In a division where the only competition seems to be “who’s second best”, Karolina “The Polish Princess” Kowalkiewicz (10-2) seemed to have it on lock. To date, she’s the only person who legitimately hurt Joanna Jedrzejczyk during the latter’s title reign. Then Claudia Gadelha submitted her before losing to Jessica Andrade, so Kowalkiewicz is trying to climb a rapidly shifting strawweight ladder.
Kowalkiewicz is, above all things, steady.
She’s doesn’t have knockout power, but still hits hard enough to stop opponents in their tracks. This makes her volume striking dangerous as one clean connection will have two or three more punches behind it. She’s got a very good clinch as well, understanding how to target the liver with her knees and punching on the break. She’s hasn’t submitted a single opponent in the octagon, but she has enough grappling prowess to maintain top position and soften her opponents with ground strikes.
Getting out struck by Joanna and out grappled by Gadelha is nothing to be ashamed of, so it’ll be nice to see where Kowalkiewicz’s ceiling really lies.
Fans who only watch the UFC may not realize that there’s a weight class lighter than strawweight: atomweight.
It was there that Jodie Esquibel (6-2) spent most of her career. At 5′ 1″, she’s average-sized compared to most of the top atomweights today. But at strawweight, she’s all but tiny. Luckily her natural style is to walk forward with punches which is a perfect strategy against taller, longer opponents.
She has a professional boxing background, which explains why her punches are sharper than most fighters. On her sole fight on TUF, she showed knees in the clinch and punches on the break which takes advantage of close range fighting. The problem is that she isn’t good at either of those things.
That aforementioned TUF fight? She lost it by decision. She couldn’t bring her knees high enough to work her clinch offense and Ashley Yoder overpowered her on breaks. Considering that Yoder herself is 0-2 in her UFC career, this doesn’t bode well.
There are a total of three opponents in the strawweight division that could reliably beat Kowalkiewicz and Esquibel isn’t even in the same zip code in terms of skill. It’s a smart match up for the co-main event of Poland, because the Polish Princess should beat Esquibel into hamburger meat within a couple rounds.
Kowalkiewicz via TKO
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