The UFC’s women’s strawweight (115-pound) division is in a familiar position—and it’s not exactly a good one. Although she is a dominant champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk has essentially run out of challengers for what would be a women’s record-tying sixth title defense after she defeated Jessica Andrade at UFC 211 last weekend. She now has two options: Claudia Gadelha and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, both of whom are on the hunt for redemption.
A win for the Brazilian Gadelha would set up a rare trilogy fight in which the title challengers enter at 0-2. She is Kowalkiewicz’s first opponent since Kowalkiewicz faced “Joanna Champion” at UFC 205 in New York last November. Both women lost their fights against the champion arguably four rounds to one.
Per FightMetric, LLC, Gadelha bests her opponent in almost every possible way: she has more accurate striking (42 percent to 35 percent) although she doesn’t produce as much (3.59 to 4.56 Strikes Landed per Minute); however, has a striking defense percentage of 60 and absorbs fewer strikes (3.94 to 4.93 strikes.)
The Jiu-Jitsu fighter also has the edge when it comes to the ground game. Per each 15 minutes, Gadelha averages almost five offensive takedowns (an accuracy rate of 57 percent) while Kowalkiewicz has produced a big goose egg (0) in both of those categories, only leading 87 to 83 percent in takedown defense. Surprisingly, Gadelha averages a 0.7 in submission attempts per 15 minutes, but with Kowalkiewicz totaling none, she just needs to find her right moment.
Still almost three weeks out from their collision in Brazil, Gadelha also leads her opponent when it comes to betting (-285 to +225) as of May 16.
Despite being outmatched (especially in grappling), Kowalkiewicz’s coaches remain confusingly confident given that she’s only been in the gym while Gadelha has been actively competing. Kowalkiewicz last defeated Courtney Casey at November’s UFC Fight Night: Bader vs. Nogueira by way of a unanimous decision. Presently, the plan of attack seems to be mental.
Kowalkiewicz’s coach Lukasz Zaborowski told Champions.co last week:
“…Claudia is a strong wrestler, she’s good at striking, but it’s not something we haven’t seen before… Her last fight with Cortney Casey, I didn’t she think she looked that good, in my opinion,” Zaborowski said. “She’s a different fighter now. Against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, the first fight was very close, but in the second fight, it was a total domination. Then, against Cortney Casey she was unimpressive again. What can I say? USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) is working.”
He then went on to claim that Gadelha would be submitted, an area of the fight game in which (to remind you,) Kowalkiewicz has absolutely no proven track record in actual fights as a part of the UFC (two overall.) What do you think?
The comments made by Kowalkiewicz’s coach appear to be from a place of false bravado and she also has no history of doping violations. However you feel about how Gadelha has changed physically, it can’t be denied that she smoked Casey in her last performance.
Gadelha connected with 43 of 92 total strikes (34 of 80 significant strikes) and was a perfect six for six in the takedown department, but attempted just one submission (even though six submission wins make up almost half of her overall 14-2 record in MMA.) She has just as many point-based triumphs to her credit, which should lead fans to expect that this match-up will once again go to the scorecards.
Outperforming Kowalkiewicz verbally might not even be a part of the standard build-up for a fight thanks to the Polish fighter’s limited, but improving grasp of English, Gadelha’s experience doing the same against the champion, and thanks to the rabid, arena-sound-dominating MMA fans of Brazil.
Along with the Gadelha-Kowalkiewicz fight pick comes a second pick—just who will be the next title challenger? Gadelha-Kowalkiewicz is a great back-up for Jedrzejczyk’s tying women’s title defense, but that will unfortunately be all that the bout is. This is because of one name that is for some reason still in the back of everyone’s minds when it should be at the forefront: “Thug” Rose Namajunas.
The Denver, Colorado resident fought for the belt some time ago in the finale fight for the 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter, losing to the inaugural champion, Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza by rear-naked choke. Over the course of the next two-and-a-half years, Namajunas would choke out “12 Gauge” Paige VanZant, whose star power was diminished after suffering an RNC from Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson.
Waterson then suffered the same submission at the hands of Namajunas in on April 15 at UFC on Fox 24 from Kansas, who’s violent fighting style and deadly choke-out ability UFC President Dana White has always respected. She must be next and Namajunas feels the same way, now fully ready.
She told USA Today’s MMAJunkie.com ahead of Jedrzejczyk successful title defense at UFC 211:
“When you think about my age, my experience level in just fighting, itself – those things combined – I wasn’t supposed to really be to the level at which I was at, at that age. Not based on history in other fighters. If I would have won against Carla, I would have been the youngest champ in the UFC ever, beating Jon Jones, and he’s young. I think that right now it means a lot to me to be experienced, not just as a fighter, but as a woman… I’m a dangerous mother (expletive), I tell you that. But just when I’m mentally right, there’s no one that can beat me.”
If there is one hurdle, it’s taken the form of Namajunas (whom Kowalkiewicz defeated to earn her title shot at UFC 205.) Jedrzejczyk said prior to the UFC event in KC that she was confident that she’d face the winner of the co-main event bout (Namajunas), but how will the UFC strawweight division look after UFC 212 take’s place? Who will raise UFC gold in the future?
Only time will tell.
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