Ever since losing the strawweight throne back in 2017 – the goal for Polish striker, Joanna Jędrzejczyk has remained the same. Reclamation. This weekend in Las Vegas – the Muay Thai practitioner has the second opportunity to do so. The American Top Team staple takes on Chinese native and perpetual rival, Zhang Weili in the co-headliner of UFC 248 – with gold up for spoils.
The road to title redemption hasn’t been as straight-forward as maybe perceived though. After an immediate title rematch loss to Rose Namajunas, the two-fight skid was then snapped with a comfortable win over Tecia Torres, before Jędrzejczyk made the move to flyweight. In a vacant title clash with a longtime foe, Valentina Shevchenko – the Pole dropped a rather one-sided unanimous decision. Now back at her previous strawweight home, the Muay Thai expert returned to winning ways via a vintage performance against Michelle Waterson in September of last year.
This matchup with Weili has somewhat of a rather telling narrative. Jędrzejczyk has spoken countless times ahead of the meeting – revolving mainly around her return to the throne. Weili on the other hand – has had an arduous journey to the U.S. for this weekend’s clash, due to the recent outbreak of coronavirus. A couple of verbals tags from both parties have also hit home in the weeks prior to the co-main event.
The name of the game for Jędrzejczyk is simple. Pressure, and constant output. In recent wins over Michelle Waterson, Jéssica Andrade, and Valérie Létourneau – the Pole has managed a staggering six-hundred and twenty-five total strikes. Front kicks to both the body and head, a jab reminiscent of a prime Georges St-Pierre and impeccable takedown defence makes Jędrzejczyk one of the most difficult mixed-martial-artists to gauge in the history of the sport.
In her premier professional defeat, Jędrzejczyk dropped a potentially record-equally strawweight title defence to Rose Namajunas, via a shocking first-round knockout. Five months later we had the rematch – which proved much more competitive with Jędrzejczyk outstriking Namajunas over five-rounds, before losing a unanimous judging.
Matching both Weili and Jędrzejczyk is a cunning move by the promotion. A victory for the China native gives her a gargantuan name on her record – while a return to champion status for Jędrzejczyk shows she can still hang with the upper-echelon of the division. At 115-pounds, Weili is absolutely massive for the weight class, and could easily vie with the aforementioned Shevchenko for flyweight honours. Weili’s natural stature also gives her the legitimate ability to finish Jędrzejczyk with strikes, evident with her title win firefight with Andrade.
Jędrzejczyk looked poised as ever against former Invicta FC atomweight best, Waterson in Tampa – and more importantly, focused. A methodical targetting of the body, legs, and head displayed Jędrzejczyk’s diversity in terms of offence, displayed her return to the art of eight limbs. Utilization of these techniques is key for the Pole to maintain distance from Weili’s dangerous hands. In previous matchups, Joanna has managed to develop a significant lead on points from the second and third round onwards – a distinct possibility if she can manage to maintain distance on Saturday night.