UFC 237 in Rio de Janeiro was a tough night for Brazilian royalty, but there is a new Brazilian queen atop the 115-pound division.
A pair of living legends in Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo suffered defeat at the hands of younger title contenders on Saturday, but 27-year-old Jessica Andrade sent the Brazilian crowd home on a high note, with a knockout victory over Rose Namajunas in their strawweight championship bout.
What’s next for Andrade, Namajunas and the other major players at UFC 237? Here’s ESPN’s take.
Jessica Andrade, strawweight champion
Result: Defeated Rose Namajunas via second-round knockout
This was a fantastic fight while it lasted, and there is no question Namajunas was getting the better of it until the fight-ending slam. But this is not a situation that calls for an immediate rematch. It’s not as if this was a lucky finish, or a controversial one. Andrade was walking through punches and taking damage, but that’s her style. She got the fight where she wanted it and finished it.
The undefeated Suarez has turned into the darling of the 115-pound division. Everyone — and I mean everyone — is extremely high on her talent. Ansaroff is a phenomenal story, though. She was close to walking away from the sport two years ago, but has gone on a 4-0 run that she now has to see through. This is a No. 1 contender fight at UFC 238 in Chicago.
Rose Namajunas, strawweight
Result: Lost to Jessica Andrade via second-round knockout
Next: Carla Esparza
After the loss, Namajunas was noncommittal on her future. She admitted she went into Saturday with the thought it could be her final fight. If she never competes again, hats off to her. Regardless of whether she retires now or down the road, I don’t think she ever planned to stay in this sport that long. She does it because she is very good at it, but she has other interests.
If she does come back in a relatively timely manner, I like the idea of a rematch with Esparza. It’s been a quick five years since these two met in the very first strawweight title fight back in 2014. Namajunas was a 22-year-old baby in that fight. Esparza has gone 4-4 in the time since but only lost to the very best. There’d be a good narrative leading up to this one.
Anderson Silva, middleweight
Result: Lost to Jared Cannonier via first-round TKO
There were no immediate details on the severity of Silva’s apparent right knee injury on Saturday, but it certainly did not look good. And it’s hard not to look at it as his 44-year-old body’s way of telling him that it shouldn’t be doing this anymore.
For the record, Silva didn’t look terrible in this fight. He’s so intelligent and experienced, he’s able to extend rounds, catch breaks when he needs to and defend himself relatively well. But is that the best we can say about Silva at this point? That he “didn’t look terrible”? His reaction times are slowing, and Cannonier did crack him with the leg kicks and a handful of right hands. We all know where this is going. We know where this path leads. Regardless of what happens with the knee injury, I hope the UFC and the people around Silva convince him this should be it.
Jared Cannonier, middleweight
Result: Defeated Anderson Silva via first-round TKO
Next: Derek Brunson
If you’re Cannonier, the thought of going from a name like Silva in Brazil, to a fight against Derek Brunson probably doesn’t get your heart rate up. But from a rankings standpoint, it makes perfect sense, and even coming off this win, I don’t think Cannonier has the attention of guys like Chris Weidman, Kelvin Gastelum or Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. He needs one more.
Brunson is coming off a badly needed win over Elias Theodorou earlier this month. Both these middleweights need one more win to catapult them into the upper tier of this division. Makes sense they’d have to go through each other to get there.
Result: Defeated Jose Aldo via unanimous decision
Next: Max Holloway
There’s nowhere left for Volkanovski to go but a UFC title fight. He’s recorded 17 wins in a row and now has that critical, signature win with Aldo that he was potentially lacking.
I will say, and I expect some pushback on this — I won’t mind if the UFC books Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar first. Not to say Edgar deserves it more than Volkanovski. At this point he doesn’t. But I feel like the UFC can do both. Volkanovski just fought. That was his third fight in 10 months. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if he waited one turn to let Holloway vs. Edgar play out.
Holloway wants to be an active champion, and I get a strong sense he’d love to fight Edgar. The two were previously booked against each other twice, but both times it fell through. I believe Holloway would be more than happy to face Edgar in the near future, and accept a quick turnaround against Volkanovski if he won. But all that said, Volkanovski is now the most deserving title challenger, and if the UFC elects to skip the Edgar fight for that one, there’d be nothing wrong with that decision.
Jose Aldo, featherweight
Result: Lost to Alexander Volkanovski via unanimous decision
Next: Zabit Magomedsharipov
Have we reached the end of the road for the great Jose Aldo? He’s been saying all year he intends to fight out his UFC contract and retire from the sport of MMA. He’s also casually dropped some hints that plan might not be written in stone — but if he does, truly, have one fight left, how about doing it against the man many feel is the future of the featherweight division?
The UFC has been playing with the idea of booking Magomedsharipov against former title challenger Brian Ortega, which is an incredibly intriguing fight as well — but personally, I love the idea of Magomedsharipov challenging Aldo. Aldo is still the greatest featherweight of all time, in my opinion. Holloway is right behind him. Some would tell you that, eventually, Magomedsharipov has a chance to surpass them both. He’s that good.
Well, while Aldo is still here, possibly in his final fight, let’s see the past vs. the future.