NEW YORK CITY – Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Strawweight elites Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas will duel this Saturday (Nov 4, 2017) at UFC 217 inside Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.
This is an important bout for the undefeated Joanna “Champion.” It’s her chance to break Ronda Rousey’s title defense record, and “Rowdy” is the only woman who can really compare to Jedrzejczyk’s accomplishments in the cage. Meanwhile, this is Namajunas’ second shot at UFC gold. Her first came a bit too early, and she came up short as a result. Nearly three years and five fights later, Namajunas is better prepared but is also facing off with a more devastating champion.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each athlete:
Key Wins: Tecia Torres (UFC on FOX 19), Michelle Waterson (UFC on FOX 24), Paige VanZant (UFC Fight Night 80), Angela Hill (UFC 192)
Key Losses: Carla Esparza (TUF 20 Finale), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC 201), Tecia Torres (Invicta FC 4)
Keys to Victory: Namajunas has been fighting the division’s best for the majority of her career. “Thug Rose” is a slick jiu-jitsu fighter, and her outside striking game has really come a long way.
Those kickboxing developments will be important. If Namajunas panics and shoots for sloppy takedowns, she’s going to eat elbows and knees to the body. It’ll be a repeat of the Kowalkiewicz fight, except this time she probably won’t survive to the final bell.
Namajunas has to show her skill.
Realistically, it’s all about getting the takedown and choke. However, that won’t be possible without engaging Jedrzejczyk in prolonged kickboxing exchanges. That’s not a fun mission, but it’s the only way Namajunas can find the timing to land a takedown.
If Namajunas pulls off the upset, it will be in similar fashion to Miesha Tate’s well-timed shot that scored her the back mount and choke over Holly Holm. The difference is that Namajunas is a more efficient striker than “Cupcake” and should have more opportunities to take shots against such a high-volume foe.
Key Wins: Jessica Andrade (UFC 211), Claudia Gadelha (TUF 23 Finale, UFC on FOX 13), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC 203), Carla Esparza (UFC 185)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Jedrzejczyk is a brutal Muay Thai striker with ironclad takedown defense. That’s all well and good, but it’s Jedrzejczyk’s conditioning that separates her from the pack. Jedrzejczyk maintains an absolutely absurd pace and throws a ridiculous number of strikes well into the championship rounds, causing opponents to wilt in the face of her volume.
Namajunas has talent and tricks, but she cannot match her opponent’s conditioning.
Early on, Jedrzejczyk has to be careful. That doesn’t mean hesitant or cautious. Jedrzejczyk is at her best defensively when firing on all cylinders, as it tends to force ugly shots that she then capitalizes upon with elbows and more combinations.
At the same time, Jedrzejczyk has to be aware of her opponent’s path to victory. Namajunas doesn’t drive into powerful shots like Andrade or Gadelha, she sets up a trip with punches and footwork then leaps into back mount. No matter how good Jedrzejczyk’s defensive wrestling takes, it only requires one slip up for Namajunas to sink an arm under the chin.
With that in mind, Jedrzejczyk has to stay smart if put in a bad position. It’s far better for her to lose a round staying defensive on her back than to force a stand up and risk the submission. Jedrzejczyk has 25 minutes to attack, whereas her opponent can only keep up for so long.
It’s one of the final few challenges for Jedrzejczyk at 115 pounds.
Jedrzejczyk’s goal is dominate everyone and clear out the division. If she wins this contest, it’s certainly arguable that she’s already accomplished her mission. With a win, it shouldn’t be a surprise if Jedrzejczyk sets her eyes on the 125-pound crown. I have a feeling the rest of her division would be grateful.
A loss, meanwhile, would definitely be a shocker worthy of an immediate rematch.
For Namajunas, it’s hard to imagine a bigger possible moment. This is her chance at redemption on a massive card against a legend of the sport. Victory elevates “Thug Rose” to the realm of unlikely upsets populated by Matt Serra and T.J. Dillashaw, and it will demonstrate a ton of growth from her first title attempt. If Namajunas does come up short, she’s still only 10 fights into her professional career. She’s a remarkably accomplished fighter considering his time in the sport, and she’ll have other opportunities in the future.
By: Andrew Richardson / SB Nation