After knocking out Karolina Kowalkiewicz with a one-punch KO in the co-main event of UFC 228, there cannot be any more doubt that Jessica Andrade is next for UFC women’s flyweight champion Rose Namajunas. With a 6-1 record as a flyweight in the Octagon, Andrade has proven she is the rightful next title challenger at 125lbs, and after winning a “Performance of the Night” bonus at a stacked UFC 228 event, it would be hard to disagree with her getting the next shot at the belt.
Andrade has always been a good fighter since making her UFC debut in 2013, but she was undersized as a bantamweight. Since dropping down to flyweight, though, there aren’t many bigger fighters at the weight class. At 125lbs, Andrade is bigger, stronger, faster, more powerful and more aggressive than almost anyone else in the division. Former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk beat her, but no one else has been able to thwart her high-pressure, fast-paced style. With wins over the likes of Kowalkiewicz, Claudia Gadelha, Tecia Torres, Angela Hill, Joanne Calderwood and Jessica Penne, Andrade has proven herself to be the new No. 1 contender, and a fight with Namajunas has to happen next.
Timing may be the enemy for Andrade right now, as Namajunas’ team recently admitted the 115lbs champion is having a hard time coping after the Conor McGregor bus incident back at UFC 223 in April. Namajunas may need more time to recover and feel better before she’s ready to defend her title. Andrade surely doesn’t want to wait around, not after taking no damage in a blowout over Kowalkiewicz, but she may have to if she wants to fight for the belt. And there’s no question she deserves it, as the only other fighter who could even have an argument to fight for the belt at the moment is Tatiana Suarez, who finished former champ Carla Esparza at UFC 228. But the UFC seems much more likely to take the slow road and build up Suarez more, which would give Andrade the inside track to the title. It just depends if Namajunas is ready or not.
If Namajunas is not ready to fight, then perhaps the UFC will entertain the idea of an interim belt. That might seem crazy, but think about it. The UFC still has a couple of huge pay-per-view cards (UFC 230, UFC 231) that do not officially have a main event right now. Andrade is healthy and ready to fight, and her fighting for the belt could beef up either of those two PPV cards. Maybe it’s not a main event, but Andrade could easily serve as the co-main event for either of those cards in a title fight. The question now is if Namajunas will be ready to return and defend her belt or if the UFC is going to match Andrade up with someone else for the interim belt. Either way, Andrade has to fight for the title in her next fight. Anything less than that would be a travesty.
Andrade looked amazing at UFC 228, knocking out a former title challenger in Kowalkiewicz and becoming the new No. 1 contender in the process. She absolutely deserves the next title shot, and now it will be interesting to see what the UFC decides. No doubt it would be ideal to see Namajunas defend her belt against Andrade, but maybe the promotion will decide to introduce and interim title. We will have to see what happens there. But Andrade’s performance at UFC 228 will go down as one of the most dominant performances ever at 115lbs, and her big knockout over Kowalkiewicz will help the card to be remembered as one of the best events of all time.