Rose Namajunas has built her career on memorable series against the strawweight elite. Some would argue that Joanna Jedrzejczyk is her greatest rival. Others may point to her ongoing eight-year story with Carla Esparza. It is the brutality of Jessica Andrade, however, that left fresh scars while inexplicably healing others.
Andrade separated Namajunas from consciousness and her strawweight crown at UFC 237. Namajunas held onto a kimura for too long and was rewarded by being slammed on her head. There was legitimate concern about Namajunas' neck health. Remarkably, Andrade's unique application of chiropractic medicine may have aided in healing lingering neck issues.
"With Joanna, I would say even though I had been in a five-round fight before that, the rematch with her was the real first war that I had. I had to weather a little bit of damage. With Andrade, that was a complete total stripping away of any innocence," Namajunas told "Morning Kombat" this week. "I got slammed on my neck [in the first fight] and then I got my nose broken in the second fight. The first fight was so different from the second fight as far as I didn't really sustain any damage even though I got KO'ed. Actually, the neck problems that I had went away after getting slammed on my neck, which is kind of weird and sort of a miracle for me."
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Namajunas tied the series in her rematch with Andrade one year later but arguably took more damage in victory. In another stroke of luck, Andrade's gift of a broken nose encouraged Namajunas to repair a deviated septum that had negatively impacted the champion's performance for years.
"I came out of that fight unscathed, basically, whereas the second fight, totally different," Namajunas said. "I had zero quit in me. I didn't care if she broke my face, I was busted up or anything. I came out of that fight victorious, but I was damaged. It was a blessing in disguise as well."
The next installation in Namajunas' saga of rivalries is a rematch against Esparza. The two strawweights handle co-main event duties at UFC 274 on May 7 with gold on the line. Esparza defeated Namajunas in the finals of "The Ultimate Fighter 20" to win the inaugural women's strawweight championship. They have had a reversal of fortunes in the eight years since with Namajunas emerging as a two-time champion.