Despite getting outclassed on her feet through nearly two full rounds, Jessica Andrade coerced the UFC women's strawweight title through sheer strength and force.
Andrade (20-6) picked up reigning 115-pound champion Rose Namajunas and slammed her on top of her head and neck in Round 2 to bring a violent end to their UFC 237 main event bout at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro via second-round knockout.
Referee Marc Goddard instantly waved off the fight at 2:58 of the second round after Namajunas (8-4) was knocked out cold from the impact.
"I was very certain in what I had to do in that second round," Andrade said. "I never threw that move, I never piledrived anyone in the UFC. That's my nickname and I wanted to do that. I knew she was slowing down."
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Namajunas, who entered the fight on a 13-month layoff due to injury following a pair of exciting title wins over Joanna Jedrzejczyk (who defeated Andrade in 2017), put forth a blistering first round that acted like a highlight reel of her incredible evolution as a striker.
Entering with advantages of three inches in both height and reach, Namajunas landed stiff jabs to open a cut above Andrade's left eye and put forth a clinic on footwork and changing angles to offset Andrade's pressure.
Andrade, 26, a former bantamweight who has reinvented herself as a knockout puncher at 115 pounds, was willing to take the damage throughout in order to get close enough and twice got her hands on Namajunas in the opening round for slam attempts that were thwarted by the champion securing Kimura attempts while in midair to minimize the impact of the landing.
In Round 2, Andrade continued with her relentless pressure and began to catch Namajunas in comprising situations as she backed up in straight lines with her hands down. Eventually she got close enough for a third slam attempt that saw Namajunas' commitment to try and hook a kimura leave her neck exposed to the slam.
"It's just a huge pressure off my shoulders," Namajunas cryptically said after the fight.
Namajunas had made a curious decision earlier in the year to pass up a chance to defend her title in March against Andrade in Las Vegas. Instead, she insisted that the two fight in Andrade's home country of Brazil and explained that making the fight as difficult as possible would help bring out the best in her.
For one round, it appeared as if Namajunas' bet was paying off. But Andrade's toughness and rugged determination to stalk forward without ceasing helped her stay in the fight, just as she did in her title loss to Jedrzejczyk two years ago when she landed hard punches late in the fight despite being down on the scorecards.
While it was Andrade's stamina and pressure that allowed her to get close enough to Namajunas to deliver the finishing blow, it was her impressive strength that won her the title in a finish that was even more alarming than Andrade's one-punch knockout of Karolina Kowalkiewicz last September. Andrade now owns the most wins in UFC history by any female fighter with 11.
"I'm very happy but this is really his belt," an emotional Andrade said as she handed the belt to her coach, Gillard Parana. "If he hadn't put the gym together 10 years ago, I wouldn't be here."
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UFC 237 card/results
Jessica Andrade (c) def. Rose Namajunas via second-round TKO (slam and punches)
via first-round TKO (injury)
via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Laureano Staropoli def. Thiago Alves via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Irene Aldana def. Bethe Correia via third-round submission (armbar)
Ryan Spann def. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira via first-round TKO (punches)
Thiago Moises def. Kurt Holobaugh via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
Warlley Alves def. Sergio Moraes via third-round TKO (punches)
Clay Guida def. B.J. Penn via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
UFC 237 updates, highlights
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