For the second straight time, a strawweight bout will be the co-main event on a UFC pay-per-view. But although the strawweight title won’t be on the line at UFC 212 on Saturday, June 3, this particular 115-pound fight is still a pivotal one for the division. A pair of former title challengers will square off to see who might receive another opportunity to dethrone the seemingly unbeatable UFC strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Strengths: Gadelha might be the toughest female fighter in all of the UFC, and not just because she has a ridiculously shredded physique. She and Kowalkiewicz have both come the closest to defeating Jedrzejczyk in the past, and both of Gadelha’s bouts with Jedrzejczyk were just brutal and physical to watch. Gadelha is a powerful striker and in her rematch with Jedrzejczyk, she clearly won the first two rounds. Gadelha can also defend strikes well, to the tune of 60 percent.
Gadelha also combines a powerful striking game with an equally powerful ground game, landing more than four-and-a-half takedowns per fight while defending 83 percent of takedown attempts from her opponents. Basically, Gadelha is one of the most well-rounded fighters in all of the UFC.
Weaknesses: Although Gadelha is very powerful and strong, that does result in struggles with her gas tank and cardio. Her only two career losses both came to Jedrzejczyk, and though she easily won the first two rounds of her title fight against Jedrzejczyk last year, it was also obvious that Gadelha emptied her gas tank in those first two rounds. Jedrzejczyk cruised through the next three rounds to retain her belt. If Kowalkiewicz can use striking to keep Gadelha at bay and make her chase Kowalkiewicz, Gadelha will have to prove her cardio won’t be her downfall once again.
Strengths: Like I just said, Kowalkiewicz is known primarily for her striking, which she uses to pepper her opponents and keep them at a distance before she shoots in for a takedown or some dirty boxing. She lands nearly five significant strikes per minute – an impressive number. As I also said before, Kowalkiewicz came close to upsetting Jedrzejczyk at UFC 205 last year. Kowalkiewicz rocked Jedrzejczyk with punches in the fourth round of her fight and nearly came close to being the first UFC fighter to finish the champion.
Kowalkiewicz is also extremely capable of defending takedowns, to the tune of an 87 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, Gadelha will be one of her toughest tests to date – probably second to only Jedrzejczyk. Even being primarily a striker, Kowalkiewicz only has one TKO victory in her career and has not yet put away any of her UFC opponents. Gadelha’s power and grappling is an extremely dangerous matchup for Kowalkiewicz, and Gadelha can pull a submission or knockout from anywhere at any time.
I could really see this fight going either way. Either Gadelha asserts her power and grappling early and overwhelms Kowalkiewicz, or Kowalkiewicz uses her range and stand-up to stay away from Gadelha’s dangerous ground skills. I think Kowalkiewicz can avoid being knocked out or submitted, but can she stand up to Gadelha’s power? Will this fight only being three rounds mean Gadelha won’t have to worry about gassing out?
Depending on how this fight unfolds, it’s possible the winner could be neck-and-neck with Rose Namajunas to receive the next strawweight title shot. This fight will be close, but I think Gadelha does just enough to eke out a hard-fought decision.
Winner: Gadelha by split decision