Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Strawweight rivals Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk rematched last night (April 7, 2018) at UFC 223 inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Namajunas did the impossible by knocking out Jedrzejczyk last time out, and the narrative shifted dramatically leading up to the rematch. Heading into last night’s bout, few were picking the former champion, and the general consensus seemed to be that Namajunas’ had her number. Of course, Jedrzejczyk did not agree. The Polish kickboxer is nothing if not determined, and she came in more motivated than ever to return strong and recapture her Joanna “Champion” mantle.
Jedrzejczyk opened the bout by working behind the jab and low kick, whereas Namajunas once again relied on her lateral and in-and-out movement. Jedrzejczyk was active, but she was also more patient than the first fight, which was a smart update to Jedrzejczyk’s approach.
Namajunas’ power shots were landing though. She feinted into looping shots, closing the distance suddenly. In addition, Namajunas did a nice job of shifting between stances, using the left hand from Southpaw to sneak through the guard.
The fighters traded heavily to end the round, but Namajunas scored more cleanly.
Both women scored with jabs to begin the second. Namajunas continued to land the heavier shots, but the former champion kept digging in with low kicks. It really was a battle of head vs. leg strikes, as both strikers were connecting on their mark consistently. Namajuanas’ left hook was her money punch once again, but Jedrzejczyk did good work in the final minute with knees to the body from the clinch.
Namajunas had a slight advantage ten minutes deep, but the fight was still very much up for grabs.
Jedrzejczyk found her range and comfort a little bit in the third, leading the charge more effectively and firing in combination more often. Namajunas was still firing big counters and landing looping shots, but she was a bit less active overall. Jedrzejczyk’s low kicks seemed to be adding up, as Namajunas’ lead leg was a deepening shade of red. In the final minute of the round, Jedrzejczyk’s punches began to land with more consistently as well, and she returned to her corner with some added momentum on her side.
Jedrzejczyk had made it to the championship rounds, the area she tends to dominate.
As Namajunas’ feet slowed down from low kicks and conditioning, Jedrzejczyk’s punches landed more consistently. Namajunas’ head movement was still looking sharp, but the jab connected to her nose and mid-section more often. In addition, the low kicks just kept coming. To her credit, “Thug Rose” stayed tight despite the physical stress, landing a number of counter left hooks.
It was a closer round than the third, but it was potentially tied with five minutes remaining.
Namajunas came out slugging, looking to trade power shots with the Muay Thai champion. Namajunas scored with big hooks and a gnarly uppercut, bloodying up Jedrzejczyk further. The Polish kickboxer found her range, picking up the pace with combinations. Namajunas didn’t have the mobility to bounce around, but her pocket boxing found her success. The fifth round featured numerous close exchanges, and Namajunas finished the round with a takedown, although she never really established control.
Ultimately, the judges awarded the decision to Rose Namajunas.
Although I disagree with the scoring itself, each woman had a strong argument to winning the fight. For Namajunas, the victory was once again earned on the strength of her left hook and her ability to manage range. Although Jedrzejczyk did a much better job of judging distance and working with proper range tools, Namajunas was still able to make her miss frequently while jumping in with her own power shots.
In addition, Namajunas toughed it out big in the final frame. The third and fourth did not go her way, and despite what the judges wrote down, most saw the fight as even with five minutes remaining. Even that round was incredibly close, but Namajunas switched up her approach with thudding pressure and takedown attempts to make that happen.
Another gutsy and technical performance from “Thug Rose.”
Jedrzejczyk made smart adjustments ahead of this rematch, and it nearly paid off. She chopped at Namajunas’ leg constantly, which allowed her to take over the middle of the fight. Unfortunately, Jedrzejczyk’s habit of planting her feet and throwing when in the pocket was too strong to resist, and it cost her a number of left hooks to the jaw.
What’s next for Jedrzejczyk? Realistically, she could hang around at 115 lbs. in the very possible event that Jessica Andrade defeats Namajunas, but perhaps a fresh start at 125 lbs. would make more sense.
Last night, Rose Namajunas inched past her foe in an excellent fight. How long will Namajunas hold onto her crown?
For complete UFC 223: “Nurmagomedov vs. Iaquinta” results and play-by-play, click HERE!