<
>

Former champ Carla Esparza making return at UFC 197

Former strawweight champion Carla Esparza, on short notice, has agreed to a fight against Juliana Lima at UFC 197 on April 23.

UFC officials confirmed the 115-pound bout to ESPN on Tuesday. Esparza replaces Lima's original opponent, Jessica Aguilar, who was forced to withdraw from the Las Vegas event earlier this month with a torn ACL.

Esparza (10-3) hasn't fought since March 2015, when she surrendered the strawweight championship to Joanna Jedrzejczyk via knockout. It was Esparza's first loss in nearly four years. Prior to becoming the UFC's inaugural strawweight champion in December 2014, Esparza held the same title in the all-female promotion Invicta FC.

Lima (8-2) is 2-1 in the UFC. Her only loss came to the current champion, Jedrzejczyk, in a three-round decision in July 2014. Since that loss, the Brazilian has collected two decision wins against Nina Ansaroff and Ericka Almeida.

ESPN ranks Esparza the No. 10 pound-for-pound female fighter in the world.

A light heavyweight championship fight between Daniel Cormier (17-1) and Jon Jones (21-1) is scheduled to headline UFC 197 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena.