One of the biggest upsets of 2017 came at UFC 217, which took place this past November at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. It was at UFC 217 where three titles changed hands, with TJ Dillashaw knocking out Cody Garbrandt to claim the UFC bantamweight title, Georges St-Pierre coming out of retirement to submit Michael Bisping and win the UFC middleweight title, and in the biggest upset of the three, Rose Namajunas knocking out Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the first round to claim the UFC women’s strawweight title.
There weren’t many people picking Namajunas to win the fight, and at the time it made sense why almost everyone was taking Jedrzejczyk to defend her belt. After all, Jedrzejczyk was 14-0 at the time with an 8-0 record in the UFC including five title defenses. Namajunas, meanwhile, had lost in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter and had a 4-2 record overall in the UFC. Considering how dominant Jedrzejczyk was and how Namajunas had at times struggled, it made sense that most gave Jedrzejczyk the upper hand in the fight.
But there’s a reason the fighters actually fight the fights, and that’s because in MMA anything can happen, and that’s been proven time and time again in this crazy sport. While there were some who saw Namajunas perhaps having a path to victory if she was able to take Jedrzejczyk to the mat and submit here there, there weren’t many who saw Namajunas having the advantage on the feet. But it turned out that she did, as she was able to get the best of Jedrzejczyk on the feet, catch her on the chin, and finish her in the first round in a shocking upset.
At the time, there were many who thought it was a fluke, and some still think that to this day, especially with Jedrzejczyk coming out after the fight saying she suffered from a bad weight cut, something which is proven to affect a fighter’s durability. But what if it wasn’t a fluke? What if Namajunas is just the better striker than Jedrzejczyk, and the better fighter overall? Well, she will have the chance to prove that it wasn’t a fluke when Namajunas makes her first title defense against Jedrzejczyk in the co-main event of UFC 223.
The fact the UFC booked this rematch shows that there is still some level of doubt even among UFC brass if Namajunas landed a lucky punch or not, because there are other fighters in the division who could have been plugged into the title fight. But Jedrzejczyk got it, and the UFC matchmakers must think she has a chance to win this rematch even though the first fight was a complete blowout. The fact that Namajunas is the underdog this time around even after how quickly she beat up Jedrzejczyk in the first fight shows there’s still doubt among the oddsmakers and the bettors as to whether or not the first fight is a fluke. Well, Namajunas is going to get the opportunity this weekend to prove the doubters wrong and show that she is indeed the better fighter.
As someone who was all over Jedrzejczyk the first time around, I admit I was completely shocked by what happened in the fight. But I’m in the camp that it wasn’t a fluke, that Namajunas is the better fighter and has the edge in this particular matchup. I also admit that a rematch to prove once and for all that that’s the case makes sense. The UFC booked this rematch and it should be a good one — if this second fight is as exciting and shocking as the first one was, then MMA fans are in store for a great fight this weekend. And with UFC 223 losing the originally-scheduled main event between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov, the fact the event has such a good co-headliner to fall back on is only a positive.