UFC 212: Rivalry keeps Cláudia Gadelha on title run

Cláudia Gadelha is aware of her place in the UFC’s strawweight division, but she has no intention of becoming the gatekeeper for Joanna Jedrzejcyzk as she faces Karolina Kowalkiewicz in Rio.

Cláudia Gadelha is aware of the situation. She knows that Joanna Jedrzejczyk elevated her place in UFC history only a few weeks ago and that talk is now of her arch-rival as one of the best female mixed martial artists of all-time. She is probably reminded all too often of those two rounds last July where she had Jędrzejczyk on the defensive, the strawweight title two-fifths of the way into her grasp.

She is probably reminded all too often of those two rounds last July where she had Jędrzejczyk on the defensive, the strawweight title two-fifths of the way into her grasp.

She has already said all she needs to on the matter. That she overtrained for the fight and how it lead to fatigue in the later rounds. She continues to state that she knows she can defeat the Polish champion if given the opportunity.

Gadelha takes an important step on Saturday when she faces former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz. The Polish striker recently went five rounds with the champion herself, coming up short this past November.  The UFC currently has Gadelha ranked at number one and Kowalkiewicz at number two.  Jędrzejczyk’s dominance of the division has her looking past both women.  Rose Namajunas is next for a title shot, and Tecia Torres is likely in the distance if she continues on her current trajectory.

The Polish striker recently went five rounds with the champion herself, coming up short this past November. The UFC currently has Gadelha ranked at number one and Kowalkiewicz at number two.

Jędrzejczyk’s dominance of the division has her looking past both women. Rose Namajunas is next for a title shot, and Tecia Torres is likely in the distance if she continues on her current trajectory.

For the Brazilian to re-inject herself into the conversation, a victory on Saturday is a necessity.

She rebounded from her loss last July with a victory over Cortney Casey in November. But, she needs to re-assert herself against the elite of the division to keep herself relevant to the title picture. Similar to Miesha Tate following her second loss to Ronda Rousey, Gadelha is too talented and too young to settle for a gatekeeper role in the division.

The best move she can make for her career is to keep winning against the best competition available.

Gadelha won’t receive a title shot with a victory, no matter how impressive she looks on Saturday. However, she could line herself up for fights against Torres, the winner of Carla Esparza vs Maryna Moroz, or the winner between Joanne Calderwood and Cynthia Calvillo.  Any of the aforementioned match-ups would go a long way in keeping Gadelha relevant in the title picture.

More importantly, she is the consensus number one contender in the event that Jędrzejczyk loses the title.

The bout with Kowalkiewicz is a classic striker versus grappler match-up. Kowalkiewicz is best known for dispatching Rose Namajunas, using knees in the clinch to slow down the unorthodox striker.

Gadelha should look to pick her spots and feint with strikes to set up a takedown. Kowalkiewicz isn’t known for her footwork and if Gadelha is able to force her to raise her guard then it will make the takedowns that much easier.

The Brazilian hasn’t finished a fight by submission since 2010 and unless the Pole is hurt she is unlikely to catch her on Saturday.  Gadelha is best off maintaining top position and using ground and pound to wear down her opponent’s energy.

Kowalkiewicz showed impressive stamina in her five round bout with Jędrzejczyk. While the two are only scheduled for a three round fight, it will be interesting to see how Gadelha’s conditioning holds up over three rounds.  Most importantly, how will her gas tank hold up if she is unable to get Kowalkiewicz down to the mat?

Gadelha is not taking the easy way out in a match-up with Kowalkiewicz. A loss could knock her out of the immediate title picture for easily a year in the stacked strawweight division.

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A victory locks her in as the consensus number one contender and the woman any challenger must go through if they wish to face Jędrzejczyk.

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