Rose Namajunas returned to championship form with an impressive victory over fellow-former champion Jessica Andrade at UFC 251 on Saturday. The event was the first of four in a 15-day span on Fight Island on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
The fight started with a solid first round from both fighters. Andrade was quick to utilize her head movement, while Namajunas was more about foot movement.
Both fighters immediately engaged with their hands, as they did throughout the fight. Andrade landed a few hard left hooks in the frame, but Namajunas edged ahead with a stiff jab followed by several hard right hands. Namajunas was the busier fighter throughout the frame, as Andrade was trying to land the power shot.
Round two was another solid round from Namajunas. While Andrade was swinging for the fences, Namajunas looked even more fluid than the first round, sticking her jab and following with hard right hands.
When Andrade shot, Namajunas stuffed it and landed a knee to the face. Andrade had her moments, but looked to be growing tired as the round wore on. Namajunas appeared to be having fun, sliding around the octagon and stinging Andrade with her jab.
Andrade planted her feet and swung harder than ever as the final round got underway, but Namajunas stayed fluid and shuffled her feet, stinging with the jab, landing much more frequently than Andrade, as she did during the first two rounds.
Andrade finally found her moment and tossed Namajunas to the round, but she couldn’t find a way through the armor. Namajunas remained calm and fought her way back to her feet, her nose now bloodied, even more so than Andrade’s.
A minute and a half left in the fight and Andrade dug deep, bobbing and weaving, swinging hard, landing a few more shots, but Namajunas would be dropped. She instead shot and took Andrade to the canvas, but the fight was quickly back to the feet.
Andrade swung hard, but Namajunas, her left eye blackening and swelling, dug beep and swung just as hard in return.
It was a solid performance by both fighters, but the judges saw the fight in Namajunas’s favor, awarding her a split-decision victory.
The victory was important for Namajunas, who lost the initial match-up and the UFC strawweight title to Andrade when they first met.
Now back on the winning track, Namajunas could be staring at a potential fight with Weili Zhang, the current champion.
It’s a significant win for Namajunas, who was struggling with finding her enjoyment with the sport after winning the title and then losing it to Andrade. Having avenged that loss, Namajunas appears more invested than ever in getting her fight career back on track.
“The first part is just getting right with God; the rest is just technically, physically having fun again,” Namajunas said after the fight.
“I was hoping to get back in there by the end of the year, but we’ll see how my nose is doing,” she said when asked about challenging Zhang. Namajunas’s right eye was blackened and badly swollen, but her nose was also busted up after the fight with Andrade. So it remains to be seen how quickly she can heal up and be back in the Octagon.
(Photo courtesy of UFC | Getty Images)
Flowing through RD 2! ✌️
— UFC (@ufc) July 12, 2020