At UFC 274, Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza put on one of the worst title fights in UFC history. Namajunas lost in the end to Esparza by a split decision. In the aftermath, many critiqued Namajunas’ lack of urgency, and for flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, those critiques are well-founded.
“It’s hard to say exactly what was wrong in that fight,” Shevchenko told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I feel that Rose kind of has everything better, comparing to Carla, and she just didn’t use much. Rose could easily wrestle her, as I believe Rose is more capable than Carla in wrestling. [but] She just didn’t utilize her abilities. It’s something I do not know. It sometimes happens with fighters. One day before, they feel so good, and the day of the fight it’s kind of like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to fight.’
” Do you know how we can help? If Carla would have been more aggressive and explosive, and Rose received a good punch, she would wake up and she would start to fight. Carla said, “OK, I’ll just do my job,” and it was great. Rose wasn’t activating, but she had to use her skills. It’s difficult to know if Rose would activate in those moments, but I do feel that she might be active. We can now think about all possibilities in the world, what could happen, if it will be like that, but it happened how it happened.
“I still feel Rose is a very, very good fighter. She’s very skillful, she has a lot of good things in her game, it was just a night when she was not herself.”
Namajunas was not the only one to catch flak for her performance, though. The MMA community blasted Namajunas’ fiance and head cornerman Pat Barry for his work during the bout. Barry was heard on the broadcast telling Namajunas she was winning every round and, even after the fact, is convinced that their game plan was working. Although Shevchenko didn’t specifically mention Barry and Namajunas, she said that Namajunas has not suffered a similar setback to Barry. Shevchenko also stated that Namajunas won every round.
” This can happen to anyone, but I always rely on my corners because they wouldn’t just tell me, “OK Valentina, do this,” Shevchenko stated. “They will yell at me and say what they think about me and what I’m doing. It’s sometimes necessary. I think with the many microphones corner fighters have, it puts extra pressure on them. But, some fighters just need more push [mimes a slap] a boost! To get up and have an adrenaline rush.
“Sometimes when it happens you feel like, ‘OK, nothing happened, I feel comfortable.’ It’s a comfort zone, just hanging around, and I’m not tiring, but then you start to think, if I would continue to fight like that, I will lose my belt, I will lose the fight. Do I agree with that and continue to do nothing just to be comfortable? No. This is what pushes me every time. ‘No, don’t stay here. Go and fight.'”
That system has worked out well for Shevchenko. The flyweight champion is currently the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings and has successfully defended her title a record six times. She looks to make it seven in a row when she faces Taila Santos at UFC 275 on June 11 in Singapore.