The strawweight wheel turned again last night, crushing perhaps the most skilled participant to play the game in ferocious fashion. Rose Namajunas, after dominating the first round against Jessica Andrade, found herself unconscious in the second after one of the Brazilian’s signature slams: Andrade’s nickname, ‘Bate Estaca’, means piledriver. It was a spectacular knockout, one so vicious that it had many concerned whether or not Rose was okay.
If there is one person who knows how Rose Namajunas feels, it is her old rival Joanna Jedrzejczyk. ‘Joanna Champion’, the greatest strawweight in the sport’s short history, experienced the same loss against Rose herself, not long ago at UFC 217. In a rematch, Rose was able to narrowly out-skill the former champion in a range striking battle. After seeing her only strawweight vanquisher knocked out, Jedrzejczyk could have gloated: she, after all, beat the brakes off Andrade for five rounds. Joanna, however, had nothing but encouragement for the woman who bested her twice:
Namajunas isn’t convinced she will remain in the sport. After volunteering to defend the belt against her toughest challenger on enemy soil, she described losing the title as a great weight off her shoulders. The piano-playing, gardening ‘Thug Rose’, always open about her feelings, has a life beyond fighting, and she seems very close to embracing that. If, a year from now, she is peacefully weeding her tomato plants while the UFC burns on, that would not be surprising.
Despite the slam, Rose is one of perhaps three people in the division who could conceivably beat Andrade. Joanna has already done so handily, and undefeated Tatiana Suarez, though untested, has the wrestling to counter the new champion’s inhuman strength and stamina. If Rose does retire, Joanna’s proven ability may see her plunged into another title fight; that leaves strawweight in a potential rock-paper-scissors scenario. Rose may find herself rising from her tomato plants and dusting off her hands to fish her phone out of her overalls. She will look at the screen and it will say Sean Shelby. After a brief conversation, she will go inside and stare into the mirror. An electric razor will click on, and she will begin to shave her head again.