UFC 237 Results: The Real Winners and Losers
This was Rose Namajunas' first main event, so the biggest question was if she would be able to capitalize on the opportunity.
Namajunas made her second UFC strawweight title defense Saturday in hostile territory at UFC 237. She has one of the best stories in all of the UFC as an underdog who continuously plows through those expectations. Her openness about issues such as mental health also makes her a prime candidate for crossover celebrity status.
Her opponent, the highly regarded Jessica Andrade, was the slight favorite heading into the bout, which took place in Andrade's home nation of Brazil.
In the co-main event, the great Anderson Silva, now age 44, was looking for a win over a nasty headhunter in Jared Cannonier. The GOAT candidate had an uphill battle facing Cannonier in what one might hope is a last grasp at glory.
What about the rest of the card? BJ Penn was in action, among others. As always, the final stat lines only reveal so much. These are the real winners and losers from UFC 237.
Winner: Jessica Andrade
We have a new UFC women's strawweight champion.
Jessica Andrade was getting picked apart early. A steady Namajunas jab bloodied her eye, and the champion's speed helped her avoid Andrade's forward rush.
But in the span of about 20 seconds, the challenger turned it all around. In the second round, she used a brilliant and brutal bit of strategy to gain the upper hand once and for all.
Along the cage, Andrade grabbed for a takedown. As a counter, Namajunas reached for a kimura. As a counter to the counter, if you will, Andrade, who was always assumed to have a strength advantage in the bout, lifted Namajunas into the air. The champ held on to the kimura longer than was probably advisable to do so. That held her position firm and facilitated a big slam from Andrade. Namajunas hit the mat head first, lost consciousness almost immediately, and there you have it.
"I was certain what I had to do in the second round ... I knew she was slowing down, and I knew I had to knock her out," Andrade told broadcaster Jon Anik through a translator in the cage after the fight.
Namajunas said afterwards that, "It was a great pressure off my shoulders." Although it's not entirely clear what she meant by that, she was and is a tremendous UFC champion. Her humanity is striking in a sport that doesn't always value that quality so much. There's plenty more to come for Namajunas, in the UFC and beyond.
But this was Andrade's night. She earned the belt not just Saturday night but through a UFC career that has seen her battle and defeat the best in a very competitive division. Congratulations, champ.
Loser: Jared Cannonier
Brazilian fight fans can be tough. Very tough. As Jared Cannonier crumpled Anderson Silva with one final, brutal kick—a scary moment for anyone who has followed Silva's career—the Rio de Janeiro crowd loudly registered its dismay.
Silva fell in unabashed agony. The referee waved off the bout almost before he hit the ground. Cannonier had the win. So, why is he a loser?
It was the best win of Cannonier's career, even though Silva is 44 years old. Cannonier knew both facts full well, and he danced around the cage following the win. As the merciless boos rained down, Cannonier mockingly raised a hand to his ear. He went over to check on a hobbled and grimacing Silva later.
When Anik came over for the customary post-fight comment, Cannonier declined to immediately answer, instead letting the boos wash over the broadcast for a good 15 seconds. One might speculate that the message was to point out the disrespect of those merciless fans. But this was happening as Silva, a local hero, stood one-legged and howling in his corner.
"The [fans] don't respect me, [so] I don't have any respect for them," Cannonier told Anik. "And that's just it."
But this was not about Cannonier. All he had to say was, "I hope Silva's OK. I know he's your hero. What a great champion he is. This win is my honor, and I'll do what I can to expedite Anderson's transfer to the hospital and hope that he makes a full recovery."
He didn't do that. Instead, he indulged his hater fantasies. Somewhere out there, there's a face missing its nose.
Winner: Alexander Volkanovski
The stage was set for a continued feel-good story for Jose Aldo.
Three months ago, he knocked out a plucky young up-and-comer in Renato Moicano. That was preceded by a first-round smearing of Jeremy Stephens.
Alexander Volkanovski was a great test to see if Aldo was truly back. Behind a sharp stand-up game, the Australian hadn't lost in six UFC bouts.
Brazilian fans who wanted the same fireworks as Moicano or Stephens were not impressed with Aldo's performance. When he attacked, it tended to work. The jab was particularly effective, though an overhand or two found the mark as well.
But as the fight wore on, Volkanovski gained a clear edge in output. Leg kicks found the mark time after time—an interesting thing to watch given Aldo's mastery of that particular technique. Volkanovski had success when he got in deep and held Aldo against the cage.
Aldo seemed concerned largely with the big counter. He wanted to bring down the house with the perfect strike. But that golden opportunity never seemed to appear, and Aldo lapsed into extended inactivity. In MMA, the path to defeat is paved with ill intentions.
Is Aldo's career over? Not if he doesn't want it to be. But Volkanovski certainly used him as a stepping stone in front of his countrymen tonight. Judging by the boos in the arena following the decision, that crowd wasn't particularly satisfied with what it had seen.
Loser: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
The UFC may not have intended it this way, but UFC 237 was an event at which some aging lions of the sport were publicly brought low.
That included Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, aka Lil Nog, who fell in the first round to the immortal "I Don't Even Have a Wikipedia Page" Ryan Spann.
Spann landed some heavy leather to end it just a shade over two minutes into the first round. It ran the 42-year-old Nogueira to 2-4 in his last six bouts, dating back to 2014.
Lil Nog's chin has been suspect going back to his 44-second knockout at the hands of Anthony "Rumble" Johnson. That was five years ago. This one ended in less than half of one round.
Is Lil Nog at a crossroads? If he wasn't before Saturday, there's no telling when. He'll always be a draw to some degree in his native Brazil. Is that the only consideration?
Winner: Patricio Freire (Honorable Mention)
No, it's not UFC 237. It's not even the UFC. But we'd be remiss if we didn't give an honorable mention to one Patricio "Pitbull" Freire, who on Saturday became a dual-division champion in Bellator.
He didn't take the easy route, either. Freire knocked out an objective Hall of Famer in Michael Chandler in the first round of the main event of Bellator 221 to take the lightweight title.
The well-rounded Brazilian has won four straight, and at age 31 he's got plenty left. We have a new star here.
Loser: BJ Penn
It's been a broken record with BJ Penn for quite some time.
Clay Guida, who is 37 years old and competing for the first time in a year, tenderized the 40-year-old BJ Penn for a unanimous-decision win.
Penn hasn't won since 2010. He's lost seven in a row. That's a UFC record. Oy vey.
No one wants to tell this champion to stop, but honestly, what's it going to take for him to hang up the gloves?
UFC 237 Full Card Results
Jessica Andrade def. Rose Namajunas by KO, 2:58, Round 2 (for UFC women's strawweight championship)
Jared Cannonier def. Anderson Silva by TKO, 4:47, Round 1
Alexander Volkanovski by Jose Aldo by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Laureano Staropoli def. Thiago Alves by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Irene Aldana def. Bethe Correia by submission (armbar), 3:24, Round 3
Ryan Spann def. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by KO, 2:07, Round 1
Thiago Moises def. Kurt Holobaugh by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
Warlley Alves def. Sergio Moraes by KO, 4:13, Round 3
Clay Guida def. BJ Penn by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
Luana Carolina def. Priscilla Cachoeira by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27)
Raoni Barcelos def. Carlos Huachin by TKO, 4:49, Round 2
Viviane Araujo def. Talita Bernardo by KO, 0:48, Round 3
Scott Harris covers MMA and other sports for Bleacher Report.