PHOENIX – Wondering what Rose Namajunas’ thoughts are on losing her strawweight title to Carla Esparza on Saturday night? She made it clear with her first four words at the UFC 274 post-fight news conference.
“I won that fight,” she said.
Namajunas didn’t win the fight, though. After 25 minutes of little action from both women, it was Esparza who emerged victorious with a split decision to become a two-time champion with another title-fight win over Namajunas. The judges saw it 47-48, 49-46 and 48-47 in favor of Esparza.
Namajunas saw it differently.
“I struck at the strategy,” Namajunas said. “I felt as if I landed more shots. I even took her down. None of her takedowns were significant or with any control time. I’d say she hit me with one good punch. … I felt like I did the damage. I controlled the fight. I’m proud of myself because I stuck to my strategy. I know that in all of Carla’s fights she just baits people in, and she tries to get people to attack her. I’ve been in slugfests before. I’ve gotten my nose broken. I’ve stood there and shed blood in the octagon. I stuck to the strategy, and she didn’t really have any offense. She was whiffing at air the whole time. So, I thought I won.”
The way things played out in the cage, it was one of those fights that neither Namajunas (11-5 MMA, 9-4 UFC) nor Esparza (19-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) could be upset about losing as neither woman pushed the pace or took risks. In Namajunas’ case, she appeared to show too much respect for Esparza’s wrestling and rarely closed distance to use her pristine striking. To Esparza’s credit, she never grew impatient and forced the issue to leave herself open to too many counters.
Still, Namajunas believes she did enough to win.
“I knew I was scoring. I knew I was touching her,” said Namajunas, who chalked up some poor form to a slippery octagon. “There were times that I was missing, but I don’t know. I felt like I was scoring.”
UFC president Dana White called it “a weird fight” afterward, which about sums it up perfectly. Deeper into her news conference, Namajunas was a bit more conflicted.
“I’m really still trying to process this because I’m not trying to be salty or anything,” Namajunas said. “I feel like there’s something to be learned from each loss.”
She continued, “I’ve still got to ruminate over this. I hate sounding like this. I hate sounding salty. I lost, you know what I mean? Like, f*ck. But at the same time, it’s just what makes sense to me right now.”
Saturday’s UFC 274 co-main event was a rematch of “The Ultimate Fighter 20” final in December 2014, which Esparza won by submission to claim the inaugural strawweight title. Could an immediate trilogy be next? White didn’t seem into it when asked.
You can guess how Namajunas feels about it.
“I would do a rematch,” she said. “I felt like I was stronger everywhere, so … I don’t know. Not sure. I would take a rematch.”