Rose Namajunas believes she should still be the UFC strawweight champion.
On Saturday night in the co-main event of UFC 274, Namajunas put her strawweight title on the line in a rematch with one-time champion Carla Esparza. It was, to put it mildly, bad. For five rounds, Namajunas and Esparza stared at each other in a listless battle that had the commentary team openly poking fun at it. In the end, Esparza reclaimed the strawweight title with a split decision that immediately had the fans booing. And in the post-fight press conference, Namajunas was also none too pleased with the decision.
“I won that fight,” Namajunas said. “I stuck to the strategy. I felt as if I landed more shots. I even took her down. None of her takedowns were significant or any control time. She hit me with, I’d say one good punch and maybe another time her forearm clashed into my nose at some point when we were both standing up, but other than that, maybe a couple low kicks but I didn’t feel them or anything.
“I felt like I did the damage, I controlled the fight, and I’m proud of myself because I stuck to the strategy. Because I know that in all of Carla’s fights she baits people in and tries to get people to attack her, so it’s like, ‘No.’ I’ve been in slugfests before, I’ve gotten my nose broke, I’ve stood there and shed blood in the octagon, so I stuck to the strategy and she didn’t really have any offense. She was whiffing at air the whole time. So I thought I won.
“I’m really still trying to process this because I’m not trying to be salty or anything. I feel like there’s something to be learned from each loss. I feel like I could maybe, there were moments where I wanted to capitalize a little bit more, be a little more offensive, but then every time I would step, my foot would slip. So I had to be a little more safe. That’s a decision I made in that moment, but like I said, I’m an exciting fighter. I’m a finisher. I’ve got one of the highest finishing rates, so I don’t think that I was getting the boos. I’m pretty sure that was Carla. Obviously I want to have exciting fights so that does kind of sting a little bit too.”
Namajunas went on to explain exactly why she felt she deserved to get the nod, saying that she did more damage and controlled the fight with her footwork and distance management.
“I feel like I hit her a few different times, especially an overhand right landed super clean,” Namajunas said. “I’ll have to go back and watch it but I do remember landing nice uppercuts, and even some of the punches that weren’t super solid but were just keeping her at bay, making contact, I felt like I was not just making the damage but controlling the fight. But I’ve still got to ruminate over this a little bit because I hate sounding like this. I hate sounding salty because I lost, you know what I mean? F***. But at the same time, it’s just what makes sense to me right now.”
Officially, Namajunas did out-land Esparza by a count of 37-30, connecting on 27 percent of her significant strikes. However, She also gave up to takedowns and some brief back control, and in a fight with so little to score, that proved to be enough. It certainly was for judge Rick Winter who scored the bout 49-46 for Esparza, a score that Namajunas doesn’t understand.
“That’s surprising,” Namajunas said. “I thought, okay, maybe, [but] I don’t know what you can even count. The low kicks maybe but the low kicks weren’t even hurting me. They really didn’t do anything. The takedown maybe. Maybe all her attempts but I stuffed all of those. I don’t know how many times she tried to grab me but really, I don’t get no credit for good defense? I think maybe the judges just wanted to see a slugfest like it was in previous fights or something so they weren’t appreciative of good strategy, but like I said, I’m always in exciting fights. I can’t have a strategic fight? I’ve got to f*** up this face? No. F*** that.”
Unfortunately for Namajunas, strategy and defense are not actual scoring criteria under the unified rules and so, “Thug Rose” now finds herself down 0-2 to Esparza. And as much as she respects Esparza as a fighter, it’s clear that Namajunas isn’t happy with having lost her title in this fashion.
“Carla, I really respect what she does in there, but at the same time, only so much to the point where I don’t see how you become the champion like that,” Namajunas said. “But like I said, I hate sounding salty.”