Rose Namajunas faces a task of considerable difficulty in her second turn as the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight titleholder.
“Thug Rose” will put her 115-pound championship on the line against Jessica Andrade in the UFC 237 main event on Saturday at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Meanwhile, former middleweight champion Anderson Silva presses his luck at the age of 44 when he confronts Jared Cannonier in the three-round co-headliner at 185 pounds.
Namajunas, 26, operates out of the 303 Training Center in Wesminster, Colorado, and holds the rank of black belt in taekwondo and karate and brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. She last fought at UFC 233, where she extended her winning streak to three fights and retained her strawweight crown with a five-round unanimous decision over former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in their April 7, 2018 rematch. Namajunas has delivered six of her eight professional victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission.
A 5-foot-2 package of blunt force trauma, Andrade has won six of her last seven bouts. The 27-year-old Parana Vale Tudo representative staked her claim as the No. 1 contender at 115 pounds in September, when she knocked out Karolina Kowalkiewicz in less than two minutes at UFC 228 and put the rest of the division on high alert. Andrade sports 13 finishes among her 19 career wins, eight of the first-round variety.
UFC 237 “Namajunas vs. Andrade”—which streams live to ESPN+ pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT—also features a featherweight tilt pairing Jose Aldo with Alexander Volkanovski, a welterweight clash pitting Thiago Alves against Laureano Staropoli and a lightweight confrontation matching Carlos Diego Ferreira with Francisco Trinaldo. ESPN (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) and UFC Fight Pass (6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT) will share coverage of the eight-fight undercard.
The UFC will not have the mixed martial arts stage to itself, however, as Bellator MMA will counter with Bellator 221 on Saturday at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, where featherweight champion Patricio Freire moves up to 155 pounds to challenge Michael Chandler for his lightweight title in a five-round superfight.
An NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri, Chandler finds himself on a three-fight winning streak. The 33-year-old Hard Knocks 365 export reclaimed the lightweight championship for a third time at Bellator 212 on Dec. 14, as he laid claim to a five-round unanimous decision against Brent Primus and avenged a 2018 defeat to the Sports Lab standout. Chandler has compiled a 16-4 record under the Bellator banner.
Freire, 31, has rattled off three straight victories since a leg injury forced him to bow out of an August 2016 encounter with former UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting champion Benson Henderson. “Pitbull” last fought at Bellator 209 in November, when he retained his featherweight title with a unanimous decision over Emmanuel Sanchez. Three wins against Daniel Straus anchor the Freire resume, along with victories over Daniel Weichel (twice), Wilson Reis (twice), Georgi Karakhanyan and Henry Corrales.
Bellator 221 “Chandler vs. Pitbull”—which streams live to DAZN at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT—will also feature a welterweight grand prix semifinal matching Douglas Lima with Michael Page, a featherweight showcase pitting A.J. McKee against Pat Curran and a heavyweight battle pairing former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Jake “Jack Swagger” Hager with T.J. Jones.