As UFC 268 fight week rolls around, the card is set to be headlined by two huge rematches in the welterweight and strawweight title pictures.
After claiming the 115lbs division crown with a stunning head-kick knockout at UFC 261, Rose Namajunas will defend her title for the first time of her second reign when she takes on the women she beat for the belt, Weili Zhang.
But she now has the chance to add stability to a division that has been missing it for the best part of four years.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk was the reigning and defending champion for two years, defending the belt five times before she ran into Namajunas for the first time at UFC 217.
Namajunas was the victor that night, with a stunning knockout victory that shot her to superstardom with the now unforgettable ‘Thug Rose!’ commentary from Daniel Cormier.
She defended that belt six months later by beating Jedrzejczyk in their rematch via a unanimous decision, but ever since the belt has been like a hot potato.
Namajunas was defeated by Jessica Andrade at UFC 237 via a vicious slam in which she landed directly on her head, knocking her unconscious. She had dominated the first round however and later would earn back a win in their rematch at UFC 251.
By that point though, Andrade was no longer champion either. Her first defence came against Zhang at UFC Fight Night: Shenzhen, the companies first trip to China.
Zhang put on a dominant display, blitzing Andrade in the first round with powerful strikes and knees to the body to earn her own first-round knockout victory.
Namajunas’ win in Florida back in April meant the title once again changed hands but she has the chance to now give the belt a settled home.
Another win over Zhang will mean she is the first champion since herself to successfully defend the belt but it also means that she will be the clear number one in her division.
Inaugral champion Carla Esparza seems the likely opponent for whoever wins the belt at UFC 268, while Marina Rodriguez has entered herself into the fray with back-to-back main event wins. But while they’ll both stand a chance, Namajunas will likely enter either of those bouts as the overwhelming favourite to retain her title.
If she can string together a run of victories she can stake herself a claim as the number one fighter in that weight class ever in the UFC. That way when she calls herself the best, she won’t be telling any lies and there won’t be any doubts.
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