TUF Finale: Stars rising and defining a true 'world' champion

BY Elias Cepeda • December 13, 2014

Rose Namajunas walked into the UFC Octagon on Friday night as a budding MMA superstar, and even after losing her strawweight title bout to Carla Esparza (10-2) via submission, she remains a charismatic rising contender. Unfortunately for the talented "Thug Rose," she had just a third of Esparza's experience.

Namajunas hung tough until getting choked out in the third round of the TUF 20 Finale main event, but never was able to effectively mount her own offense after getting taken down repeatedly by the former All-American wrestler out of California. The 22-year-old has been thrown into the deep end with plenty of 115-pound sharks from the start of her young career, and she's got a 2-2 record to show for it.

Of course, her three TUF 20 submission victories over highly ranked strawweights never will make her official MMA record, yet they are a great deal of the reason why we've all grown so excited about her potential. With more experience, the inspiring Namajunas will only continue to get better.

Perhaps she'll be able to vie for a title once again. We're betting she'll be even more ready the next time, if she gets one.

The unknown No. 1

For now, however, Esparza looks to be the clear-cut queen of the UFC's newest division. The former Invicta FC strawweight champ has added more gold to her mantle but may need to avenge a loss from three-and-a-half years ago before she's considered the true, undisputed world champion at 115 pounds.

In 2011, Esparaza lost a split decision to Jessica Aguilar (19-4). In all, Aguilar has won 10 straight fights and 14 out of her past 15.

Unfortunately, "Jag" is signed by the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) promotion. Esparza and Aguilar would appear to be the two best strawweights in the world, and Aguilar is the one who walked away with her hand raised when they met in the cage.

A lot of time has passed, but as long as they both keep on winning, the true strawweight world champion title will be up for grabs until they meet again. Hopefully Aguilar can get free and into the UFC soon enough to make this super-fight happen.

Charles Oliveira's comeback

Twice in the past several years, Charles Oliveira (19-4) has looked to be seriously stalled, if not on the way out of the UFC. Over three fights from 2010 to 2011, Oliveira went winless.

Then, in 2012, the featherweight lost to two of the division's very best, back to back, in Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson. After Friday night, however, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert is in on the crest of an impressive three-fight win streak, and finds himself on the verge of title contention.

At many points in his three-round fight against Jeremy Stephens in the co-main event of the "Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale," it appeared as though Oliveira was on his way to getting his third straight submission win. Ultimately, Stephens survived every dangerous submission hold and lost by decision.

If Oliveira can continue to make weight at featherweight, he'll get his second crack at the likes of Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson. By then, he may just be improved enough to make things a bit more interesting.

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