla Esparza while they were together on "The Ultimate Fighter" season 20, but she made the most of her chance when facing the former strawweight champion in Halifax.
Markos engaged in a bitter war of words with Esparza when they joined the UFC roster as part of the long-running reality show but finally met her inside the Octagon for the first time on Sunday night.
Markos was listed as a 2-to-1 underdog according to oddsmakers going into the fight while Esparza was attempting to climb back into title contention after losing the title to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2015.
The former champion showed marked improvements in her striking during the early exchanges with Markos, but eventually went back to her wrestling as she took Markos down late in the opening round.
Not to be deterred by a ground battle, Markos reversed positions and ended up hooking Esparza's arms in a crucifix position before unloading with a series of hammer fists until the round came to a close.
The second round saw Esparza at her best as she started to land with crisp, precise combinations on the feet before getting another late takedown, this time with better control on Markos.
Esparza wasted no time passing her opponent's guard and moving into an arm-triangle choke position and it looked like she might have the submission locked up, but Markos was able to survive until the horn sounded.
The third round saw some serious back-and-forth action, especially in the scrambles as Markos cracked Esparza with a fast spinning back fist and did an outstanding job of using the former champion's aggression against her with well-timed counter punches.
Esparza did manage to land a big knee strike late in the round, but replays showed that it was illegal as Markos' knee was still on the mat. Unfortunately, the referee didn't call the foul but Markos recovered and ended up in a few more scrambles with Esparza before the fight came to an end.
It was a razor-close decision but ultimately the judges scored the fight in favor of Markos -- with two judges giving her 29-28 scores and the third giving Esparza the nod, 29-28.
Markos picks up undoubtedly the biggest win of her career after a bit of a roller coaster ride through the UFC's strawweight division thus far, while Esparza suffers a devastating defeat as she was trying to climb back into title contention in 2017.