Even though there are three title fights at UFC 217 on Saturday, Nov. 4, this one seems to be flying under the radar a little bit. Which is unfortunate, because the champion in this fight is looking to break a record held by one of the UFC’s most popular fighters and stake her claim as the best female fighter on the planet.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk has defended the UFC strawweight title five consecutive times. If she defeats Rose Namajunas at UFC 217, she will break the record held by former UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. One of those title defenses came at the first UFC card at Madison Square Garden last year, UFC 205. So it’s fitting that Jedrzejczyk returns to her old stomping grounds to try and set a new record.
Strengths: If it weren’t for UFC featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, Jedrzejczyk would probably be considered the most dangerous female fighter on the planet. She’s slowly cultivating her own aura as a punishing striker who just demoralizes and breaks her opponents. Jedrzejczyk is one of the best punchers in all of mixed martial arts, and her output in each fight borders on the ridiculous. In her last fight against Jessica Andrade at UFC 211, Jedrzejczyk landed an absolutely mind-blowing 225 significant strikes. When you compare that to only 83 significant strikes landed by Andrade, it makes Jedrzejczyk’s total all the more astounding.
Jedrzejczyk’s strikes are also absolutely possible of smashing her opponent. If you don’t believe me, go back and watch Jedrzejczyk’s first title defense against Jessica Penne in 2015. Jedrzejczyk landed 126 significant strikes in that fight, and Penne’s face told the tale of every single one of those strikes. Just search for that fight on Google and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Trust me.
Over the course of her career, Jedrzejczyk has developed quite the intimidating personality. It’s fair to wonder if a few of her opponents have felt defeated even before stepping into the Octagon with her. Jedrzejczyk is a supremely confident fighter and is very matter-of-fact in describing how she plans to defeat her opponents in a brutal fashion. All those ingredients add up to one scary fighter.
Weaknesses: If there are any knocks to be had against Jedrzejczyk, it’s that she is suffering from a bit of a drought in the finish department. While she is undefeated, her last four victories have come via unanimous decision and hasn’t had a finish since her fight with Penne more than two years ago. For someone who seems to be such a feared striker capable of producing eye-popping volume, the finishes just haven’t been there for her as of late.
Jedrzejczyk’s opponent at UFC 217, Rose Namajunas, is one of the toughest opponents Jedrzejczyk will have. If Namajunas can weather Jedrzejczyk’s onslaught, she stands a chance of pulling the upset. Jedrzejczyk also only has one submission to her credit, in her second-ever pro fight in 2012. Namajunas is extremely dangerous in the grappling game, so the possibility of a submission coming out of nowhere is always there for the champion.
Strengths: As I just finished saying, Namajunas is one of the best submission fighters in all of women’s MMA, if not the entire sport. Only one of Namajunas’ six overall victories did not come via submission, and her second career win came with an incredible flying arm bar that was pulled off in all of 12 seconds. Namajunas can come at you from so many different ways with so many different submissions. To grossly oversimplify things, if she gets you on the mat, then you’re in trouble.
Namajunas’ toughness has also been on display in her last couple of fights. She faced a streaking Michelle Waterson in her last fight earlier this year, but showed no signs of intimidation of her opponent. Namajunas took Waterson down early, pounded her out and locked in a rear-naked choke for the win. Namajunas has no fear, which can only help when stepping into the cage with a fighter like Jedrzejczyk.
Weaknesses: However, as tough as Namajunas is and as good as she is with submissions, she still seems to struggle when it comes to the striking game. She has no knockout or TKO victories in her career, which is definitely not something you want to hear when you learn she’s facing one of the best strikers around in Jedrzejczyk.
Namajunas was outstruck by another effective striker in Karolina Kowalkiewicz last year, and Namajunas came up short that night. Jedrzejczyk is a much better striker than Kowalkiewicz, so does that not portend good things for Namajunas at UFC 217.
Namajunas has grown leaps and bounds in her UFC career, and she is definitely capable of springing a surprise submission on Jedrzejczyk and pulling off a huge upset. But I just don’t see it happening. Jedrzejczyk is who she is for a reason. I expect we will see more of the same from her this weekend. She will pepper Namajunas with strikes early and often, and I think Jedrzejczyk has a great chance of pulling off a knockout win for the first time in more than two years. I think she will break Rousey’s record for title defenses and likely set her sights on conquering a new weight class as we enter 2018.
Winner: Jedrzejczyk by TKO
Image Credit: MMA Today