Rose Namajunas retains women’s strawweight title in rematch vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Rose Namajunas (R) punches Poland’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk during the first round of a women’s strawweight title bout at UFC 223 early Sunday, April 8, 2018, in New York. Namajunas won the fight. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK — Rose Namajunas won the women’s strawweight championship by overwhelming Joanna Jedrzejczyk, finishing her in just 3:03 of the first round in November at Madison Square Garden.

A few miles across the river in Brooklyn, Namajunas put on a technical display and outlasted a game challenger to retain her championship with a unanimous decision victory in an outstanding fight at the Barclays Center in the co-main event of UFC 223 on Saturday.

All three judges scored it 49-46 for Namajunas. Yahoo Sports also had Namajunas, 48-47.

Jedrzejczyk came out with the plan to attack Namajunas’ lead leg with kicks, and she did an extraordinary job of it. There were welts showing by the middle of the first round, and by the time the fifth started, Namajunas’ leg was pink from all the welts and bruises.

And despite the trauma, she finished the fight like a champion, coming out hard and taking the battle to Jedrzejczyk in the final round.

By the end, both fighters had marks from the pitched battle, and they went at it hard. At the final bell, the fighters embraced and then paraded around with their arms in the air, each believing they’d won.

When ring announcer Bruce Buffer read the scores, the sold-out arena erupted as Namajunas was announced the winner.

It was the kind of victory that pushes a fighter to the next level. She stared down one of the elite fighters in the game, who was on a mission to regain her championship and came with her best.

Nonetheless, Namajunas was in control of the fight most of the way. While Jedrzejczyk’s kicks were clearly impactful, she wasn’t able to land the punches she needed to change the momentum of the fight. It appeared that Namajunas, not Jedrzejczyk, was landing the harder shots.

“Thug Rose” kept her poise and beat back a game and determined challenger, showing that her win in November was no fluke, nor simply the result of a failed weight cut by Jedrzejczyk.

Namajunas won this one on her merits, and the 25-year-old is simply getting better as she reaches her fighting prime.