On Saturday, May 11, Rose Namajunas travels to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to defend her UFC strawweight title against Jessica Andrade. It’s a long awaited return to action for the champ, and if you’re wondering why, read on for the greatest hits of “Thug Rose.”
Finally back in the Octagon after a long layoff following her December 2014 loss to Carla Esparza, strawweight contender Rose Namajunas made short work of her Ultimate Fighter 20 castmate Angela Hill, winning by first-round submission.
“Patience was the key in this fight, and I got the win,” the 23-year-old Namajunas said.
After some solid stand-up exchanges to kick off the bout, Namajunas took Hill down with a little over three minutes left, and as Hill tried to get up, “Thug Rose” took her opponent’s back and sunk in a tight rear naked choke. Hill held out as long as she could, but there was no escape, with referee Joe Solis halting the bout at the 2:47 mark.
Entering their December 2015 main event in Las Vegas, Paige VanZant was one of the hottest prospects in the sport thanks to a 3-0 start to her UFC career. On the other side of the Octagon, Namajunas was just 1-1 and seemingly the steppingstone VanZant was going to use to leap into the title race at 115 pounds. But this one wasn’t even close. VanZant showed remarkable grit throughout the fight, but Namajunas implemented a punishing attack that culminated in a fifth-round submission win that also earned “Thug Rose” a Performance of the Night bonus.
In the UFC Fight Night co-main event at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Rose Namajunas closed in on a shot at the strawweight title with a spectacular second-round submission of Michelle Waterson.
“I feel like I can go all the way to the belt and hold it for a while,” said Namajunas, who has her sights set on the winner of the UFC 211 bout between 115-pound champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and challenger Jessica Andrade. “Joanna or whoever’s gonna win that fight, I’m coming for you. Be careful.”
Waterson’s striking was sharp from the start, and when Namajunas tried to close distance, it was the Albuquerque native who scored the takedown. The patient Namajunas calmly took Waterson’s back and then landed in her foe’s guard, landing some hard blows in the process. Waterson rose, but was taken down again before round’s end.
A minute into round two, Namajunas landed a right kick to the head that sent Waterson to the canvas. Namajunas shot in for the finish, but Waterson recovered quickly. Namajunas kept firing though, and while Waterson rose to her feet, the Milwaukee native wasn’t done yet, and she caught her opponent in a rear naked choke that produced a tap out at 2:47 of the second frame.
History was up for grabs for Joanna Jedrzejczyk at Madison Square Garden Saturday night, but despite being favored to defeat Rose Namajunas at UFC 217 and set a new mark for UFC championship victories by a woman, it was “Thug Rose” who made history of her own, scoring a stunning first-round knockout of the previously unbeaten Jedrzejczyk to take the UFC strawweight title.
“It feels like a movie right now,” said the new champion, whose Hollywood ending took just a little over three minutes.
After an intense staredown, referee John McCarthy waved the combatants into action and the two stood at close range and proceeded to trade. Early on, it looked like Namajunas’ shots were range finders, while Jedrzejczyk’s were designed to end the fight.
But it was the Milwaukee native who drew first blood, dropping Jedrzejczyk and shocking the crowd. The Olsztyn native got up quickly, but it was a sign of things to come, as later in the round, Namajumas struck with a left hook that put Jedrzejczyk on the deck a second time. This time, Namajunas wasn’t going to be denied, with a right hand jarring her foe even more. A follow up barrage of punches followed, with referee John McCarthy stepping in at the 3:03 mark.
Rose Namajunas made it two for two over Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the UFC 223 co-main event at Barclays Center, but she had to go five rounds to get the win the second time around, pulling off a unanimous decision victory to retain her UFC women’s strawweight title for the first time.
Scores were 49-46 across the board for Namajunas, 9-3, who took the 115-pound crown from Jedrzejczyk via first-round knockout last November. Jedrzejczyk, who successfully defended the belt five times before the defeats to Namajunas, falls to 14-2.
Namajunas was clearly the more relaxed of the two fighters in the opening round, with Jedrzejczyk appearing to be tense in exchanges with the champion. Jedrzejczyk did mark up Namajunas’ legs with a series of kicks, but the most significant blows of the round came from the fists of Namajunas, who was quick and accurate with her attacks.
Jedrzejczyk had more success in the second round, mainly with knees at close range and more kicks to the legs. Namajunas still controlled the boxing game, but the scoring gap between the two strawweights was closing, and Jedrzejczyk may have pulled ahead in round three as she finally started to land some punches on Namajunas which, coupled with her kicks, were starting to get her into a rhythm.
Namajunas continued to be selective but effective with her punches in round four, but outside of a flurry of activity with a minute left, it was Jedrzejczyk staying busier and outworking the champion.
With Jedrzejczyk’s right eye rapidly closing and her nose bloodied at the start of round five, Namajunas stepped on the gas and began throwing with more urgency, trying to close the show on the challenger. Jedrzejczyk surged down the stretch, though, outstriking her foe before a late takedown by Namajunas put a cap on a memorable rematch.