Joanna Jędrzejczyk could be one step closer in tieng Ronda Rousey’s record for title defenses at UFC 211, but a victory might cement her place as an even more dominant champion.
In just two short years, Joanna Jędrzejczyk went from unknown to one of the most dominant champions in women’s MMA and UFC history. Her evolution has been fantastic to watch and her success has put her on the brink of a benchmark in women’s MMA.
UFC 211 will mark Jędrzejczyk’s fifth attempt to defend her title. She has been overwhelmingly successful the last four times. The closest she has ever been to losing was after dropping to dominant rounds to arch-rival Claudia Gadelha in July before coming back to shut-out the final three rounds. Should she be successful on Saturday, she will tie the record for consecutive title defenses in the UFC that was set by Ronda Rousey.
Rousey, of course, electrified the sport of MMA when she burst onto the mainstream consciousness in 2013. Every title defense was more spectacle than sport as fans who had never watched MMA before were glued to the television as they watched Rousey’s dominance.
Jędrzejczyk’s ascension has been different. As the strawweight division has become more skilled and talented, she has remained ahead of the pack. However, she has rarely been one to carry a show herself.
Only twice has Jędrzejczyk headlined a card and never on pay-per-view as was the standard for Rousey. Her biggest appearances, at UFC 193 and UFC 205, had her bolstering cards already headlined by superstar names like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor.
Nonetheless, the Polish champion has reached this point with arguably the best striking in women’s MMA. She has dominated opponents using her dazzling hand speed and footwork, outpointing her foes early and accumulating damage as she continues her unrelenting pace.
Her initial title defenses were against less than impressive foes in Jessica Penne and Valerie Letourneau. It wasn’t until last year, when she shut out elite contenders Gadelha and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, that she began to get the recognition as one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world.
Her pre-fight tactics are mesmerising to watch. Regardless of the opponent, Jędrzejczyk consistently exudes a cold and dominant persona that is dismissive of the notion that her opponent will be victorious in their bout. Only her opponents can say exactly how much of a psychological edge it allows her, but it is evident that she elevates her opposition to meet her intensity in every outing.
Going into the co-main event in Dallas, Jędrzejczyk faces another difficult test as she faces surging contender Jessica Andrade. The Brazilian is a well-rounded powerhouse, relentless on the feet and adept on the ground.
Andrade’s stoppages over Penne and Joanne Calderwood showed how effective her forward pressure can be and her last outing against Angela Hill showed that she can keep up the pace for at least three rounds.
Most notably, Andrade is also known for her pre-fight intensity and will not be intimidated by the status or mind-games of the champion.
A victory would put Jędrzejczyk in rarefied air, tying her with icon Rousey and cementing her status as the second most dominant champion in the modern era. The only woman ahead of her, currently, is featherweight queen Cris “Cyborg” Justino.
The Brazilian’s dominance extends back more than a decade and her fight against Gina Carano was the original marquee showcase for women’s MMA that opened the doors for the women who came afterwards.
The future seems already set for the Polish sensation, a victory over Andrade and a chance to break the record against the last elite contender she has yet to face in Rose Namajunas. Of course, the favourite meal of all underdogs are the best-laid plans and Jędrzejczyk will need nothing less than her best to reach an even loftier status in women’s MMA.