Joanna Jędrzejczyk has become one of rising stars of the mixed martial arts (MMA) world today, a fan favourite and a dominant champion in her 115-pound division with four consecutive title defenses. Her overall record stands at 13-0 which keeps her undefeated in the UFC. It’s hard to look pass why she isn’t considered one of the best female fighters in the world but I think she could be part of the conversation if she isn’t already.
Jędrzejczyk or “Joanna Champion” as she is affectionately known, has to be compared with arguably the sport’s most popular figure in Ronda Rousey and most feared fighter – Cris ‘Cyborg’.
Joanna has a better record even if it’s separated by 1 loss. A 13-0 compared to a 12-2 record Ronda Rousey holds. An undefeated run for the Polish champion is an impressive feat even if the strawweight division has a comparatively less competitive division than the bantamweight weight class. A division with more high profile and talented fighters including the likes of Meisha Tate and Holly Holm pose a bigger challenge to Ronda Rousey but the likes of Claudia Gadelha and Karolina Kowalkiewicz are no lean feats for Joanna who did extremely well to dispatch them both during her title defense. With a battle against Jessica Andrade looming this weekend at UFC 211, she can go a long way in establishing herself as one of the best if she dominates the former bantamweight contender. Indeed, Andrade is the most powerful opponent she will have faced with her speed and agility is more suited to the lighter weight class.
“Joanna Champion” is often overlooked when the conversation of the best female MMA fighter is right now, the usual suspects in Cris Cyborg and Ronda ‘Rowdy’ Rousey come up. The UFC looks for marketability as well as a skillful fighter when it comes to pushing stars up the ladder. The Polish star isn’t as popular as Ronda Rousey or Cyborg. These two girls bring their own qualities and star power to the UFC, each highlighting two major traits required; power and marketability.
Joanna doesn’t carry the same aura as her colleagues. Ronda intimidates her opponents with death-stares, ruthless one-liners and a burgeoning reputation to finish fights within minutes if not seconds. ‘Rowdy’ riles up the crowd during weigh ins with her silence and mean demeanor enough to stir up her opponent, hyping fights the night before the fight. The trending buzzword right now is ‘strong women’ and Ronda’s combination of ruthlessness, power and attitude has propelled her to unofficial ambassadorial role. Even though, Ronda lost on her return to the UFC to Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 and has gone into hiding since, she still remains one of the most sought after and popular figures in the sport. Although, I would argue that she will slowly lose her influence if she doesn’t make her immediate future known to the world.
Cyborg may not be a popular figure like Rousey but she has an intimidating stature and fight style. The ‘Cyborg’ nickname has major implications including fear and caution. The way in which she has beat her opponents has thrown so much discontent into the division that the UFC created a female featherweight division for the Brazilian. Having fought twice within the past year at bantamweight against Leslie Smith and Lina Lansberg, she seems to be ghosting around searching for an opponent to face with no one willing to face her. A much bigger presence than the rest of the women in the division making her physical appearance another intimidating factor.
Ronda and Cyborg tend to finish their opponents compared to Joanna who wins via decision and the odd technical knockout. Entertaining fights, pre-match hype coupled with her signature arm bar; brings the pay-per-view buys every time. It’s a recipe for success for the UFC. They are a business first, fight promotion second, so it’s the money fight that rules over ‘right’ match up. Joanna might not be prettiest or most naturally marketable character in the UFC but her impeccable skill has made her a worthy champion. Two five round fights against Gadelha and Kowalkiewicz has on the contrary shown how deep the fighters in the division are.
Lot of critics talked about Joanna making her way into the conversation if she beat Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 205 in dominating fashion. Her Polish counterpart did really well to take her the distance but ultimately lost to the champion to a (split decision) call from the judges but there isn’t a sense of unanimity from that win. Karolina took her very close and I think Joanna needs to defend her belt in a more dominating style at least two more times before people start to realise her brilliance. A possible move up to the rumoured Flyweight division (125 lbs) the UFC is planning to open up and become a two-division champion to be truly categorized as the world’s best female MMA fighter. Imagine, being classified in the same bracket as Conor McGregor as the only other active two division champion and first female to achieve the feat.
It doesn’t take away from her incredible performances and work ethic the Polish superstar has put in thus far. Close fights and stuttering moments in bouts does not take away from the champion’s wins, if anything it shows her resilience to bounce back from the brink and take the ‘W’. The champion has a heart of a lion and may be small in stature but it hasn’t shrouded her domination. Despite, the odds stacked against her, I still believe Jędrzejczyk should be taken as a serious contender for the best female MMA fighter in the world right now.