Several questions surround the return of Rose Namajunas as she goes into enemy territory to take on a surging contender looking for a title shot in Manon Fiorot at UFC Paris.
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— UFC (@ufc) August 30, 2023
This is always a precarious place for a surging contender. Manon Fiorot, riding a 12 fight win-streak that has her on the cusp of title contention, is now facing her most high profile opponent to date. With five of those victories coming under the UFC banner, the French native checks all the boxes to be the proverbial breath of fresh air in a flyweight division that has spent the majority of the last several years ruled by the iron fist of the longtime queen. The stage is set for “The Beast” to ascend to the front of the line against the backdrop of her home country, but a setback would unravel this great moment of success that has not seen her lose in MMA since her debut in 2018.
It’s not unheard of to be in such a position. Both Alexander Volkanovski and Leon Edwards took long roads to their first UFC title opportunities. But this story has not always panned out for contenders who need more time to get the swell of fan support. Fiorot has paved a strong road to this opportunity with a five fight win-streak that saw her win the UAE Warriors title before getting an offer to fight in the UFC in 2021. Immediately thrust into the spotlight, she excelled in turning away former title challengers Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia as well as current top bantamweight contender Mayra Bueno Silva. She now has a talented former two-time champion across from her in what feels like could be a ripe opportunity to add her to her resume. The moment feels like it’s her to seize, but in a sport as wild as mixed martial arts those moments can be the most difficult when the cage door closes.
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— UFC (@ufc) August 28, 2023
Rose Namajunas has said all the right things going into her first fight in over a year. She, like the fans, is disappointed in her perplexing performance against Carla Esparza that saw her lose the strawweight title. She has dedicated the time to properly grow into a flyweight frame with no plans to drop back down to 115 pounds. She is on the road to achieving a goal she said has been in the back of her mind since the early days of her career in pursuing a second UFC title. To her credit, she is also the most tested fighter in big fights on the entire card.
But the intangibles loom prevalently over the former champion. After openly discussing that she mulled retirement following her last fight, there is question about her passion to still compete after having enjoyed an amazing career already. Secondly, how she handles the size and strength of Fiorot and the other flyweights has yet to be proven. Skillwise, her victories over the likes of former champions Zhang Weili, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, and Jessica Andrade are proof enough that she is a generational talent. But with so many serious questions over Namajunas, will those skills be enough to overcome the serious threat across from her in enemy territory?
[ Saturday | 3pmET / 12pmPT Main Card | Live on ESPN+ ] pic.twitter.com/uJF9cWNhNf
— UFC (@ufc) September 1, 2023
The fight comes at an interesting time in the division. The rematch between Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko for the title takes place in two weeks, and fellow top contender Erin Blanchfield is coming off a victory over a recent title challenger last week. As of this writing, it is difficult to contend with the intrigue of the “next big thing” in Blanchfield in terms of who may get the next title shot. But the merit of Fiorot at flyweight and the star power and resume of Namajunas could be enough to take Blanchfield’s place in line if they deliver an impressive performance.