"Thug" Rose Namajunas was considered to be the next Ronda Rousey, even by the women's bantamweight champion herself. According to MMAFighting.com's Guilherme Cruz, Rousey stated, "I really think she has all the tools to be the next influential champion."
However, those dreams of being the first women's strawweight champion were dashed at The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale, as she lost to Carla Esparza.
After that loss, Namajunas has matured and understands the pressures of being a title contender. On The MMA Hour, she told Ariel Helwani that she got caught in the hype of being considered the next Rousey at such a young age.
"It was too much all at once. You do get carried away. So it's good [the loss] happened now, so I learn to stay cool," said Namajunas.
This is a perfect time for her to level her head and find her way back into getting a title shot. The women's strawweight division is a volatile collective. After being in existence for only three months, the title changed hands as Joanna Jedrzejczyk dethroned Esparza. The shark-tank quality of the division was further demonstrated when unknown Maryna Moroz defeated Joanne Calderwood in Krakow, Poland.
This volatility could lead Thug Rose back to a title shot before the end of 2015, maybe even after her next fight if she beats Nina Ansaroff at UFC 187 on Saturday.
Currently, Thug Rose sits at No. 4 in the division. Jedrzejczyk has wins over the top two fighters in the weight class and is set to face third-ranked Jessica Penne in Berlin next month. Jedrzejczyk could be slated for a rematch against Claudia Gadelha if she beats Penne. But if that match isn't made right away, then Namajunas would be the next logical opponent for the title.
On the other hand, giving Namajunas a title shot right after she defeats Ansaroff may be too soon. Ideally, she should face one of the higher-ranked fighters ahead of her to officially cement herself as a valid title contender. If she defeats one of them, then there is no other option but to give Thug Rose a chance at the strawweight belt.
At the young age of 22, Thug Rose is already drawing Rousey comparisons. Her loss to Esparza has given her a foundation on which she can bounce back and live up to those expectations placed upon her. There is no doubt we will see her back in the Octagon fighting for the title again by the beginning of 2016.