12 May - 
UFC champ Jessica Andrade on scary KO, possibilities of rematch and Rose Namajunas retiring

RIO DE JANEIRO – At this point, it isn’t clear whether former UFC champion Rose Namajunas will ever return to the octagon. If she does, though, newly-crowned champ Jessica Andrade will be more than ready to extend her a rematch.

Andrade (20-6 MMA, 11-4 UFC) met Namajunas (8-4 MMA, 6-3 UFC) in the headlining bout of UFC 237 this Saturday. The defending champ was off to a good start, using her movement and range to pick Andrade apart on the feet, but things took a turn in the second. Not only did Andrade walk away with a knockout win, she did it in scary fashion, courtesy of a massive slam.

Namajunas eventually got up and seemed fine as she talked to media backstage and during a post-fight news conference. But things were tense for a few seconds, as the image of Namajunas landing violently on her neck got replayed in the arena.

It turns out, the new champ was “very worried,” as well.

“We train to get in there and have a good fight and hoping that everyone will get out of there healthy,” Andrade told reporters, including MMA Junkie, after the pay-per-view main event at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro. “And in the moment I didn’t see what happened. 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 hadn’t realized the proportion of that, 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 (laughs).

“I didn’t even imagine that that would happen. I believe that the pile drive happened because she kept holding my arm and she was going to try a submission. But since it was a takedown, I threw her over my head and I threw her down and there was no way. She landed on her head and it was an immediate knockout.”

After living up to her “Bate-estaca” nickname, which translates to pile-driver in English, Andrade said she was surprised by how easy Namajunas was to pick up and thanked her coach, Gilliard Parana, for the instructions that resulted on a title-winning finish and a “Performance of the Night” bonus.

“He had said to me that if she got you in a triangle or an arm-lock, for me to pile-driver and I was good at that,” Andrade said. “It worked out in the end. He yelled out, ‘Get your head out’ and, when I did that, I picked her up like a feather. 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.”

After spoiling Namajunas’ second title defense, Andrade was quick to express that she’d have no problem with giving her opponent the same opportunity. In fact, the Brazilian strawweight seemed rather confident that the promotion would go down that route.

“The UFC is definitely going to want to do a rematch and I accept it because I believe that, to prove that you won, you have to do the same thing twice,” Andrade said. “So I’m going to be very well-prepared. I’m going to focus more on the movement. She had quicker hands, but I believe that plan was to tire her out in the first round and then on the second round I noticed that her arms were slower, I was able to duck more and she takes all the kicks.

“That’s something that I’m going to train a lot. And the takedowns, she felt like a feather in there. So I feel like I’ve got to improve my ground work and the movement, I think everything will work out.”

What Andrade didn’t know at the time, though, was that the former champion might not be interested in the rematch. In fact, she might not be interested in fighting altogether, as she told reporters minutes before Andrade’s press conference.

Upon hearing the news, Andrade expressed disappointment with the ideas of the sport losing a talent like Namajunas and of not getting a chance to meet her in the cage again. But she would also respect Namajunas’ decision if she does end up walking away.

“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 (Jedrzejczyk) 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. Some people love this and want to do live this for as long as they can, but some people see that maybe they don’t want to do it anymore. It’s not enough for them and they want to look for something new.

“But I believe everyone makes their own decisions. If she chooses not to fight, I’m going to be very upset because I’d really like to have this rematch. She’s an amazing girl. I think all of us could see the woman that she is this week. She’s so respectful.”

If it isn’t Namajunas next, Andrade has a few options atop the strawweight division.

Michelle Waterson, for instance, has said that she thinks a title shot should follow her win over ex-title-challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz and even attended Saturday’s event in Rio. A key UFC 238 match-up between Tatiana Suarez and Nina Ansaroff, both riding four-fight UFC streaks, could also determine the next challenger.

Andrade doesn’t know who will, indeed, be next. But she does know who brings her the most danger out of all of them.

“I think the most dangerous out of all of those is Tatiana,” Andrade said. “She’s got very good ground game, she’s insistent. Even though I have good jiu-jitsu, she’s an incredible grappler, so I’m very careful with that. I work the takedowns very well.

“And, striking, I know that it’s going to be very tough for someone to knock me out or something like that. I have a tough chin and everything’s going to work out. We leave the octagon all beat up, but everything works out.”

To hear from Andrade, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC 237, check out the UFC Events section of the site.