It only takes one maneuver to definitively change the direction of a fight in this sport, and for Jessica Andrade, that maneuver was a body slam that knocked out Rose Namajunas.
Though the defending champion looked to be on her way route to a dominant victory over Andrade by piecing up the Brazilian on the feet and threatening with submissions whenever the two met in the clinch, “Bate Estaca” -- it means “pile driver” in Portuguese -- found her opening at 2:58 of the second round. Andrade dumped “Thug Rose” on her head and finished her off with hammerfists to claim the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight crown in the UFC 237 main event on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro.
Beneath the strawweight anchor, the main card was littered with offerings to the partisan Brazilian crowd, with former champions Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo appearing in bouts of varying importance, along with former title challengers Thiago Alves and Bethe Correia. Unfortunately for those in attendance, this cadre of hometown favorites lost in straight sets; and when Silva lost to Jared Cannonier via leg-injury TKO in the co-headliner, it felt like the crowd was on the precipice of a riot.
With UFC 237 in the books, “The Vanquished” assesses what comes next for the main card losers. However, with so much uncertainty surrounding the futures of figures like Namajunas Aldo and Silva, this entry figures to be a little different than its predecessors.
Rose Namajunas vs. 100 Untamed Acres: Namajunas was visibly shaking when Bruce Buffer announced her name for the main event, but she exuded calm once the cage door closed. For almost eight full minutes, “Thug Rose” looked like the clearly superior martial artist, as she landed at will with jabs, those patented hybrid jab-hooks and a perfectly timed knee that rocked Andrade in the first round. Though she was ultimately derailed by Andrade via the aforementioned body slam in Round 2, many would pick her to regain the title in a rematch. The problem? Namajunas does not seem interested in getting back in the cage. In her post-fight interview, she described losing the belt as a “weight off [her] shoulders,” and at the post-fight press conference, she openly pondered retirement. Given Namajunas’ run with PTSD following the UFC 223 debacle in April 2018 and her palpable apathy towards the sport in the buildup to her second title defense, I think it’s quite likely that we don’t see Namajunas in there for a long time, if ever. I for one hope she can spend that period building urban farms like she has always dreamed.
Anderson Silva vs. An Icepack: Many people scratched their heads when Silva was paired against the largely unheralded Cannonier in the UFC 237 co-main event, and the fight that ensued when the two men entered the cage certainly did not vindicate the matchmaking. After a feeling-out process that saw “The Spider” largely inactive as he tried to work out Cannonier’s timing, things got going in the latter portion of the opening round. Silva moved forward while landing jabs and body kicks -- right up until he ate an inside leg kick from “The Killa Gorilla” and went down cradling his knee. Silva has now tasted victory just once in his last eight starts, and at 44 years old, he can only do further harm to his legacy by continuing to compete. My hope is that this fight with Cannonier was his last and that the UFC can keep him busy in Brazil as a brand ambassador.
Jose Aldo vs. Retirement (or Anthony Pettis): A man who was once the consensus greatest featherweight of all-time lost a unanimous decision -- and his status as the No. 1 contender at 145 pounds -- to Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski. Though the former champion had flashes of success, Volkanovski clearly outworked him during the 15-miute affair, utilizing a mix of superlative timing and clinchwork on his way to a clean 30-27 sweep on the judges’ scorecards. With Aldo having expressed mixed feelings toward another title run earlier in 2019 and having no clear route back to contention while Max Holloway sits atop the throne, no one would begrudge him if he decided to hang up the gloves. On the other hand, at 32 years old, it also would not be the worst thing if Aldo moved up to 155 pounds and chased some superfights with some big names. He and Pettis were scheduled to throw down at UFC 163 nearly six years ago, and I would not mind seeing that towards the end of 2019, once “Showtime” dukes it out with Nate Diaz at UFC 241.
Thiago Alves vs. Alan Jouban: Alves put on a respectable performance against Laureano Staropoli in their main card clash, but he failed to do enough to win the decision. “Pitbull” has now dropped five of his last seven fights in the UFC, and though his losses have not been as disquieting as some -- here’s looking at you B.J. Penn -- his time in the sport figures to be coming to an end at the age of 35. A fight opposite Jouban, who made a return to the cage in April with a tedious loss to Dwight Grant, makes sense.
Bethe Correia vs. Talita Bernardo: Correia may have solidified her claim to the single most uninspiring post-title-shot career in the UFC’s modern era by losing via submission to Mexico’s Irene Aldana after blowing the scales by half a weight class the day before. After going 3-0 in the Octagon to earn a title shot opposite then-undefeated champion Ronda Rousey in August 2015, Correia has won just once in her last six attempts; and if it were not for the excruciating lack of depth in the women’s 135-pound weight class, she would be at serious risk of being handed a pink slip. She should next fight the equally lackluster Talita Bernardo, who has gone 1-3 in the UFC since her debut in 2017.