UFC 251 was a notable event for having not one but three belts on the line, but the title fights weren’t the only ones that have a big impact. The card also had two fights featuring high level talents from the women’s side of the UFC, and one of these fights pitted Jessica Andrade against Rose Namajunas in a rematch of 2019’s title fight.
This time, Namajunas came out on top in a split decision – it won’t be a popular decision with every fan, as it’s not impossible to make an argument that Andrade was the winner, but at the end of the day it was higher volume striking that won ‘Thug Rose’ the fight.
The result has important implications for the division, which is currently ruled by Zhang Weili. Weili currently has one title defense, which came against former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, leaving her in a situation where the rest of the division is looking up to her and waiting for their shot.
Where will tonight’s result take both fighters as well as the champion?
A step down for Jessica Andrade
Many would say that Jessica Andrade is one of the most exciting talents in the UFC. Despite fighting at a lower weight class, she has great power and an aggressive style. She’s fought bloody battles before against high level opponents, and her fights are anything but boring.
Perhaps that’s the reason why the UFC was willing to throw Andrade a bone and give her the Namajunas fight immediately after her loss of the belt to Weili. If she managed a win, there’s a chance she would get a rematch and a chance to take the belt back.
However, the loss means that Andrade has lost back to back fights. With a recent record like this, one can expect her next fight to be of a lower caliber than her last two.
Will the UFC match Andrade up with another contender, giving her a chance to get right back into the mix in the competition for the number one contender spot? Or will they instead use her recent lack of success as a chance to ‘put on’ a newer fighter with a matchup against the veteran who has fallen out of favor?
What are the possible fights?
If the league does decide to send Andrade down the rankings a bit to fight some of the others who are in the contender mix, a couple of names stand out. Tatiana Suarez is still undefeated in professional MMA and 4-0 in the UFC and could easily move into title contention with a win over a name like Andrade. Suarez is already a top three name in the division rankings, and has a chance to move up due to Andrade’s defeat.
Claudia Gadelha, on the other hand, was at number six in the rankings before UFC 251 but has a history of contention and already fought one bout against Andrade, which was Fight of the Night and had some exceptional action. Few would complain about a rematch, and Gadelha is on good form, having won her past two fights.
There’s also some decent names in the division to match with Andrade if the UFC wants to set up a former champion versus rising prospect fight, which would either put Andrade back on track or put a newer contender on the map. Yan Xiaonan is a possible opponent who was at 10 in the rankings going into UFC 251, with a 5-0 record in the UFC.
Amanda Ribas is more of a longshot but will likely move up from her spot at #14 thanks to her quick finish of Paige VanZant in the earlier fight at UFC 251.
The road to the belt for Rose Namajunas
It looks like Rose Namajunas is certainly going to fight for the title next.
Things are far more clear cut for Thug Rose than they are for Andrade. Andrade has been the opponent for the past two of her fights and she came out with a 1-1 record from those matchups, but in her previous fights, she had put together three straight wins including two against ex-champion Joanna Jedrzejcyzk.
With Andrade’s defeat, her and Tatiana Suarez are the last ones standing in the race to fight Weili. And with Suarez lacking the resume, it’s blatantly obvious that Weili and Namajunas are set for a fight where Namajunas will have a chance at getting her belt back.
It looks like an entertaining title fight – one where Weili’s 21 fight win streak will be challenged by a contender who has experience against the best. And thanks to the way things panned out, it seems certain that we’ll get this fight as the next title bout in the strawweight division.