After regaining the title at UFC 261, what’s next for Rose Namajunas?

In the co-main event of UFC 261, we saw the strawweight title fight that the world had been waiting to see. Zhang Weili (21-2) was set to defend her title against the former champion Rose Namajunas (10-4).

“Thug” Rose has been through a lot over the past few years. The former UFC champion went to the top of the sport and shocked the world at UFC 217 when she defeated the long reigning champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Immediately, the two strawweights ran things back and Namajunas again got the better of Joanna. There was no doubting that Rose Namajunas was the best strawweight in the UFC.

However, outside the cage, Thug Rose was struggling. The anxiety and pressure of being the champion was weighing heavy on her. At UFC 237, Namajunas lost her title when she got knocked out by a slam by Jessica Andrade.

Most champions would be extremely upset, but Namajunas seemed relieved more than anything. In fact, she contemplated having UFC 237 be her last fight. However, having the time to regroup, Thug Rose found her passion and fire for fighting again.

After some time away, she returned last year and avenged her loss to Jessica Andrade. That led her to UFC 261 where she took on Weili. Before the fight, a focused Namajunas could be heard saying ‘I’m the best’ during the introductions.

Early on at UFC 261, Namajunas looked light on her feet. She looked like the same Thug Rose that won the title back in 2017 and we ended up seeing the same result. A beautiful head kick came just over a minute into the first round that put Weili out and Thug Rose regained the UFC strawweight title.

What’s next after UFC 261?

This is truly such a remarkable story and UFC 261 wasn’t the end of it, it was just the end of a chapter. Now, we are going to see the second reign of Namajunas over the strawweight division.

With that being said, what’s next? Well, the UFC could always run things back with Zhang Weili. Weili looked like she was going to be extremely difficult for anyone to beat at 115 pounds, but got caught with the perfect shot early in the fight.

Because of the nature of the fight, I could see the promotion running it back. However, I’m not sure they will. If not, the fight to look to would be the Carla Esparza (17-6) and Yan Xiaonan (13-1, 1 NC) matchup that takes place next month.

These two UFC strawweights both have winning streaks of at least four heading into the fight. Whoever wins that matchup could be next in line for the UFC champion. Namajunas has history with Esparza that dates back to their first official fight in the UFC.

Esparza defeated Namajunas in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter to become the strawweight champion. Xiaonan is the surging contender from China who has gone 6-0 since joining the UFC. If she gets to 7-0, it would be hard to deny her a shot at Thug Rose.

UFC: “Thug” Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade added to UFC 251

The UFC’s July 11th card just added a big-time women’s strawweight fight to it’s main card. Former champions “Thug” Rose Namajunas (8-4) and Jessica Andrade (20-7) will be running it back at UFC 251 after Andrade knocked out Namajunas back in 2019 to take the strawweight title.

“Thug” Rose’s Return

Thug Rose hasn’t fought since the loss to Andrade, and this will be a big fight for her in her return. She said that going into the Andrade fight, she was questioning her future in fighting. She wasn’t feeling the fire that led her to the strawweight title. Namajunas became a star overnight when she dethroned former champion, Joanna Jedrejczyk back at UFC 217. Jedrzejczyk was widely considered the best female fighter in the world leading into the fight with Namajunas. She was 14-0 and dismantled almost every woman that stood across from her. Namajunas shocked the world by knocking Jedrzejczyk out in the first round. Because Jedrzejczyk had been so dominant during her reign, the UFC gave her the chance to run things back against Thug Rose. Namajunas proved she was the new queen after clearly defeating Jedrzejczyk over the course of a five-round decision. Namajunas took some time off after the rematch with Jedrzejczyk. Her second title defense came against Andrade at UFC 237.

Andrade Looks to Repeat

Jessica Andrade came into the fight with Namajunas as the clear number one contender. She had rattled off wins against some of the best fighters in the division and was coming off of a highlight-reel knockout win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 228. That being said, most people believed that Namajunas was going to retain the title when the two fought. When they fought, Namajunas controlled most of the fight. She used her distance extremely well and bloodied the challenger. It was incredibly difficult for Andrade to get on the inside to do any damage. However, one grappling exchange changed everything. Andrade was able to use her raw strength to lift Namajunas and slam her which knocked the former champion unconscious. Andrade celebrated in her native Brazil as she became the fourth ever UFC strawweight champion. Of course, her reign didn’t last long as she was knocked out in the first round by the current champion, Weili Zhang, just a few months later.

Next in Line

This is a big-time fight for the strawweight division. The winner of this fight will likely be next in line to take on the champion, Zhang. It will be really interesting to see the mental state of Thug Rose. I believe she’s one of the most talented female fighters in the world, but she’s had to battle a lot of things outside the octagon. I believe that Namajunas is the better fighter between the two, but Andrade’s raw power can change any fight at any time. We will wait to predict this fight when we do our preview, but it’s a fight that fans should be looking forward to on July 11th.