Saturday night in New York City will mark the 10th time that Rose Namajunas has entered the octagon for a sanctioned MMA match. The Milwaukee native has been preparing for this opportunity over the past six months to finally prove she can be the best fighter at 115 pounds in UFC. To get there, however, she will have to beat one of the best women's fighters the company has ever seen in Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
The champion will be looking to tie Ronda Rousey's record for most consecutive title defenses when the two clash in New York City at UFC 217 in Madison Square Garden. Namajunas is 6-3 in her professional career, but she might have the tools necessary to unseat the unbeaten queen of 115.
1. Ground game, ground game, ground game: Namajunas is a proven commodity when it comes to jiu-jitsu, karate and Taekwondo, and she has translated those skills into victories in UFC. Of her six wins, five have come via submission. The fights where she struggles the most is when she is forced to fight standup throughout the match, not allowing her to utilize a superior wrestling attack. In her most recent victory over Michelle Waterson, Namajunas landed a perfect headkick to drop Waterson and take the fight to the ground. From there, she utilized excellent ground and pound before grabbing Waterson's neck and refusing to let go.
Meanwhile, Jedrzejczyk remains mostly unproven on the ground, but that also comes from an incredible take-down defense where competitors are simply unable to take the fight there. For Namajunas to be successful, she needs to take this to the ground and fast.
2. Mind games don't faze her: While Jedrzejczyk has made a name off her blustery antics before fights, including her signature move of kissing her fist before putting it directly in her foe's face, Namajunas remains one of the most stoic fighters in the company. No matter what events are going on around her, Namajunas is almost like a clone of Robbie Lawler, seeming bored by everything. But don't mistake that for a lack of intensity inside the octagon. "Thug" remains one of the toughest fighters in UFC, she just won't be intimidated by the mental warfare.
3. Joanna overconfident? I ask this as a genuine question because she's consistently trying to intimidate her opponents, but many thought Jedrzejczyk crossed a line this week when she brought up Namajunas' family history of mental illness. Now, this isn't the first time a fighter would have crossed a line (see McGregor, Conor), but the overconfidence that Jedrzejczyk is exuding could also be her downfall.
Rousey was the same kind of confident when she stepped in against Holly Holm in 2015 before getting caught. Now, I think that Jedrzejczyk is a more complete fighter than Rousey ever was, but if she loses her focus against Namajunas, we could be looking at a new champion Saturday night.