Women’s mixed martial arts enjoys a prominent role for the second straight UFC pay-per-view, as Rose Namajunas and Karolina Kowalkiewicz meet in the co-main event at UFC 201 on Saturday, July 30. This fight is a presumptive no. 1 contender bout to possibly determine who gets the next shot at UFC women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Strengths: Namajunas is one of the best submission fighters in all of women’s MMA, if not all of MMA, period. Namajunas has five wins in her career, and four of those came by submission. Her second career win came with an incredible flying arm bar that she pulled off in all of 12 seconds. Namajunas can come at you from so many different ways with so many different submissions. If she gets you on the mat, you’re in trouble.
Weaknesses: But as good as Namajunas is with submissions, she seems to struggle that much when comes to the striking game. She has no knockout or TKO victories in her career, and though she defeated noted striker Tecia Torres by unanimous decision in her last fight, she was pummeled by a high-level striker in Carla Esparza at The Ultimate Fighter Finale in 2014, when the UFC crowned Esparza as its first women’s strawweight champion.
Kowalkiewicz is regarded for her striking, and though she may not be as advanced as Esparza, she’s capable of using it to keep Namajunas at bay and to keep her from locking in one of her noted submissions.
Strengths: Like I just said, the undefeated Kowalkiewicz is known primarily for her striking, which she uses to pepper her opponents and keep them at bay before she shoots in for a takedown or some dirty boxing. She lands roughly six significant strikes per minute – an extremely impressive number. She’s also extremely capable of defending takedowns, to the tune of a 95 percent success rate. Kowalkiewicz has thoroughly outstruck her opponents in her first two UFC victories, and even has a pair of submission victories on her resume as well.
Weaknesses: Though Kowalkiewicz appears well-rounded on the surface, Namajunas will be far and away her toughest test to date. Even as primarily a striker, Kowalkiewicz only has one TKO victory in her 9-fight career and did not put away two tough, but middling fighters in Randa Markos and Heather Jo Clark in her first two UFC bouts. Namajunas is an extremely dangerous matchup for Kowalkiewicz and can pull a submission from anywhere at any time. Is Kowalkiewicz up to the challenge?
At first glance, this looks like the classic “striker vs. grappler” matchup. But Kowalkiewicz has shown ground skills of her own, though it remains to be seen if they’re on the level of Namajunas, who’s won two of her last three fights by submission. If Kowalkiewicz decides to grapple with Namajunas, she could be in big trouble. If Kowalkiewicz uses her striking to keep distance and occasionally unleash a barrage, she could pull out another decision victory. But Namajunas seems reborn since her loss to Esparza, and I like her momentum to carry her to a victory and a strawweight title shot.
Winner: Namajunas by submission
Photo Credit: Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC