SHARE




Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream UFC 261 live on
your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the
ESPN app.

Nearly two years have passed since Rose
Namajunas
last sat on the
Ultimate Fighting Championship
women’s strawweight throne. She
plans to update the timeline.

Namajunas will challenge Weili Zhang
for the undisputed 115-pound title when she meets the once-beaten
Chinese superstar in the UFC
261
co-headliner this Saturday at VyStar Veterans Memorial
Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. “Thug Rose” has rattled off four
wins across her past five outings. Namajunas, 28, has not appeared
since she avenged a 2019 defeat to Jessica
Andrade
and upended the Brazilian by split decision in their
UFC 251 rematch on July 11.

As Namajunas approaches her five-round battle with Zhang, a look at
five of the moments that have come to define her:

1. Flight Plan

Namajunas channeled her inner Rumina Sato
and fired up social media in just her second professional
appearance, as she submitted Kathina
Lowe
with a flying armbar in the first round of their Invicta
Fighting Championships 5 pairing on April 5, 2013 at the Ameristar
Casino Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. Lowe conceded defeat 12
seconds into Round 1. An unknown prospect at the time, Namajunas
pressured her counterpart with punches at the start, welcomed the
clinch that followed and let her breathtaking skills do the rest.
She isolated Lowe’s left arm as she took flight with her back to
the fence, landed, rolled, activated her hips and forced the tapout
in front of a spellbound audience.

2. A Bridge Too Far

Carla
Esparza
left nothing to chance. The Team Oyama product
submitted the hyper-aggressive Namajunas with a third-round
rear-naked choke to take the inaugural Ultimate Fighting
Championship women’s strawweight title in “The Ultimate Fighter 20”
Finale headliner on Dec. 12, 2014 at the Palms Casino Resort in Las
Vegas. Esparza sealed it 1:26 into Round 2. A competitive first
round gave way to sheer dominance from the “Cookie Monster.” A
former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder, Esparza struck
for repeated takedowns in the second, advanced to full mount and
tore into Namajunas with thudding lefts and rights. “Thug Rose”
survived but never seemed to recover. Esparza executed another
takedown inside the first 15 seconds of Round 3, moved to the back
and locked in the choke.

3. Turn the Paige

Namajunas gave Paige
VanZant
the what-when-how treatment, as she did what she wanted
when she wanted and how she wanted to do it. A short-notice
replacement for the injured Joanne
Calderwood
, Namajunas submitted VanZant with a fifth-round
rear-naked choke in the UFC Fight Night 80 main event on Dec. 10,
2015 at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. The tapout came 2:25 into
Round 5. VanZant had no answers for an opponent who was superior to
her in every phase. Namajunas secured repeated takedowns, unleashed
ferocious elbow-laden ground-and-pound and forced the Team Alpha
Male prospect to operate under the constant threat of submission.
Bloodied by a cut under the eye, VanZant showed her resolve, as she
withstood a rear-naked choke in the third round and two armbars in
the fourth. Namajunas was not dissuaded. Midway through Round 5,
she scrambled to VanZant’s back and took a choke from which there
was no escape.

4. Shockwaves

“Thug Rose” turned the mixed martial arts world upside down when
she took care of Joanna
Jedrzejczyk
with first-round punches and captured the
undisputed women’s strawweight championship in a UFC 217 co-feature
on Nov. 4, 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Jedrzejczyk
bowed out 3:03 into Round 1, suffering her first defeat as a
professional in a remarkable upset. Namajunas was measured and
confident. She got Jedrzejczyk’s attention early, when she floored
the off-balance Pole with an overhand right. Moments later,
Namajunas decked the champion with a vicious left hook and pounced
with follow-up punches until the job was done. She cemented herself
as the world’s top strawweight five months later at UFC 223, where
she laid claim to a unanimous decision over Jedrzejczyk in their
five-round rematch.

5. Power Play

Andrade needed mere seconds to alter the course of history. The
Brazilian powerhouse captured the undisputed Ultimate Fighting
Championship women’s strawweight title with a slam knockout of
Namajunas in the UFC 237 main event on May 11, 2019 at Jeunesse
Arena in Rio de Janeiro. Namajunas surrendered her grip on the
115-pound throne 2:58 into Round 2 before a ravenous crowd of
15,193. “Thug Rose” floored Andrade with a first-round knee strike,
fed her an unhealthy diet of jabs, utilized superior footwork and
generally outstruck the Parana Vale Tudo standout across seven-plus
minutes of a thrilling encounter. The tide shifted in Round 2 and
did so dramatically. Andrade bullied the champion to the fence,
executed a high-crotch lift—a maneuver she had attempted on two
prior occasions—and slammed her headfirst into the canvas. The
impact separated Namajunas from her faculties and made Andrade the
UFC’s fourth strawweight champion. Advertisement


LEAVE A REPLY