One of the most anticipated matches on the upcoming Fury Grappling 3 card has fallen through. Current UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas has been removed from her scheduled match against Danielle Kelly due to COVID protocol, and has been replaced by top strawweight contender (and former Namajunas opponent) Carla Esparza.
The event is scheduled for Thursday, December 30.
Esparza became the first-ever UFC strawweight champion when she defeated Namajunas at The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 Finale in December 2014. Esparza would lose that title to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her next bout. She now finds herself on a five-fight win streak and will be the next challenger to Namajunas’ belt in a highly-anticipated rematch.
Esparza may be lacking in high-level submission grappling experience, but that does not mean she is an inexperienced grappler. She was an NAIA All-American wrestler representing Menlo College, and has used that wrestling base throughout her 24-fight professional MMA career. Esparza owns four submission wins; her last came in her 2014 title-winning bout.
A black belt under Karel Pravec, Kelly is a seasoned competitor at the highest levels of jiu-jitsu and submission grappling. She is a multiple-time Who’s Number One veteran with a pair of submission wins over Jessica Crane. This won’t be Kelly’s first time taking on an elite MMA fighter; she submitted UFC veteran Roxanne Modafferi at Submission Hunter Pro in 2020, and tapped current UFC flyweight Cynthia Calvillo at Quintet Ultra.
How to watch: Fury Grappling 3 takes place on Thursday, December 30 and will air live on UFC Fightpass (subscription required).