For a while inside the Octagon on Saturday, it seemed as if Jessica Andrade was going to be in for a long, punishing night.
Andrade was getting pelted by punches and kicks from defending UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas early and often. Andrade (20-6) was cut around her left eye less than a minute into what was the main event of UFC 237, and Namajunas, to put it bluntly, was busting her up. Namajunas moved well and tagged the Brazilian with her left jab over and over and whenever Andrade would come in too close, “Thug” cracked her with a left hook.
This formula continued throughout the entire opening round and half of the second. Andrade was getting flustered and launching wild, sloppy punches from everywhere, but Namajunas remained calm and picked her apart. It was starting to get ugly and it seemed as though “Bate Estaca” might wind up getting stopped at some point; Namajunas was that precise.
Everything changed, though, when Andrade scooped up the American and slammed her down hard. The Brazilian tried two powerful slams in the first, but “Thug” rolled with them perfectly. But that changed with the third one, which occurred in the second frame. Andrade lifted her up over head and slammed her down, living up to her nickname, which loosely translates to “pile-driver” in English. Namajunas landed on her head and was knocked completely out.
“I picked her up like a feather,” Andrade said to the assembled media. “She was really light. I didn’t even imagine she would be that light. When I threw her, she didn’t let go of the arm, so that’s what happened. I wanted to throw her on the back to work the ground-and-pound and that ended up happening. But it was good for me, it ended quicker.”
When Andrade landed the slam, she admitted that she was unaware of what she did.
“In the moment I didn’t see what happened,” she stated. “I saw that she fell and I saw that she passed out and I threw two punches and the referee got in between us, but I didn’t see the magnitude of that. We train to get in there and get out of there healthy, but she woke up right after that and I relaxed. And I was happy that everything worked out and that I didn’t kill her.”
It took a little while for everything to sink in for Andrade, who finally won the UFC strawweight title two years after coming up short to then-queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 211.
“It has not hit me yet that I am the UFC strawweight champion,” she said. “I can’t even tell what happened during the fight; it felt like I was in a parallel universe. I just realized that I had won. For anyone who once said that the belt on my shoulder would be an illusion, here it is. Winning the title at home, with my family and my team, it was the most incredible feeling I have ever experienced in my life.”
Andrade was receptive toward immediate rematch with Namajunas and said she expects the UFC to arrange the duel. However, when it was mentioned to her that Namajunas hinted at retiring following her defeat, the Parana Vale Tudo star was dismayed and disappointed.
“I’m upset to hear that,” Andrade said. “She’s a great fighter and I saw how much she’s evolved in this whole process. Everything that she did with Joanna in the fight. It’s kind of bad to see someone with a lot of talent wanting to retire, but I think everyone knows the right time to finish this.”