At UFC on FOX: Johnson vs. Reis, Rose Namajunas shook up the strawweight title picture with her astonishing second round finish of the surging Michelle Waterson.
Many expected Waterson to come out on top and be the next challenger for the winner of the upcoming title bout between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jessica Andrade next month. However, “Thug” Rose was able to utilize her pressure and a devastating head kick to secure the rear naked choke, submitting Waterson.
In the weeks leading up to her fight with Waterson, even though Namajunas had only one loss in her last four fights, you couldn’t help but feel that she was the underdog. It seemed as though the consensus was that Namajunas was too “inconsistent” or “inexperienced” to beat Waterson and challenge Jedrzejczyk. A likely possibility is that fans were just still reeling from Michelle Waterson’s first round finish of Paige VanZant and Namajunas had not fought in nine months. Namajunas has made her mark on this division and her only loss since the inaugural strawweight title bout has been to Karolina Kowalkiewicz by split decision. Kowalkiewicz, of course, went on to be the next title challenger and engaged in a five round war with the champion, Jedrzejczyk.
The stars seem to be aligning for a Jedzejczyk and Namajunas battle, which seems to have already begun verbally. Prior to the Waterson-Namajunas fight, it was assumed that the victor would go on to face the winner of Jedzejczyk vs Andrade. Thug Rose seems to have made her case and even had the perfect call out in her post fight octagon
“Joanna, or whoever’s going to win that fight, I’m coming for you; be careful.” Coming for the champ, indeed she is. The real question is, will she be able to overthrow the reigning champion?
Assuming that Jedrzejczyk makes it past Andrade at UFC 211, the next strawweight title bout is undeniably Jedrzejczyk vs. Namajunas. The matchup itself should prove to be a crowd pleaser and may be a tighter fight than many think. Without question, the champion is the more experienced fighter. Jedrzejczyk is undefeated in the UFC with 13 wins and zero losses to go with her countless fights in Muay Thai and kickboxing, both amateur and professional. She has faced strikers and grapplers alike and has dealt with them accordingly. To date she has successfully defended the strawweight title four times with her last three fights going to a decision.
However, she has not faced anyone quite like Rose Namajunas. She has the top-level striking ability coupled with a deadly ground and submission game that could make things interesting. For Namajunas to be competitive in this potential fight she will need to aggressively look for the finish.
Her path to victory will stem from her ability to catch Jedrzejczyk with a kick or sneaky submission after a scramble. But if the champ is allowed to control the pace of the fight and play to her strengths of speed and movement then this fight will be more of the same. If the fight ends up going the distance it will almost certainly go in favor of Jedrzejczyk showcasing her experience, output and endurance.