Post-Fight Thoughts: Rose Namajunas -vs- Jessica Andrade
After ending off my Pre-Fight Thoughts (link) on this fight with the line "...it's a really close fight and barring some weirdness I don't think any outcome will shock me," I feel like I might have jinxed things. UFC 237's main event ended up being incredibly shocking, and there was indeed a peculiar feeling in the air as the fight began. In the blink of an eye, the defending champion went from executing a perfect gameplan to being rendered unconscious by way of a brutal slam KO.
A round-and-a-half worth of precision striking and superb footwork was rendered moot when Jessica Andrade countered a standing kimura attempt by lifting Rose off her feet anf slamming her into the octagon floor. The moment she struck the floor, Rose went limp and it was all over. Up to that point, Jessica Andrade was getting picked apart at range and could do nothing but stalk after Rose, throwing wild power shots and eat copious jabs. Rose just seemed to be on another level, turning in a discipline, technical performance just like when she routed Joanna Jędrejczyk in their rematch. Andrade went from looking hopelessly overmatched to victor in an instant.
Immediately after the fight was over, social media blew up with concern for Rose's health — as she landed right on her neck — as well as dismissal of Andrade's performance and even questions as to whether or not the slam was legal (it was). I have no idea how you could describe the slam as a "fluke," but that didn't stop some people. It wasn't a case of a fighter just closing their eyes and hoping for the best, Andrade secured the hold by grabbing her own wrist before executing the slam — it was absolutely an intentional act. Rose's decision to hold on to Andrade's arm ended up costing her the fight. I can see how Rose's fans would be upset by such a shocking reversal, but it was deliberate and well within the rules. (Rose was attempting an armbar and chose to maintain her grip and go for the ride, wherever it took her, rather than let go.)
After the fight, Namajunas gave an interview in which she described a feeling of relief now that she was no longer champion. This really should not come as a surprise, I don't think; at no point in her fighting career has Rose seemed like your typical fighter, motivated by competition and the quest to be the best fighter in the world. To hear her tell it (link), Rose sees fighting as a means to an end, a way to fund her personal projects — the things she wants to do. Ronda Rousey made similar statements, albeit from a markedly different position — and as a polar opposite as far as personality is concerned — when she dropped her title. The spotlight of MMA is harsh, I don't find it too strange that someone may not enjoy all of its aspects.
There was talk of a rematch almost immediately, but that obviously depends on whether Rose even wants to run that fight back. I don't think her current record warrants it, but Andrade as champion leaves room for a rematch with Joanna Jędrejczyk as well. I'd be happy seeing Andrade defend against anyone, provided the strawweight title doesn't spend another 13 months on ice. Jessica Andrade is a formiddable champion and there a lot of good match-ups waiting for her. I don't see any reason to do a rematch right way, I don't think Rose's title reign — which included a single successful defence — was significant enough to warrant it. I would hope the UFC learned from what happened when they gave Joanna Jędrejczyk an immediate rematch, and she racked up her second loss and put herself out of the title picture completely.
For all that it lasted, this was a good fight. The ending was as shocking as it was violent, an incredibly jarring experience — further magnified by Rose's endearing character. Prior to the slam, her striking was exceptional and clearly improved even from her shutout win over Joanna Jędrejczyk. I can understand her fans' frustration over the loss, as she erred for but a second and had a fight she could not have fought better completely taken from her. The narrative of this fight is gut-wrenching — that she was dominating right up until the moment she lost — but it doesn't undermine Andrade's win at all.
Published: May 12th, 2019.