Can Ribas top two-time champ Namajunas?

    Nov 6, 2021; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (red gloves) competes against Zhang Weili (blue gloves) during UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    Given Ribas’ on-paper edge in the grappling realm, no one should be shocked if she attempts to ground Namajunas early and often.

    However, in the former champion’s defense, Namajunas has made quiet improvements to both her wrestling and overall grappling throughout the years.

    After suffering her first loss to Carla Esparza, Namajunas hit an immediate upswing in her grappling abilities, displaying that she had more to offer than just opportunistic submissions off of her back.

    Utilizing offensive wrestling and top pressure, Namajunas began taking down her counterparts, exposing them to submissions underneath her suggestive shoulder pressure and slick transitions. In fact, Namajunas’ offensive wrestling is what many point to as the difference-makers in her rematches with both Jedrzejczyk and Zhang Weili.

    That said, I’m not sure how much meaningful success she will have wrestling someone like Ribas.

    An accoladed judoka, Ribas has a knack for parlaying opponents’ offensive wrestling pressure into hip tosses that allow for her to get topside. Ribas also is capable of hitting more wrestling-style takedowns like reactive level changes or more traditional double legs, but typically attempts those when her opponent has their back to the fence.

    Once Ribas can get things to the ground, she becomes even more comfortable behind the proverbial steering wheel. From positional ground striking to transitional submission threats, Ribas appears to be the complete package from a grappling perspective.

    Luckily for Namajunas, she has seemingly embraced some useful tactics for whenever she finds herself on the bottom. Even though Namajunas will still spam submissions off of her back, she seems to be much better about utilizing techniques like butterfly insteps or placing her feet on her opposition’s hips to create space.

    Should Ribas allow Namajunas to create scrambles, then she will need to be careful about exposing her back to the former champ in the chaos.

    A superb back-taker, Namajunas has a knack for floating to or finding the back of her opponent in transit. And given that Namajunas is undefeated in fights in which she has scored a back-take, this will undoubtedly be the scenario to look for during grappling exchanges.

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