UFC fighter left disfigured after brutal facial gash set to make octagon return

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MMA star Carla Esparza will return to the octagon this Saturday for the first time since suffering an horrific eye injury last December.

Having stepped up at short notice to accept a grappling match against Danielle Kelly at Fury Pro Grappling 3 in December, Esparza slammed her opponent towards the end of the bout. The move backfired though, with the pair sickeningly clashing heads, leaving a gruesome cut above Esparza's eyebrow.

The doctors attending called the match off and the victory was awarded to Kelly as a result of the injury. And to rub salt into her very apparent wound, the American star was left disfigured by the incident.

It seemed the cut would scupper any chances that Esparza, 34, had of a long awaited rematch with Rose Namajunas. She famously beat her compatriot back in 2014 to become the UFC's first strawweight world champion.

After two intense rounds, it was Esparza who prevailed in the third via submission, following a rear-naked choke. She would lose the belt in her first defence though, beaten by Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Now it is Namajunas, 29, with the strawweight title. However, her old rival has recovered sufficiently and the pair will go head to head again this Saturday, May 7, in Phoenix, Arizona.

What is the worst injury you've seen from a UFC clash? Let us know in the comments section.

And it isn't just an eye injury that Esparza, who has an MMA fight record of 18-6, has had to work around. Just a week after this clash, she's due to get married to fiancé Matthew Lomeli – and is relieved the two occasions weren't scheduled for the same day.

"When I found out about the actual date, I knew I was going to take the fight no matter what," Esparza told the Daily Pilot. “If the wedding was the week before or the day of, obviously I would have had to postpone it.”

The title fight was set to co-headline the UFC 274 show along with the men's lightweight world title fight between Charles Oliveria and Justin Gaethje. However, that bout is now off with Oliveria stripped of the title having failed to make the weight.

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