The number 3 ranked pound-for-pound greatest women's martial artist on the planet and current UFC women's strawweight champion Rose Namajunas returns to the octagon at UFC 268 in November. Ahead of her first strawweight title defense we're taking a deeper dive into how good "Thug Rose" actually is.
The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finalist
Having competed as a professional fighter for a mere four years, Rose was signed by the UFC alongside ten other female martial artists to create the strawweight division. In a traditional TUF format, the competitors would compete in an elimination-style tournament to become the next Ultimate Fighter, and, on this occasion, the winner would be crowned as the first UFC women's strawweight champion.
As the youngest athlete on the show, the expectations of Rose weren't high, but the future of women's MMA was being created right in front of our eyes.
During her early success, Rose's background in taekwondo, karate, and wrestling was utilized to initiate submission attempts. She became the girl nobody wanted to scramble with when owning such a high submission finish rate.
The older, more experienced wrestling offense of Carla Esparza was able to outwit Rose in the final, but it was at this point, we realized "Thug Rose" was going to become a staple name in the business.
UFC Debut & UFC Strawweight Championship Number One
In 2016, Tecia Torres became the first opponent in Rose's professional career who'd lost the fight and managed to avoid a submission loss. It was a revenge fight for Rose from her first-ever career loss against Torres back at Invicta FC 6. It became another signal that the experience and growth of the youngster were evolving into a serious prospect.
A questionable split decision loss to Karolina Kowalkiewicz was Rose's first UFC loss, but the minor setback wouldn't hold much weight. A return fight against the dangerous karate expert Michelle Waterson was enough to earn a strawweight championship opportunity.
Critics, journalists, and fans alike believed that Joanna Jedrzejczyk was unbeatable. The lingering thought was, 'well, Rose is good, but can this 25-year-old from Milwaukee dethrone the undefeated champion with elite striking? Probably not'. Boy, we were wrong.
Bookmakers closing odds were a staggering +500 on Rose Namajunas, giving her a 16% probability of success, "Thug Rose” would soon change that census and in today’s market she’s found in most punters best bets for today.
Rose's long and slender frame was advantageous for slipping in rear naked chokes or submission holds in general, but her striking offense had often been overlooked. In a complete shock victory, she outperformed the champion at her own game, defeating Jedrzejczyk by TKO in the first round.
Her mentor and life partner Pat Barry is strongly involved with Rose’s progression, and it just so happens that Pat was known for his kickboxing offense – something he’d clearly injected into Rose’s game.