Saturday’s UFC 237 card in Rio de Janeiro did not go well for the country of Brazil — until the championship main event.
The finish came when Andrade lifted Namajunas (8-4) into the air and slammed her on the back of her head. The bout was quickly waved off. Namajunas would recover and exit the cage unassisted.
Andrade, 27, scored just the fourth slam knockout in a title fight in UFC history, and the first since Matt Hughes’ dramatic slam of Carlos Newton at UFC 34.
It was a massive victory for Andrade, who was fighting in her native country. Earlier in the night, the Brazilian crowd watched several of its legends lose, including Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Silva’s defeat was particularly demoralizing, as he suffered a knee injury in the opening round.
“I was certain of what I had to do in the second round,” Andrade said. “I never did that move before in the UFC. The pile driver. That’s what I do. It’s my nickname.”
Michael Bisping describes how Jessica Andrade was able to win the women’s strawweight title from Rose Namajunas. For more UFC action, sign up for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Namajunas spoke to reporters at the postfight news conference, and her manager, Brian Butler, said she would not be transported to the hospital.
“She is clear-headed and being very gracious about the loss,” he said.
After the loss, Namajunas expressed uncertainty about her future in MMA, telling ESPN, “Going into this one I was like, ‘This might be the last time I ever do this.’ But we’ll see. We’ll take it one day at a time.”
Asked if she meant she was contemplating retirement, Namajunas told ESPN, “I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Namajunas, of Denver, fought beautifully early on. She opened a cut near Andrade’s left eye with a stiff right hand in the first minute of the bout and rocked her with a knee to the body later in the round. Namajunas’ speed and footwork was the story of the first round, and it was obvious Andrade would need to make adjustments.
A former 135-pound contender, Andrade did exactly that in the following frame. She relentlessly pressed forward on the feet, despite a healthy stream of counter jabs by Namajunas.
Andrade is known for her power and physical wrestling, and it showed in the finish. She got into Namajunas’ hips and lifted her entire body into the air for the slam.
After the bout, Andrade credited her coach, Gilliard Parana, and even handed him the belt in the Octagon.
Andrade is now 7-1 since dropping to the strawweight division in 2013. Her only loss during that stretch was a five-round decision to former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who recently fought at 125 pounds but intends to return to 115.
Namajunas suffered her first loss since July 2016.