Just five months ago, Rose Namajunas shocked the mixed martial arts (MMA) world and knocked out undefeated UFC women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217 in the very first round. It was an unprecedented feat, especially considering Jedrzejczyk was, and still is, one of the best female fighters in MMA history.
Luckily for “Thug,” she’ll get the opportunity to defend her 115-pound crown later this evening (Sat., April 7, 2018) at UFC 223 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, and prove that her first encounter with Jedrzejczyk wasn’t a flash in the pan. If she can defeat Jedrzejczyk once more, the sky is truly the limit for the 25-year-old Namajunas.
While we’ve seen newly-crowned champions get caught up in their own hype and believe that they’re truly untouchable inside of the Octagon, Namajunas has remained cool, calm, and collected. In fact, her and her team have made it a point to train as if she was fighting for the UFC women’s strawweight title, not defending it. At the end of the day, that’s a tremendous outlook for a new champion, especially one who still has to prove a ton of doubters wrong.
Even as a champion coming off a first-round knockout win over the best strawweight fighter of all time, Namajunas is a perfect example that fighting careers are not meant to be perfect. Not only did “Thug” lose her first UFC title shot to Carla Esparza in 2014 following a productive stint on The Ultimate Fighter, but she lost a close split decision to Karolina Kowalkiewicz back at UFC 201, which would have led to an earlier title shot against Jedrzejczyk.
Still, despite her past struggles, Namajunas continues to grow and show improvements in herself, both inside and outside of the cage. As the soft-spoken champion from Colorado gears up for her rematch with the highly out-spoken Jedrzejczyk later tonight at UFC 223, she’ll be looking to make another big stride in her career. A victory over Jedrzejczyk will force all naysayers to bow at Namajunas’ feet, understanding that she may represent the new era of female champions in UFC -- one that doesn’t need to dress provocatively or talk trash in every interview to gain momentum among the masses.
We will find out one way or another if now is Namajunas’ time to shine and reign supreme over a talented 115-pound division. Jedrzejczyk may very well be the best fighter “Thug” will ever face in her entire career, so beating her for a second time will forever cement her legacy in this sport.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 223 fight card, starting with the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” at 8 p.m. ET before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.