Rose Namajunas thinks she should remain the UFC strawweight champion.
On Saturday night at UFC 274’s co-main event, Namajunas put her strawweight title on the line in a rematch with one-time champion Carla Esparza. It was, to put it mildly, bad. For five rounds, Namajunas and Esparza stared at each other in a frosty fight that made the commentary team openly mock her. In the end, Esparza reclaimed the strawweight title with a split decision that immediately elicited boos from the crowd. And at the press conference following the fight, Namagunas was also not pleased with the decision.
“I won that battle,” said Namajunas. “I stuck with the strategy. I felt like I landed more shots. I even took her down. None of her takedowns mattered or any control time. She hit me, I was saying one good punch and maybe again her forearm hit my nose at some point.” When we were standing, but other than that, maybe a few low kicks but I didn’t feel it or anything.
“I felt like I did the damage, I controlled the fight, and I’m proud of myself for sticking with the strategy. Because I know that in all of Carla’s fights, she’s been feeding people and trying to get people to attack her, so it’s like ‘No’. I’ve been into the slugfests of Before, I broke my nose, stood there and bloodied in the octagon, so I stuck to the strategy and had no offense. She was sniffing the air the whole time. So I thought I won.
“I’m still really trying to address this because I’m not trying to be salty or anything. I feel like there’s something to be learned from every loss. I feel like I could maybe, there were moments where I wanted to take advantage of a little more, be more offensive, But then every time I step in, my feet would slip. So I had to be safer. That’s a decision I made in that moment, but like I said, I’m a sexy fighter. I’m a terminator. I have the highest finish rates, so I don’t think I was getting Boos. I’m sure that was Carla. I obviously want some interesting fights so that’s kind of stinging a bit too.”
Namajunas went on to explain exactly why she felt it was worth getting the nod, saying it did more damage and controlled the fight with foot movement and distance management.
“I feel like I hit her a few different times, especially because her right arm was so clean,” Namajunas said. “I have to come back to watch it, but I remember going down with nice uppercuts, and even some punches that weren’t very strong but were keeping them away, and going on, I felt like I wasn’t just doing damage but controlling the fight. But I still had to rummage for a bit because I hate to look like this. I hate to look salty because I lost, you know what I mean? F***. But at the same time, this is what makes sense to me now.”
Officially, Namajunas beat Esparza by 37-30, tying 27 percent of her big hits. However, it also gave up takedowns and some short control of the back, and in a battle with a bit of scoring, that proved to be enough. It was definitely referee Rick Winter who scored the game 49-46 for Esparza, a result Namajunas doesn’t understand.
“That’s surprising,” Namajunas said. “I thought, Well, perhaps, [but] I don’t even know what you can count on. Maybe it was the low kicks but the low kicks didn’t even hurt me. They really didn’t do anything. Removal maybe. Maybe all her attempts but I stuffed all of them. I don’t know how many times you’ve tried to catch me, but really, I don’t get any appreciation for a good defense? I guess maybe the referees just wanted to see bravery as it was in the previous fights or something, so they didn’t appreciate good strategy, but like I said, I’m always into exciting fights. Can’t I fight a strategic battle? Should I do this face? No. F *** this. “
Unfortunately for Namajunas, strategy and defense aren’t actual scoring criteria under the Standard Rules, and so “Thug Rose” now finds itself 0-2 down to Esparza. As much as she respects Esparza as a fighter, Namagunas is clearly not happy to lose her title in this way.
“Carla, I really respect what you’re doing there, but at the same time, it’s just that I don’t see how she’s going to be a hero like that,” Namajunas said. “But like I said, I hate to look salty.”