While competing on Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter, Rose Namajunas had many wondering if she could be the next Ronda Rousey. But Carla Esparza shut out Namajunas in the finale to win the inaugural strawweight title, and Namajunas disappeared.
Now 16 months later, “Thug Rose” is back and better than ever.
Namajunas started over after losing to Esparza and has emerged as one of the most dangerous 115-pounders on the planet. She is a submission wizard with great hands.
In a battle of rising stars late last year, Namajunas dominated fellow strawweight prospect Paige VanZant to cement her status in the UFC.
Now Namajunas steps back up to the elite level of the division when she opens the Fight Night Tampa main card on FOX against No. 4-ranked Tecia Torres.
Torres is a perfect 7-0 and undefeated in three Octagon trips since her time on The Ultimate Fighter. She also lost to Esparza, and is looking to make a statement against Namajunas on national TV.
Namajunas vs. Torres is the No. 1 reason to watch Fight Night Tampa this Saturday night on FOX.
Rest of the main card
Khabib Nurmagomedov was set to make his return to the UFC after a two-year layoff against Tony Ferguson in a pivotal lightweight main event.
Less than two weeks before the fight Ferguson suffered an injury to postpone the bout, but “The Eagle” was eager to remain on the card.
Enter UFC newcomer Darrell Horcher. The Chicago product steps in for his UFC debut on short notice against Nurmagomedov, who is a perfect 22-0 in his MMA career.
Nurmogomedov has wins over lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos and veteran Gleison Tibau, and he’ll be looking to re-establish himself as a top contender at 155 pounds.
Atop the main card, three UFC legends and one former title contender throw down, all hoping to remain in contention for a title shot as they enter the final stages of their career.
No. 7-ranked lightweight Beneil Dariush and No. 14-ranked Michael Chiesa may have seven spots separating them in the rankings, but these two UFC veterans will be very evenly matched on fight night.
Both Chiesa and Dariush have six UFC wins on their resume and bring winning streaks into their bout in the main event of the FOX prelims in Tampa.
Dariush is one of the hottest fighters on the roster, winning five in a row with a couple of submissions along the way. Chiesa has said that he isn’t worried about his opponents’ Jiu-Jitsu but Dariush is planning to show how good his ground game is against the former Ultimate Fighter champion.
Chiesa submitted veteran Jim Miller last time out and feels he is coming into his own as a UFC fighter. With a win over Dariush, Chiesa will go blasting into the Top 10 of the 155-pound division.
UFC FIGHT PASS prelims
Former flyweight title challenger John Dodson is making his return to 135 pounds against Manny Gamburyan in the featured main event of the UFC FIGHT PASS prelims.
Dodson is one of the fastest and most powerful fighters at 125 pounds, and that speed could mean something special at 135 pounds. Gamburyan is a battle-tested UFC fighter and will give Dodson everything he can handle in this scrap.
Dodson fell short in two shots vs. Demetrious Johnson, but he holds a win over former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw. Dodson believes he is a only few wins away from making his way back to the doorstep of the title at 135 pounds.
This FIGHT PASS card is absolutely stacked. Randy Brown, star of a previous episode of “Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight,” (Watch it now on YouTube) makes his second Octagon appearance. He is a perfect 7-0 and gets Ultimate Fighter 22 veteran Michael Graves on Saturday.
Graves is a well-rounded fighter with strong wrestling skills, and Brown will be tested to the max in this one.
Finally, American Kickboxing Academy prospect Islam Makhachev looks to rebound from his first loss last time out, and is facing a tough Drew Dober.
Don’t miss all the action Saturday night live and free on FOX.
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC