Just two fights ago, UFC president Dana White dubbed Rose Namajunas (pictured) as “the next Ronda Rousey” coming off “The Ultimate Fighter 20.” Namajunas had the cover girl face, charisma and exciting game to become a future face for the UFC.
However, Carla Esparza completely rag dolled Namajunas in the TUF 20 finals to not only become the inaugural UFC strawweight champion, but derail this whole “next Ronda Rousey” hype train.
Esparza thoroughly exposed the 23-year-old, leaving many to wonder if the UFC was trying too hard to force an unprepared circle into a star-shaped peg – particularly since Namajunas owned just a 2-1 professional record before stepping inside the octagon.
Namajunas rebounded nicely by easily submitting her friend Angela Hill in October. It was a solid win, but it didn’t quite put her back on “the next Ronda Rousey” track considering Hill was promptly cut from the UFC.
However, the injury bug did Namajunas a huge favor by stinging Joanne Calderwood and forcing her out of Thursday’s UFC Fight Night 80 main event against Paige VanZant. Yes, THE Paige VanZant.
It’s possible the UFC hasn’t put their marketing machine behind anyone harder than VanZant over the past few months. In essence, PVZ stole “the next Ronda Rousey” moniker right from underneath Namajunas’ nose.
Namajunas and VanZant are more similar than different at this stage in their young careers. Both are beautiful, young, talented, and more importantly, shooting for the same strawweight seat. Additionally, neither are prepared to challenge Joanna Jedrzejczyk for her crown.
Regardless, this is a golden opportunity for Namajunas to right the wrong from the Esparza debacle. By beating VanZant, Namajunas also disposes of a rival who has been stealing her shine.
These kinds opportunities don’t come around often for fighters, so it’s time for “thug” to do her thang.