Rose Namajunas has proven she’s at the elite level, but will the challenge of the relentless Jessica Andrade in her home country of Brazil be too much for the strawweight champion at UFC 237?
The popularity of Rose Namajunas is being put to the test as Saturday night will be the first time the strawweight title headlines a UFC pay-per-view. But while the defending champion will be looking to add to her resume with a victory in enemy territory, Jessica Andrade is hoping to earn the biggest victory of her career by winning the title in her home country at UFC 237.
In the words of @DC_MMA….
— UFC (@ufc) May 8, 2019
“Thug” Rose Namajunas is a perfect example of a fighter who walks to the beat of their own drum. The fact that she’s traveling into enemy territory as the defending champion shouldn’t surprise people. After all, she is the one who coldly brushed off the mind games of longtime champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk and who shaved her head out of the blue ahead of a fight without concern for the promotional materials that had already been made. Her approach has built up a cult following, and in 2017 she was nominated for the ESPY award for Fighter of the Year along with names like Georges St-Pierre, Vasyl Lomachenko, and Terence Crawford.
She is the favorite to win on Saturday and rightfully so. She bested Jędrzejczyk twice and in the process seemingly ascended to the elite level after being the young prospect who challenged for the inaugural strawweight title at the end of The Ultimate Fighter in 2014. But this is also arguably her toughest test. She is coming off a neck injury that has kept her out roughly a year and Andrade is only the first of several as she looks to establish continue her reign. Tatiana Suarez, Nina Ansaroff, and Michelle Waterson are all knocking on the door for a title shot. Namajunas is the best in the world today. But the next year or so of her title reign will be critical toward establishing herself as an all-time great.
— UFC (@ufc) May 7, 2019
Brazilian powerhouse Jessica Andrade has looked nearly unstoppable since dropping to strawweight back in 2016. Aside from her failed title bid in 2017 against Jędrzejczyk, she has had a dominant run with throttling performances against the likes of Joanne Calderwood, Claudia Gadelha, Tecia Torres, and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Notably, even at 135, the majority of her losses came only against top tier competition in the form of former title challengers Liz Carmouche and Raquel Pennington. While she was undersized at bantamweight, at 115 pounds she has become the most physically imposing force in women’s MMA outside of Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes.
Another title shot seemed unlikely until the title changed hands, and Andrade has been granted an incredible opportunity to not only become a world champion but also do it in front of her home country. Furthermore, she is getting Namajunas when she is arguably more vulnerable than in years past. The layoff and injury took her out of action for so long that many wondered if an interim title would not be made before she was able to return to the cage. Andrade is coming off a first-round knockout over Kowalkiewicz in September and has been able to heal up from the grind of a consistent schedule going into the title match.
For Namajunas, movement and volume will be paramount. Similar to Jędrzejczyk’s fight with Andrade, she should look to use her height and reach to keep the challenger at the end of her punches and slip out of the way of counters. Andrade is very durable but Namajunas has shown impressive cardio in five rounds before and effective execution of her strategy should see her well-ahead on the scorecards as they enter the championship rounds.
— UFC (@ufc) May 8, 2019
Jessica Andrade should look to use leg kicks to hamper the mobility of Namajunas and make her a more stationary target. The Brazilian is one of the few fighters with fight-ending power in a single shot and should do work to slow down the champion to make those shots easier to land. Andrade should also look to get Namajunas to the ground where her relentless ground-and-pound attack should neutralize the normally aggressive guard of the champion.
It is unclear who will be next for the winner as Michelle Waterson is on a three-fight win streak, but surging contenders Tatiana Suarez and Nina Ansaroff will also be fighting each other at UFC 238 next month. It stands to reason that an electrifying victory for Suarez or Ansaroff could be enough to propel them past Waterson for a title shot, particularly if Rose Namajunas retains the title as the current champion already has a victory over “The Karate Hottie” from 2017.