Pre-Fight Thoughts: Rose Namajunas -vs- Jessica Andrade
In light of the UFC's whirlwind schedule of events, and the champion's general reclusiveness when it comes to the spotlight, one could be forgiven for not knowing that the women's strawweight champion is defending her title tonight. Since defeating previous champion Joanna Jędrejczyk in their rematch over a year ago, Rose Namajunas has kept a very low profile. It was at that event, UFC 232, that Conor McGregor staged his infamous attack on Khabib Nurmagomedov's shuttle bus — a bus which contained, among other fighters, Rose Namajunas. While Rose went on to fight anyway, the experience was reportedly a jarring one (story), and it was apparently taking her some time to get over it.
As such, in addition to a formiddable opponent in surging contender Jessica Andrade, there is the added concern of Rose Namajunas' mental state. Fighting at the highest level is a delicate art, anxieties and trauma don't have to be completely debilitating to have negative effects on training and preparation. Throughout her career, Namajunas has proven to be a tough, dedicated, professional, so I don't have any concern that she'll have some sort of breakdown in the cage — nothing extreme like that — but in a high-stakes title fight, any kind of hestitation can lead to disaster, especially against a power-puncher like Jessica Andrade.
This is a much different fight for Namajunas than her two scraps with Joanna Jędrejczyk; here, Namajunas is dealing with a less technical but significantly stronger opponent. Andrade is going to try and walk Rose down and demolish her with heavy shots. Namajunas has shown very good footwork and the ability to stick to a strategy for the duration of a five-round fight, so I expect her to accumulate a high volume of ranged strikes and try to pick Andrade apart as she plods forward and chases her. I expect this will be largely a stand-up fight, unless someone stuns their opponent and takes advantage of the opening for a submission.
This is far from a mere brawler versus striker match-up. Or, rather it is but in the context of the modern iteration of mixed martial arts. Andrade, the brawler, has shockingly good cardio, which means she's threatening even in the later rounds despite exclusively throwing power shots. Andrade also has legitimate grappling skills, so grappling is not exactly an escape route either. Namajunas has developed an excellent kickboxing game, and rounds it out with solid jiu-jitsu skills. Both women are similarly skilled, albeit very different fighters; this is a very good test for both fighters and a very close contest.
I will admit that I am terrible at forecasting Namajunas fights, and tend to write her off for even the slightest reason. I have concerns that she's been off for a year and is facing a very dangerous contender in Jessica Andrade. Both of her wins over Joanna Jędrejczyk have convinced me that Rose is the real deal, so I think I've got to finally extend her the benefit of the doubt. I thought that after the loss to Karolina Kowalkiewicz, we had more-or-less found Rose's ceiling as a fighter and she's done nothing but make that theory look more ridiculous with each subsequent fight...
If Rose is on her game, I think she takes the fight down in a tough, but unanimous decision win. If Andrade is going to win, it will almost certainly be via some form of stoppage; plain and simply, the long game favours Namajunas. What makes this fight so intriguing is that Andrade has the potential to surprise us all, she's still a young, developing fighter herself. I'm picking Namajunas to defend her title, but it's a really close fight and barring some weirdness I don't think any outcome will shock me.
Published: May 11th, 2019.