MMA Review: #683: UFC 237: Namajunas vs. Andrade

-Despite the presence of two UFC legends in Jose Aldo and Anderson Silva, this PPV was flying under the radar a bit – probably a mix of the UFC having so many shows in 2019 and the fact that it was in Brazil with a lower-key main event between Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade, I guess. Not the worst card on paper to be fair though.

UFC 237: Namajunas vs. Andrade

Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Dominick Cruz and Daniel Cormier.

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Irene Aldana vs Bethe Correia

This one got elevated to the main card late on when we lost Francisco Trinaldo vs. Diego Ferreira, and well, I’d rather have seen that fight. Correia hadn’t won a fight since a controversial victory over Jessica Eye back in 2016, while Aldana was coming off two impressive wins in a row. Correia also missed weight for the fight, coming in at 141lbs, which is always disappointing.

Round One and wow, Aldana looks HUGE for this weight class. Correia takes the centre of the cage as Aldana circles around on the outside, and this crowd sound pretty dead to be fair. Few jabs get through for Aldana and she avoids some punches from Correia. Correia is struggling to get inside the reach here. Aldana is landing some pretty nice combinations. One minute to go and Correia almost corrals Aldana against the fence, but the Mexican quickly circles out and continues to beat her to the punch. Beautifully timed right hand gets through for Aldana, almost a half-uppercut. Round ends with another combination from Aldana. Clear-cut 10-9 for the Mexican.

Round Two and Aldana continues to jab as Correia throws out some low kicks and manages to catch the Mexican with a couple of punches too. Couple of nice combinations from Bethe have Aldana covering up. More of the same follows with Aldana on her bike, picking at Correia from the outside but also taking the odd power punch from the Brazilian. Couple of really nice shots connect for Correia as she comes forward. This is a much better round for her. She has Aldana rocked with a big right hand, but decides to clinch from there to look for the takedown. Aldana spins her off though and breaks with a knee. Big overhand right lands for Correia in an exchange. Takedown attempt is blocked by Aldana but she eats a knee on the way out. Round ends with a nasty combination from Aldana. 10-9 Correia to even things up.

Round Three and they trade strikes to begin with Correia countering a high kick with a hard flurry of punches. Right hand has Correia a bit wobbled and she backs up, but then fires back again only to take another heavy combo. Aldana is doing some excellent work early on here. Few big swings miss for Correia. Exchange continues and both women land some hard shots with Correia really catching Aldana with some heavy ones. Two minutes to go and this has become a really fun fight. Takedown attempt from Correia but it goes horribly wrong and Aldana manages to land on top and take the back, and from there she goes right into an armbar to FORCE THE TAP!

Replay shows Aldana’s knee caught Correia as she stuffed the takedown, busting her up and likely stunning her into giving up that armbar so quickly. Beautiful finish from Aldana and a really good fight overall even if defense wasn’t exactly a strong point for either fighter!

Welterweight Fight: Thiago Alves vs Laurenao Staropoli

Longtime veteran Alves had actually won his last fight, defeating Max Griffin in February, and this one looked like a winnable fight to me as well, as he was faced with the inexperienced Argentine Staropoli, who had debuted in November with a win over Hector Aldana in a bit of a wild brawl. I was going with Alves via decision.

Round One begins and we get very little action in the opening minute as Staropoli keeps on circling around the outside as Alves seems to be trying to work out his timing. Couple of kicks glance for Staropoli. Alves is looking a bit gunshy. Right hand connects for the Argentine in a brief exchange. Nice combo has Alves covering up. Staropoli continues to be the aggressor here even if he’s not landing a lot, as Alves is going really low output. More glancing, flashy kicks from Staropoli continue to prevent Alves from really attacking and the round ends shortly after. 10-9 Staropoli, bit of a weird round really.

Round Two and both men miss some big shots in an early exchange. Alves is attacking more now though and he lands a low kick and glances on a right hand. One-two backs Staropoli up. Quick flurry to counter a low kick puts Alves down, and Staropoli quickly grabs him to attempt to take the back. Alves scrambles and works to his feet, but Staropoli lands on a spinning elbow as he breaks off. Alves is coming up short on most of his strikes right now. Heavy left hooks land for both men. Staropoli is still landing the better blows. Nice combo stuns Alves for a second but he recovers quickly. Chopping low kick from Alves sets up a big flurry and now Staropoli has to back up. He comes back with a combination of his own though. Round ends with Alves on the attack. 10-9 Staropoli although it was a much closer round to score.

Round Three and they trade from the off with Staropoli really swinging some heavy leather to back Alves up. Big takedown from Alves sends the crowd into a frenzy but Staropoli quickly gets his back to the fence and scrambles up. Beautiful dig to the body from Staropoli. Flying knee follows and sets up a quick combination that Alves slows down with a low kick. Another heavy combo to the body lands for the Argentine. He’s looking great here. Alves is looking busted up now. Takedown attempt from Alves and he drives Staropoli into the fence, but he can’t get him down and they end up in the clinch briefly before breaking. Two minutes to go and it’s still Staropoli on the offensive. He’s constantly catching Alves with strikes. Seconds to go and Alves hurts Staropoli with a big knee and looks to follow it up, but he recovers well and fires back. Round ends with a really wild trade as both men land. 10-9 Staropoli and I’d go 30-27 for him.

Judges go 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Laureano Staropoli. Really fun fight as Alves didn’t look shot or anything, it was more that Staropoli just put a hell of a lot of offense together and outworked him for three rounds. Looks like Staropoli is definitely a guy to watch at 170lbs as while Alves is past his prime now, he’s still a dangerous veteran and yet Staropoli outstruck him for three rounds.

Featherweight Fight: Jose Aldo vs Alexander Volkanovski

This one was a HUGE FIGHT as Aldo looked back to his best, pretty much, after taking out Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano, and it looked very much like it was just Max Holloway who had the ability to make him look bad. Volkanovski meanwhile was on a long streak of wins, including 6 in the UFC including a knockout of Chad Mendes. For me this was the best fight on the card, but I was taking Aldo to win due to his experience.

First round begins and the crowd are CRAZY into Aldo, as you’d imagine. Both guys throw out some feints early on, looking pretty tentative, as Aldo takes the centre of the cage. Few early strikes glance for Volkanovski. Nearly two minutes in now and Aldo’s barely thrown a thing. Volkanovski keeps glancing on him before Aldo lands a pair of body shots. Leg kick connects for Aldo. Volkanovski is definitely the more active man in this round though. He’s not landing cleanly but he keeps on touching Aldo. Solid right hand lands for the former champ but Volkanovski is fine. Combo from the Aussie backs Aldo up. Clinch follows and Volkanovski keeps him against the fence before breaking off. Flying knee glances for Aldo but Volkanovski comes back with a left hand. Round ends there. 10-9 Volkanovski just for being more active, really.

Second round and Volkanovski comes out strongly again, working the inside low kick and some flicking punches. Big one-two lands for the Aussie. Aldo looks a bit frozen here for some reason. Big punches miss for him as he takes another leg kick. Volkanovski looks so chilled out. Big jab connects for Aldo. Volkanovski is just catching him with kicks over and over though. Aldo’s left leg looks red raw. Nice jab connects for the Aussie and backs Aldo up. Ref Marc Goddard calls time for an apparent eye poke to Aldo but I didn’t spot it. Replay makes it pretty clear, though. They restart and Aldo pushes forward but Volkanovski lands a strong counter left and then clinches. Volkanovski is just outworking Aldo here. Knees to the legs connect for Volkanovski from the clinch before Aldo almost gets a takedown. Volkanovski reverses and keeps hold of him though before they break with seconds to go. Big punches miss for Aldo and Volkanovski glances on some shots as the round ends. 10-9 Volkanovski and I think Aldo needs a finish.

Third round and a BRO HUG opens proceedings. Quick low kick into a left hand land for Volkanovski. He’s really outworking Aldo. Beautiful counter right hand lands for the Aussie and he follows with a decent combo before clinching up. Knees to the leg connect for Volkanovski again and it looks like Aldo might be out of ideas. They break off and again Volkanovski lands the quicker strikes. This fight is slipping away from Aldo as Volkanovski continues to back him up. Clinch from the Aussie and he mauls Aldo against the fence again. Crowd are furious but what can they do. Big flurry from Volkanovski lands from inside the clinch. Seconds to go and this is probably over. Round ends inside the clinch and goes to Volkanovski, 10-9. I’ve got it 30-27 for the Aussie.

Official scores are 30-27 all round for Alexander Volkanovski. Crowd are horrified but it was clearly the right decision as it was a fantastic showing from the Aussie. Max Holloway beat Aldo down worse than this but he also took a hell of a lot of punishment to do so, while Volkanovski barely got hit while also completely outworking Aldo. Can’t wait for this guy to get his title shot now as I’m really intrigued as to how he’ll match up with Holloway. Fight wasn’t the best of all time but it was also fascinating to see Volkanovski outwork Aldo like that, never expected it at all.

Middleweight Fight: Anderson Silva vs Jared Cannonier

Cannonier had broken into the upper echelon at 185lbs by beating David Branch in November, so he was due a big fight, but it was still surprising to see him matched with Silva in my mind as I thought ‘The Spider’ would just be looking for bigger, legacy-type fights at this stage. Evidently not though! This was pretty sad to me too as I’d have taken Anderson to destroy Cannonier in a heartbeat in his prime but in 2019 with Silva way past his best, I figured he was in trouble.

Round One and Cannonier opens with a low kick as Silva circles on the outside. Nasty inside leg kick follows as Silva seems to be gauging the timing. Cannonier keeps backing him up with low kicks, and then he glances on an overhand right. Big leg kick buckles Silva’s right leg inwards. Silva’s barely thrown anything thus far and we’re two minutes in. Body kick finally connects for him. Cannonier looks calm though and backs him up into the fence. Silva circles out and glances on a big switch kick. Couple of solid right hooks land for Cannonier as he backs Silva up, but Silva clinches and lands an elbow from the plum. Punches break for Cannonier and they circle out. Body kick from Silva but Cannonier comes back with some glancing punches. Seconds left in the round now and the crowd are really buzzing when Anderson stalks forward. Big low kick lands for Cannonier though and Silva goes DOWN and that’s it! Post-fight it looks like a knee injury as Anderson outright yells FUCK as he’s clutching the leg.

Crowd are disgusted but hey, Cannonier landed the low kick over and over and eventually the shots took their toll. Unfortunate ending for Silva but to be frank, everything that made him great in his prime – his timing, his reflexes and his chin – are basically gone now and he just needs to hang it up before he damages his legacy. Big win for Cannonier however, who continues to rise up the rankings.

UFC Women’s Strawweight Title: Rose Namajunas vs Jessica Andrade

This was the first title defense for Namajunas for well over a year – I’m honestly not sure why she was out for so long as I don’t think she was injured from what I recall – and she was faced with a tricky test in the form of Andrade, who’d been destroying anyone she’d faced after her unsuccessful shot at Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2017, including top contenders like Claudia Gadelha, Tecia Torres and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Despite that I was taking Rose to win, feeling she’d be able to play the matador well enough to outwork Andrade for a decision.

Round One begins and Rose throws out a few feints and paws at Andrade with her left hand early on. Couple of haymakers miss for Andrade and Rose continues to move around and pop her with shots from the outside. Andrade is already bleeding from around the left eye. Flurry from Andrade doesn’t land cleanly and Rose keeps on pumping the jab and adding a stiff right hand too. Beautiful one-two snaps Andrade’s head back. She’s getting pieced up here. Big flurry again sets up a takedown attempt and Andrade lifts Rose for a slam, but ends up stuck in a kimura. Rose goes into an armbar attempt as she hits the ground, but Andrade pulls free and they stand. Nice stuff from the champ. Takedown from Rose now but Andrade pops back up. More jabs land for Namajunas to keep Andrade at distance. Andrade’s face is a real mess. Left hand lands for her and she looks to close in, but Rose comes back with a BIG KNEE that drops the challenger! She closes in to attempt to finish and ends up on top in guard, but Andrade scrambles up to her feet. Counter left hook connects again for Rose as Andrade looks to close her down. Brief trade sees both girls land big punches. Round ends with another Andrade takedown attempt being stuffed. Incredible round for Rose, 10-9.

Round Two and Andrade opens with a couple of leg kicks, but quickly eats another jab. Andrade tries to close her down, but she’s still doing a great job of moving out of the way and landing punches at the same time. Flurry from Andrade backs Rose up, but she lands a nice counter left hook and then gets back to working the jab. Takedown attempt from Rose fails but she’s still easily picking Andrade apart with the jab. Halfway through the round and Andrade gets a clinch and goes for a takedown, but again Rose laces up the arm for a possible kimura. Andrade lifts her anyway though and DROPS HER ON HER HEAD AND KNOCKS HER OUT!

Holy shit. Think that’s only the fourth slam-based knockout in UFC title fight history, wow. I mean, the fight was totally one-sided in Rose’s favour prior to the slam, but that was an insane finish from Andrade. She literally just dumped her right on the top of her head. Announcers suggest Rose should’ve let go of the arm in mid-air, but shit, how many fighters outside of Andrade could even pull that move off? Unbelievable finish to a really good fight. Since then Andrade’s lost the title – that’s another show – while Rose hasn’t fought since and all kinds of rumours are swirling around over her future. Who knows really, but I hope she fights again.

-Show ends with the announcers breaking down the action and plugging the next few shows.

Final Thoughts….

Can’t knock this one; even the two fights that had no hype delivered in terms of action and while Silva/Cannonier had a disappointing ending, Namajunas/Andrade and Aldo/Volkanovski were pretty great. Two thumbs up for this show for sure.

Best Fight: Andrade vs. Namajunas
Worst Fight: Silva vs. Cannonier

Overall Rating: ***3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: