UFC 237 takes place Saturday at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro. It features two talented women battling for the strawweight championship on the main event, and a host of legends fighting on the rest of the card.
So, what do you need to know heading into the event? Let us guide you through.
The main event
At UFC 217, Rose Namajunas (8-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) did what many thought was unthinkable. She defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk to capture the UFC strawweight title. Jedrzejczyk had been 14-0 coming into the bout and was a massive favorite over the then 6-3 Namajunas.
Namajunas not only won the bout by first round knockout, she won the rematch at UFC 223 by unanimous decision. It removed any doubt as to her status as the strawweight queen.
The first bout with Jedrzejczyk was actually Namajunas’ second shot at the strawweight title. It came after losing to Carla Esparza in the final bout of season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter — a bout which crowned the first ever champion at 115 pounds.
Her UFC 237 opponent is familiar with the same taste of defeat in a title fight. Jessica Andrade (19-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) fought Jedrzejczyk for the gold at UFC 211. She lost a clear cut unanimous decision one bout before Namajunas knocked off the then-champ.
Since the loss, Andrade has rattled off three consecutive victories. In the last she knocked out Karolina Kowalkiewicz, the last woman to beat Namajunas, in under two minutes.
Namajunas sits as a slight betting favorite ahead of the event, something she recently theorized about:
“I think maybe because I wear my heart on my sleeve, I take my emotions and I think maybe some people take that for weakness,” Namajunas told MMAjunkie.com. “Also I’m long and lengthy so maybe some people think I’m not strong or whatever, but it’s also more than that. I am strong, but it’s also being mentally strong, spiritually strong, everything. The whole package.”
While the story of many on the card is far from told, we do know there are three sure-fire UFC Hall of Fame talents fighting Saturday.
Anderson Silva (34-9 MMA, 17-5 UFC) is one of the greatest fighters to ever walk the Earth and is the greatest middleweight of all time. He won his first 16 fights in the UFC, and won the middleweight title in his second bout. He successfully defended the championship 10 times.
Silva is only 1-5 (with a no contest due to a drug test failure overturning another win) since he lost his middleweight title to Chris Weidman in July 2013. Time is cruel to all, but especially cruel to fighters. Still, Silva has shown he can still go and has guts to spare.
In his previous four bouts, he lost a competitive decision to Hall of Famer Michael Bisping. Then lost after stepping in very late notice to face Daniel Cormier at light heavyweight to save a major UFC 200 bout. Then defeated Derek Brunson, and lost a gutsy decision to Israel Adesanya (who went on to win the interim middleweight championship in his next bout).
Silva appears to have no strong push to become champion again, but loves the sport and wants to continue competing. Oh, and he really, really wants a fight with Conor McGregor.
His opponent, Jared Cannonier (11-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC) said he has designs on knocking out the legend and running his winning streak to two and attempting to stabilize an up and down Octagon career.
“I know I can knock him out,” Cannonier recently told MMAFighting.com. “All I gotta do is touch him. He’s no different from the next man. He can get knocked out, too. All I gotta do is touch your chin or hit the up side of your head, you know? Or I can just wrap my arms around your neck and choke you out.”
The other Brazilian legend on the card is Jose Aldo (28-4 MMA, 10-3 UFC), who takes on Alexander Volkanovski (19-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC).
Aldo once owned an 18-fight winning streak, 15 of which came in the UFC and it’s now-defunct sister promotion WEC. After winning the featherweight championship he successfully defended the title nine times, stamping himself as arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world before catching a knockout in just 13 seconds against Conor McGregor at UFC 194.
Aldo has a 3-2 record since that loss, beating UFC legend Frankie Edgar and losing twice to current featherweight champ Max Holloway.
He’ll have his hands full with the powerful Volkanovski.
B.J. Penn (16-13-2 MMA, 12-12-2 UFC) is already in the UFC Hall of Fame. His .500 record in the UFC is not an appropriate measure of his overall place in the promotion’s history. Penn has lost six consecutive fights, placing him in a tie for the very dubious record of longest losing skid in UFC history. If you mix in his draw prior to those six losses, he is on the longest winless stretch in company history.
But in his prime, Penn was a dominant force in the lighter weight classes of the UFC. One of the few men to make his pro debut in the UFC Octagon, Penn was the lightweight division’s early star but failed twice to win the lightweight title. First he lost to Jens Pulver in an upset at UFC 35, and then battled Caol Uno to a draw at UFC 41.
At UFC 46 he jumped to welterweight for a title bout and pulled off a massive upset of hyper-dominant welterweight champion Matt Hughes to capture gold at 170 pounds. He would then leave the promotion for two years before returning and losing two welterweight title opportunities. Then he returned to lightweight, finally capturing the 155-pound belt that had eluded him in his early career.
Penn’s career was defined by taking on the best the sport had to offer and capturing two major championships. Now 40, battling a massive winless skid dating back to November 2010 and being dogged by domestic abuse allegations, he’s looking for some bright spot during a massive life downswing.
Penn faces fellow veteran Clay Guida (34-18 MMA, 14-12 UFC) in a bout Guida says should have happened a decade ago.
The full card
- Strawweight Championship – Rose Namajunas © vs. Jessica Andrade
- Middleweight – Anderson Silva vs. Jared Cannonier
- Featherweight – Jose Aldo vs. Alexander Volkanovski
- Welterweight – Thiago Alves vs. Laureano Staropoli
- Lightweight – Francisco Trinaldo vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira
- Light Heavyweight – Antônio Rogério Nogueira vs. Ryan Spann
- Lightweight – Thiago Moises vs. Kurt Holobaugh
- Women’s Bantamweight – Irene Aldana vs. Bethe Correia
- Lightweight – B.J. Penn vs. Clay Guida
EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD
- Women’s Flyweight – Luana Carolina vs. Priscila Cachoeira
- Welterweight – Warlley Alves vs. Sérgio Moraes
- Bantamweight – Raoni Barcelos vs. Carlos Huachin