Rose Namajunas dominated Jessica Andrade in the first round of their strawweight world title UFC 237 main event Saturday in Brazil with elusive footwork and precise punching. In the second round, however, Andrade pressed forward, undeterred, and scored a dramatic come-from-behind victory.
Wading in through Rose’s sharp punches, the Brazilian pressed Namajunas against the cage fence before lifting her up into the air as the American held onto a double wrist lock, and then slamming “Thug Rose” onto the back of her head. The impact knocked the defending champion out on contact.
Referee Marc Goddard astutely recognized that Namajunas was limp and leapt into the fray, stopping it at 2:58 of the second round. The win improves Andrade’s record to 20-6, as Namajunas’ mark dips to 8-4.
After the first round, UFC color commentator and heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier said from cageside that Namajunas may very well be better than ever. Indeed, the 26-year-old looked too quick, sharp and skilled for Andrade up until nearly the moment the bout ended.
Namajunas used deft lateral footwork from the start, as well as feints and long, snapping jabs with jarring right cross punches immediately following. For her part, Andrade rushed in aggressively, attempting to close the distance on her taller opponent, but only to get touched up with counter punches and be left with a serious cut around her left eye just a minute in to the bout.
Namajunas countered Andrade’s multiple early leg kick attempts with counter punches before landing a thudding hook-cross punch combination that snapped the challenger’s head back.
Relentless, even in the face of dominant offense, Andrade charged in once more, scoring a takedown. Namajunas secured a double wrist lock as she was being taken down, however, and was able to seamlessly threaten with a shoulder lock once things hit the mat.
With Namajunas still attached to her own arm, Andrade got to her feet and scored another slam, only to have Namajunas skillfully transition to a straight armlock attempt off of her back.
Andrade escaped the hold, stood up and gained separation from the dangerous submission artist. Once back up on her own two feet, and perhaps sensing vulnerability to submission holds on the mat, Namajunas shot in and hit her own double leg takedown, though Andrade quickly got back up.
Namajunas next connected with a check left hook to the head, before using the Thai plum clinch to score a knee strike that caused Andrade to stumble backward, and then fall to the floor. Namajunas once again lunged in to finish, attempting strikes and guard passes before Andrade worked up and escaped a front headlock.
Andrade ended the first round with destabilizing leg kicks, a right hand to the head, and then by working for another takedown against the fence.
Andrade picked up her low kick offensive at the start of the second round, as Namajunas landed more jabs and check left hooks. Andrade, still bleeding and absorbing more punishment than she could yet deliver, nonetheless marched forward with looping punches as Namajunas countered with her own crisp shots and circled away from danger.
Soon, however, Namajunas began to back straight up, mouth open, hands down, as Andrade charged in over and again. Left hooks to the body and head from Andrade began to clip Namajunas, who briefly landed a hip toss before Andrade popped back up.
Andrade’s leg kicks began shifting lower, to the calf of the champion, before she moved in for a final time, effectively closing the distance and pressing Namajunas against the cage. From there, Namajunas once again grabbed the far-side double wrist lock which had helped her in the first round when Andrade worked for slams against the cage.
This time, however, the insistence on maintaining the hold appeared to place Namajunas in a dangerous spot as Andrade stepped in, got her hips underneath those of Namajunas and lifted the champ high into the head before turning her so that the champ’s head went over her legs, and then spiked her onto the ground with authority.
Namajunas went out, Andrade landed a couple punches for good measure and a new Queen at 115 pounds was suddenly crowned. The PRVT team member handed her new championship belt to her coach, afterward, crediting him for all he’d contributed to her life and career, before describing her mentality heading into the second period.
“I was certain in what I had to do in the second round,” Andrade explained.
“I knew she was slowing down and I wanted to knock her out.”
Once she had regained consciousness, Namajunas herself got on the microphone, humbly thanking the Brazilian fans, and revealing a possible positive to losing her hard-earned title.
“It’s just a huge pressure off my shoulders,” she said, smiling.
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