Last Saturday at UFC 251, three exciting women’s bouts highlighted the card.
On the Early Prelims, Karol Rosa (13-3) was successful in her sophomore UFC appearance, defeating Vanessa Melo (10-8) by unanimous decision.
Opening the main card, Amanda Ribas (10-1) submitted Paige VanZant (8-5) by arm bar in what was the last fight on VanZant’s contract.
Next on the main card, “Thug” Rose Namajunas (9-4) avenged her title losing defeat to Jessica Andrade (20-8) in a highly anticipated strawweight rematch.
So, what’s next for the fighters of UFC 251?
With the loss to Rosa, Brazil’s Melo moves to 0-3 inside the Octagon. In what was Melo’s first UFC fight with a regular fight camp, the loss coupled with the weight miss could prove to be critical. Melo should face Sarah Moras next– Moras is 1-4 in her last five and is also in crucial need of a win in a growing bantamweight division.
With her second UFC win, Rosa could be closing in on a spot in the top 15. The bantamweight division is one of the more open divisions and it only takes a couple of wins to find yourself fighting up the rankings. The winner of Julia Avila vs. Nicco Montano should be next for the Brazilian. Though she’s been booked to face Avila four times in the past, the fight makes sense– as would one with Montano as all three of the fighters are currently in the No. 15-20 area of the rankings.
A lot was made over this fight being the last one on PVZ’s contract. She’ll end her current UFC tenure on a loss as she tests free agency, but don’t be mistaken– while the loss certainly isn’t good, it won’t have a massive long term effect on the VanZant brand. VanZant often gets unfair treatment from fight fans, however, she is young, passionate, and marketable and will prove to be a positive addition to any roster. There should be plenty of promotions eager to sign her, most notably Bellator, where her husband, undefeated prospect Austin Vanderford currently resides.
Amanda Ribas checks all of the boxes– she is energetic, marketable, motivated and talented. Her slick BJJ and Judo coupled with her constantly improving striking makes her a legitimate threat for anyone. In her post-fight scrum, Ribas mentioned the winner of the upcoming bout between Carla Esparza vs. Marina Rodriguez and that makes perfect sense. As Ribas continues to climb the rankings, a fight with either Esparza or Rodriguez is the perfect opportunity for a top five contender to emerge.
“Bate Estaca” lost a split-decision to Namajunas in their rematch– extending the Brazilian’s current skid to two consecutive losses for the first time in her career. While the loss will sting, there are some positives to take from the fight– Andrade showed new wrinkles in her game plan that she hasn’t shown before. She was less predictable and reckless in her forward motion and showed improved head movement– all improvements that will aid her well in a stacked strawweight division. There are a couple of different ways the UFC can go with Andrade– a rematch with Joanna Jędrzejczyk or a matchup with the winner of Claudia Gadelha vs. Yan Xiaonan are fan-friendly matchups that both make sense.
In a “Fight of the Night” contest, “Thug” Rose successfully avenged her loss to fellow former champ Jessica Andrade. While she’ll likely need some time to recover after a tough third round, a championship opportunity against Weili Zhang seems inevitable at this point. Zhang has mentioned Rose’s name as someone she hopes to compete against and Rose’s win over Andrade sets that up perfectly. Not only do Weili and Rose seem keen on the matchup but it has potential “Fight of the Year” candidate written all over it.