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TUF 20: Finally! “Thug” Rose Namajunas

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As the number seven ranked fighter in the house, Rose Namajunas is many fans favorite to win TUF 20. Those fans have been anxiously awaiting her first fight this season. No one was more anxious for her to fight than Namajunas herself. You can see the passion she has for the sport when she is training and fighting. She pours herself into it and it is that burning passion that has attracted so many fans to her. That and her exciting fighting style.

The Flying Armbar

Namajunas made her professional debut against fellow teammate on the show Emily Kagan at Invicta FC 4. Namajunas defeated the tough Kagan in the third round via a RNC. It was an impressive debut against a difficult and gritty opponent in Kagan but it was her next fight against Kathina Catron that had fans buzzing. It is what happens when you do this:

Thug Rose #1This highlight was played on Inside MMA and brought a lot of attention to the rising young star. It won her submission of the night and submission of the year for many of the sites covering the sport. She was now 2-0 with two finishes and the words future champion were already being used about her.

That talk was only slightly slowed down by her tough close loss to fellow cast mate Tecia Torres in her next fight. The fight was razor close and could have gone either way. Namajunas responded to the loss like a champion and that was to go out and work harder. She and her fiancee Pat Barry relocated to Colorado and joined Grudge Training Center under the tutelage of Trevor Wittman.

Namajunas and Bruce Lee

This is the third gym for the young Namajunas and for some that would be a negative. They talk about how changing gyms can work against you and that a fighter is better staying with the gym and coaches that know them the best.

I see changing gyms as a more of a Bruce Lee style approach. Seeking to work with some of the best coaches in the world to learn from each of them and what works best for you. Creating a unique style within the sport and you see elements of that in Namajunas’ style. It is one that blends together multiple striking styles and you see that she will throw anything from anywhere at anytime. This makes it very difficult to defend against her.

The other benefit she has gained by training at multiple gyms for the show is that she is less reliant on having “her” coaches. It something many fighters struggle with on the show. Their coaches know them and know how to coach them. It is something that has tripped up many fighters on TUF. For Namajunas she has adapted three different times already in her young career and continued to thrive. What we saw in this win over Alex Chambers was the best most complete Namajunas to date.

Be afraid, be very, very afraid

Namajunas was dominant in the win over a very talented and tough Chambers. It was very scary one to the rest of the house and reminded me a lot of another recent TUF winner Chris Holdsworth. He won TUF 18 following a simple recipe of hurting people with his striking in the standup and then finishing them with a submission on the ground. That is exactly what Namajunas did to Chambers.

Right from the opening moments Namajunas had Chambers off-balance with her opening side ninja kick to the face. It did not rock Chambers, it simply grazed her and seemed to put her on her heels right away.

Thug Rose Ninja Kick

Namajunas was aggressive but not reckless.

Thug Rose C Aggression

Chambers did land one wicked and clean right hand but did not slow Namajunas down at all.

Thug Rose has a chin

It was a beautiful display of MMA from her combining all of the elements of the sport in a masterful manner that belies her young age. A perfect blend of aggression and control blended together with just the right touch of striking and grappling.

Thug Rose MMA

It was the kind of performance you expect out of a 25-year-old fighter with around 10 fights in their career and entering into their prime. Instead, it was from a 22-year-old with only three professional fights – a very scary thought for the rest of the strawweights. As good as she looked in this fight it is frightening to consider she is still several years away from her prime and is a constantly evolving fighter who continues to grow.

For the rest of the fighters left in the competition this was a scary Namajunas. She showed her creative striking, strong submission skills, a little wrestling and a lot of heart and toughness. The right hand she took from Chambers would have dropped a lot of fighters. Instead of dropping Namajunas, she ate it, stepped back and gathered herself for a beat and a half. Then she calmly and methodically went out and finished the fight.

Next up: Joanne Calderwood

Are you serious? Joanne Calderwood versus Rose Namajunas! This is such a sick second round matchup and one fans have been wanting to see since the season started. It pairs up two of the better well-rounded fighters with strong striking bases. Both looked good in getting their first round wins and came through them unscathed and ready for the next round.

This fight will be a technical battle between two stone cold warriors. This is like The Bride from Kill Bill meets Black Widow from The Avengers. A true fight fans dream matchup. I see no way that this fight is not a must see classic and cannot wait for it to air. The winner of it will become the favorite for many fans.

The Champ is here

I like what I saw out of Namajunas in this fight and I like her to get the upset in the next round. If this fight had taken place a year ago I think Calderwood would have been able to use Namajunas’ aggression against her and picked her apart with counterstrikes. Now it is a much different fight.

Namajunas is still aggressive but in a very controlled way and will not rush in recklessly. She showed tremendous poise and ability to walk the tightrope of enough aggression vs too much of it. Something that is rare for such a young fighter. Look for her to again find that right balance of aggression and control to take this next fight with Calderwood.

Whomever wins you can be guaranteed that you will see some of the best and most creative striking of the season. They both are willing to try strikes that other fighters either cannot even attempt, would be afraid to try in an actual fight or just would not even think to throw. Neither just throws wild and crazy strikes though. They both are very technically sound and stay balanced throughout their fights.

Watching Namajunas’ movement against Chambers was like watching Syria Forel in Game of Thrones. It was like she was dancing on water, gliding across the octagon staying balanced and ready to strike. Even when she is backing up and angling out Namajunas is always ready to strike.

This was an impressive win for Namajunas over a very tough and well-rounded Chambers. It was the performance many fans having been waiting for since this cast was announced. This episode also showed why Namajunas is such a fan favorite with her honesty and realness combined with a badass fighting style. She is interesting , intelligent, creative with a warrior’s heart and spirit. She also could just be the first UFC strawweight champion.

cover image credit – Esther Lin for Invicta FC

An avid lifetime fight fan who loves to write about it. So kick back, get comfortable and let's have some fun! "Wants me to tell him something pretty." Al Sweargen "Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny. Fuck no! I have comeback from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong." Dan Dority "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." Bill Munny

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