Joanna Jedrzejczyk is a force to be reckoned with in women’s MMA. An impressive debut against Juliana Lima in 2014 was followed by a split decision victory over Claudia Gadelha in December of that same year. Those two victories set-up a title fight with the inaugural strawweight champion, Carla Esparza, at UFC 185 in March of 2015. Jedrzejczyk wasted no time in dominating Esparza early, to end the fight via TKO late in the second round. Since then, the Pole has scored victories over Jessica Penne, Valerie Letourneau and a second win over Gadelha in July of 2016.
In the opening rounds, Jedrzejczyk got off to a slow start, poorly defending takedowns while receiving quite a bit of punishment from Gadelha from the guard. By the third round, she settled into precision strikes to penetrate Gadelha’s defense to go on and earn a decisive victory.
Jedrzejczyk is a clear reflection of an emerging brand of female MMA fighters. She has a complete game which includes head movement, striking, and technical ability on the mat. The six-time kickboxing champion competed at 125LBS prior to joining the UFC, but is limited by the promotion’s strawweight and bantamweight divisions. Forced down a class, Joanna “Champion” as she likes to be called, allows her power to resonate in a dominant striking game at the lesser weight.
To call 2016 her breakout year would be an understatement. The 27-year-old from Olsztyn, Poland, made her fourth title defense against compatriot, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, at UFC 205. The promotion’s New York state debut at Madison Square Garden was her biggest bow on the world stage. The two were familiar foes going back to when they met as amateurs in 2012. Jedrzejczyk came out on top.
Curiosity as to the focus of the Muay Thai specialist surrounded the build-up of 205. For the first time since joining the UFC in 2014, the strawweight entered the ring with a new team behind her. She opted to leave her lifelong training camp and management in her native Poland. She relocated to Florida to train with American Top Team (ATT). On paper, the change looked to be a good move. ATT has produced a collection of top fighters over the years and currently trains welterweight champion Tyron Woodley as well as the talented women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes.
Even though Jedrzejczyk had out-landed 575-195 in significant strikes in UFC title fights going into the Kowalkiewicz match, question marks still remained around how well she would perform given the magnitude of changes. All doubt was cast aside once Joanna emerged from her corner. After a brief scare that saw the champion rocked by Kowalkiewicz, Jedrzejczyk dominated the back half of the fight to improve her MMA record to 14-0, including 7-0 in the UFC.
The RealSport101 2016 Female Fighter of the Year could very well be the UFC’s next big star, but fans better get a look at her sooner rather than later. “I’m not going to fight for such a long time,” Jedrzejczyk said during the UFC 205 run-up. “Maybe I will do three or four more fights and retire. Maybe after two fights, I will say, ‘OK, it’s enough.’ I could be happy. I did my job.”
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