One of the most anticipated rematches in women’s MMA took place last night when Rose Namajunas faced Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 223 at the sold-out Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
In their first bout, we saw Rose Namajunas storm out and get the TKO in just over three minutes. However, what took place last night was a highly technical bout between two women at the top of their game. It took the full 25 minutes for Namajunas to beat the former champion Joanna, with the scorecards coming to 49-46 across the board, and some would argue that the decision should have been a lot closer.
Regardless of scores, what we saw last night was an example of the ever-improving skill level in women’s MMA and here’s how it all went down.
A battle of epic proportions
In the first round, we saw both women eager to get the action going. Both walked forward with the current champion landing two punches, which Joanna countered with a stinging leg kick. Namajunas strikes up the middle, landing some solid shots but Jedrzejczyk was prepared. The two ladies threw hard and fast at the end, giving us a lot of action early in the bout. As with most bouts at championship level, it can be hard to judge the start of the fight when both athletes are going through the feeling-out process. The first round looked to be in Rose’s favor but wouldn’t have been too controversial if it had gone the other way.
Heading into the second round, Namajunas ran forward landing the first few strikes before it was combinations back and forth. Both fighters understood the skills of the other and showed respect for the majority of the five minutes. Namajunas’ power loomed in the background, threatening to strike at any moment. Being the aggressor of the two, Rose lands a strong left hand before heading into the clinch. This could have been a time to show her infamous grappling skills, however, the clock soon ran out and the ladies reset to continue to battle.
The third round was when the momentum of the bout started to shift. Namajunas’ leg was clearly damaged by Joanna’s consistent low kicks. The champion’s footwork and movement slowed down significantly but it was obvious throughout that Rose was working towards adjusting the game plan. Joanna was getting some confidence back and although being cautious, started to take more chances in an attempt to sway the judges in her favor. The closely contested round could have gone either way, 2-1 to Rose seemed the most likely option.
Jedrzejczyk’s leg kicks started off the fourth round, the former champion pushing herself for another taste of strawweight glory. Namajunas remains composed and continues to strike although somewhat slower than the previous rounds. Joanna lands some punches too and gets more control than ever over Rose, the round seemed to go in Jedrzejczyk’s direction. Both ladies head back to their corners after pressing towards each other for the final moment of the first championship round.
The fifth round was the tensest round of the bout. In a lot of people’s eyes, the score was set at 2-2, and whoever snatched the fifth was going to snatch the win. Both women came out aggressively, landing heavy shots up the middle. The damage from the fight was showing, but both Rose and Joanna would battle through. Jedrzejczyk started throwing knees more often now, catching Namajunas more than a few times. Rose swung with all of her strength, it was a true championship showdown. In the final seconds of the round, Namajunas jumped at Joanna and took her down towards the cage. Jedrzejczyk wasn’t going to give up and tried to land some strikes from the bottom. However, time was up and it looked like the takedown was a vital move for Namajunas to keep her belt.
Reigning, defending, undisputed
Last night saw Rose Namajunas tested against a highly technical former champion, although a less dominant match second time around, Namajunas showcased her resilience as a champion. Joe Rogan pointed out just how intriguing this display was from Rose to retain her belt for the first time during the post-fight interview; “What was most impressive is that you won a kickboxing fight with one of the very best kickboxers to ever fight in MMA”. With tried and tested grappling skills, Namajunas could have pulled out her ground work to get the edge, instead she went out and beat Joanna Jedrzejczyk at her own game. It may have not been the most beautiful fight of the night, but a tough first defense for the newly crowned champion should only work in a positive way.
The judge’s scorecards had each woman winning different rounds, competition was close and Rose knows that working through adversity is the only way to improve. Speaking at the post-fight press-conference, Namajunas spoke about the five round battle, “[I] just went out there and had fun and was just like, ‘Screw it, I’m just going to slug instead of trying to be quick right now, because it’s obviously not working.’” Joanna Jedrzejczyk caused some damage to Namajunas, but she wore it well, this resilience is an important skill to have when facing a title defense against one of the top of the current strawweight division. Namajunas is on her way to becoming a huge star in this sport, the future ahead definitely won’t be easy but it’s certainly looking bright.