This is a joint piece by MMA Wreckage’s Stephen Rivers and Victor “Juice” Vargas. each takes one fighter and makes their case as to why they could emerge victorious
Stephen’s take on Jedrzejczyk
After that second Claudia Gadelha fight you are going to have a hard time convincing me any strawweight can take this title off Joanna Jedrzejczyk any time soon. Gadelha is by far the second best 115 pound fighter in the world, and Jedrzejczyk survived everything that was thrown at her, outcardioed Gadelha, and completely outworked her in the later rounds. Jedrzejczyk’s output in the championship rounds was phenomenal. It was unbelievable.
Yet Gadelha provided the blueprint on how to beat Jedrzejczyk, and it requires skills that Kowalkiewicz does not possess. She doesn’t have the offensive wrestling to put Jedrzejczyk on her back and keep her there often enough for it to matter, and she doesn’t have fight altering power really anywhere within her striking. That makes this feel like a snazzier version of Jedrzejczyk vs. Letourneau. Kowalkiewicz might be able to tough it out, and she might make it seem competitive for periods, but I don’t envision there being any point past the first round where the outcome appears to be in doubt.
Everywhere Kowalkiewicz is good, Jedrzejczyk is better. She is better in the clinch, where Kowalkiewicz had so much success against Rose Namajunas last time out. She is much better on her way out of the clinch too. Kowalkiewicz can try and get on her bike and land from range, but then Jedrzejczyk has teeps and leg kicks that can make that a really difficult proposition, and she’s great at range herself too.
More than that, as already mentioned, what we saw in the fights where Jedrzejczyk has been taken into the championship rounds is that she does not slow at all. She finds another gear when it matters and leaves her opponents in the dust. By the time the fifth round began against Gadelha there was no doubt whatsoever who was going to win the fight despite Gadelha clearly winning the first two rounds. Kowalkiewicz might still be standing when the fifth round begins, just like Letourneau and Gadelha, but by that point I don’t expect her to still be in the fight.
Juice’s take on Kowalkiewicz
There will be a Polish champion on Sunday morning. Depending on the outcome of the fight, it can stay near the beaches of Coconut Creek, Florida or back across the Atlantic to Poland.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk, the reigning, defending champion and undoubted pound-for-pound WMMA great, will defend her belt against a woman she beat a few years ago in an amateur bout. Karolina Kowalkiewicz, the woman seeking revenge will have a tall task ahead of her, but has some necessary tools to beat Jedrzejczyk. Jedrzejczyk is sprawl-and-brawl fighter 2.0, she has that aspect of fighting down almost to a science, and that approach is not suited for a woman like Kowalkiewicz. Kowalkiewicz is first and foremost a striker, not as decorated and revered as Jedrzejczyk, but excellent nonetheless.
If this is a straight Muay Thai fight, Jedrzejczyk might win ten out of ten times, but I feel Kowalkiewicz doesn’t get the credit she deserves for her depth of MMA skill. She’s witty and well prepared, she’s competitive in every fight but she acquires data very astutely. She’ll throw many strikes and combos and eventually finds something you are susceptible to. Kowalkiewicz is not a fighter that will go to the well too many times with an unsuccessful technique.
An aspect of her game that is very underrated is her right hand. Kowalkiewicz will never be confused for a power puncher, but she has steadily been improving the precision and power behind her cross. The right hand can come from many awkward angles and usually lands flush even in exchanges. Yes, I agree Jedrzejczyk is an exceptional clinch fighter but Kowalkiewicz is no slouch, in fact I’d argue she’s better, definitely with the double collar ties. The only person that wasn’t afraid to spend prolonged periods of time in the clinch with Jedrzejczyk was Claudia Gadelha, but that taxing style ended up being her undoing. Kowalkiewicz is very fast in the clinch and accrues damage very well as in the Rose Namajunas fight.
This fight will be ugly. I fully expect both women to be bruised, bloody and battered. Both are ferocious competitors and seem to genuinely dislike each other. Toughness and durability is off the charts and there should be no fear of either of them gassing. Jedrzejczyk will find herself uncomfortable throughout much of this fight. Being dominated for two rounds against Gadelha and coming back was impressive, but Gadelha was a walking punching bag after about 12 minutes, Kowalkiewicz will battle to the bitter end and will be in her face the whole way. It will be a game of inches and seconds but I think Kowalkiewicz can score at least one knockdown, a few takedowns and respectable points in the clinch that can lead her to a tight, and razor thin decision victory.