The UFC returns to pay-per-view this weekend with its first show in Brazil since February’s excellent Fight Night 144, and headlining UFC 237 is a UFC Women’s Strawweight Title match between champion Rose Namajunas and challenger Jessica Andrade.
Namajunas will be stepping into enemy territory for this, her second title defense, as the Brazilian crowd should be red hot for the challenger.
Elsewhere on the card, we’ve got a pair of UFC legends in the form of former champions Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo facing two up-and-comers in Jared Cannonier and Alexander Volkanovski, and a solid mix of prospects and veterans – mostly Brazilian fighters – filling up the undercard.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC 237: Namajunas vs. Andrade.
#1 Rose Namajunas vs. Jessica Andrade
This fight feels like it’s been a long time coming, but in reality it’s only two years since Andrade had her last title shot – an unsuccessful attempt to dethrone Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who at the time looked almost unbeatable – and it’s actually less than two years since Namajunas eventually dethroned Jedrzejczyk in a shocking result to become the third champion in UFC Strawweight history.
Since then, Namajunas has managed just one defense, but it was a hugely impressive one, as she outpointed Jedrzejczyk in what was essentially a kickboxing match. She’s been on the shelf ever since, recovering from a couple of injuries and some apparent issues surrounding her unfortunate involvement in the infamous Conor McGregor bus attack, but assuming she’s back to her normal self now, she’s quite clearly the best 115lber on the planet right now.
How she matches up with Andrade is quite tricky to tell really. ‘Bate Estaca’ has actually been in the UFC for years now – since 2013 – but she only really started to shoot up the rankings once she moved to Strawweight in 2016.
Wins over Jessica Penne, Joanne Calderwood and Angela Hill netted her the 2017 title shot, and since she came up short there, she’s beaten Claudia Gadelha, Tecia Torres and Karolina Kowalkiewicz to earn another one.
Andrade’s game is literally all about power and brute force. She’s not the cleanest striker in the world even if she can chain combinations together, but she’s got a granite chin and more to the point, she hits ludicrously hard for a 115lber.
Her one-punch knockout of Kowalkiewicz was probably the most brutal finish in the division’s history, and she can also grapple well too, again with a game largely based around power. Envision a female version of prime, PRIDE-era Wanderlei Silva – minus the soccer kicks and stomps of course – and you’d have Andrade.
Namajunas meanwhile is a much more nuanced fighter. If I’m honest I would’ve had her pegged as a pretty mediocre striker even after she knocked out Jedrzejczyk, but then in the rematch, she showed that she was a lot more than that.
‘Thug Rose’ essentially used her boxing skills – largely her head movement, footwork and a counter left hand – to outpoint Jedrzejczyk in the early rounds, never allowing the Polish fighter to establish her jab, and while she took a lot of leg kicks which hampered her footwork later in the fight, she eventually hung in tough and had enough power in her own punches –as well as a good enough chin – to outstrike Jedrzejczyk in the stretch to cement the decision.
Based on that fight – assuming Namajunas hasn’t regressed since, which is unlikely – I think this is a winnable fight for the champion. Andrade was outpointed by Jedrzejczyk pretty firmly in their fight and while Rose isn’t as pure a kickboxer as the former champ, it’s not really like Jedrzejczyk used anything wildly outlandish to beat her; it was more that Andrade just couldn’t land a clean shot on a fighter with better movement and more nuanced striking.
The question to me then becomes about whether Namajunas is good enough to push the kind of pace that Jedrzejczyk did without tiring, and also whether she can prevent Andrade from taking her down if she does look to try that game.
Andrade’s wrestling isn’t exactly based around technique, but her takedowns are very powerful and from the top, she’s highly dangerous – just ask Claudia Gadelha.
Namajunas is no slouch on the ground herself though, even if we did see her lose to Carla Esparza largely due to an inability to work from the bottom back in 2014. And of course, Esparza isn’t as aggressive and wild as Andrade from the top, meaning the Brazilian would likely be more susceptible to attacks from the guard.
I actually don’t see Andrade going for takedowns though, as she’s probably got too much faith in her punching power to really bother – unless Namajunas hurts her badly standing, which based around her own solid chin, I doubt will happen.
That means that this should be a stand-up affair, and my money is on Namajunas I think. She didn’t slow down against Jedrzejczyk despite taking a lot of damage to her leg, and I’m not sure that Andrade can land a one-shot kill on her as she did to Kowalkiewicz, who made the error of trading.
As long as ‘Thug Rose’ doesn’t make that same error, I think she’s got enough skill to pick the challenger apart just as Jedrzejczyk did two years ago.
The Pick: Namajunas via unanimous decision