One more time for those in the back: “Bate Estaca” is Portuguese for pile driver.
Never has that nickname suited Jessica Andrade better than at UFC 237, where she defeated Rose Namajunas by second-round TKO after dropping the strawweight champion on her head and finishing with strikes to claim the UFC title as her own.
Despite the spectacular finish, Andrade’s win was far from easy, and it was only after falling behind on the scorecards and being forced to defend against a kimura hold that the 27-year-old Brazilian was able to find the opportunity to lift Namajunas up for the fight-ending slam. Andrade had to adapt quickly or risk falling short in a UFC championship bout for a second time, and with her head coach preaching urgency, she executed the perfect maneuver at the perfect time.
“I noticed she was dodging (my strikes), blood got in my eyes and I couldn’t see anything, but I stayed calm because the strategy was right,” Andrade said, speaking about her performance at the evening’s post-fight press conference. “I spoke with my master in between rounds and he said that I had already felt her hands, that I knew what could happen, ‘So let’s keep going because everything will be alright now. Keep working on those kicks because she’s getting tired.’ And it worked.
“When I put her against the fence, he said, ‘Go for it, go for it because it will work.’ I couldn’t believe I went for the pile driver.”
The slam was horrifyingly effective — and 100 percent legal under the unified rules, as Andrade was in the act of defending against a submission — and to the naked eye it looked as if Namajunas may have suffered a serious neck injury.
During her own post-fight press conference appearance, Namajunas did not indicate that she was experiencing any issues with her neck, and in the moment it looked like Namajunas recovered her senses shortly after the bout was waved off. Andrade was relieved to see that Namajunas appeared to be fine after being slammed, which allowed Andrade to enjoy her triumph without guilt.
“I saw her lying there, that she was out, and I still landed two punches before the referee stepped in,” Andrade said. “But I hadn’t realized how serious it was. I got worried because we train to go in there and fight and everyone comes out okay. She woke up later and I relaxed, ‘Okay, I can celebrate for real now because she’s fine. Everything went fine, I didn’t kill her [laughs].’ I didn’t imagine that would happen.
“I believe the pile driver worked because she kept holding my arm and I think she was going for a submission, but since I took her too high and moved her over my head and threw her, there was no way, she fell on her face and went out immediately.”
Andrade is now a UFC champion with back-to-back finishes and seven wins in her last eight fights. Her four-fight winning streak puts her into a tie for the longest active streak at 115 pounds with the unbeaten Tatiana Suarez and the resurgent Nina Ansaroff.
In discussing who could be her most dangerous challenger, Andrade pointed to Suarez as one to watch.
“I believe the most dangerous of them all is Tatiana,” Andrade said. “She has a great ground game. Even though I have a great jiu-jitsu, she’s an incredible grappler and I have to be careful with that. On the feet, I realized that it will be hard for anyone to knock me out, I have a solid chin and everything will be alright.
“We get damaged and cut, but it works in the end.”
Translation from Portuguese by Guilherme Cruz