After Record-Setting Win, Joanna Champion Needs Ronda Rousey-Style Push from UFC

Chad Dundas@@chaddundasMMA Lead WriterMay 14, 2017

DALLAS, TX - MAY 13:  (L-R) Joanna Jedrzejczyk punches Jessica Andrade in their UFC women's strawweight championship fight during the UFC 211 event at the American Airlines Center on May 13, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Joanna Jedrzejczyk threw more than 350 strikes at Jessica Andrade Saturday at UFC 211, according to the official Fightmetric statistics for their bout.

Not all those shots landed, of course—but, boy, it sure seemed that way.

When the smoke cleared on another record-setting performance by Jedrzejczyk, the UFC strawweight champion had earned a five-round, shutout victory over the hard-charging Andrade (50-45, 50-44, 50-45).

It was nothing short of masterful, and the typically reserved Jedrzejczyk let the MMA world hear about it when she was done.

"There is only one strawweight champion: Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland. Remember that," she declared to UFC color commentator Joe Rogan inside the cage. "No one is taking this belt from me. Nobody."

The win moved the woman nicknamed Joanna Champion to within one fight of tying Ronda Rousey’s mark of six consecutive title defenses. Jedrzejczyk will likely get that chance later this year against popular contender Rose Namajunas, in what could be the biggest matchup the 115-pound division has produced in its short history.

Against Andrade, Jedrzejczyk also broke her own records for leg kicks (75) and significant strike differential (+142) while out-landing the 25-year-old Brazilian 230-94.

The lasting impression was that Jedrzejczyk remains leaps ahead of the next-best competition. With a 14-0 overall record, eight straight wins in the UFC and victories over each of the division’s Top Three-ranked challengers, it’s unclear who can come along to rival her.

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If the UFC is looking for a new heir to invest a Rousey-level promotional push in, it may as well call off the hunt.

Jedrzejczyk is the complete package. As new UFC ownership at WME-IMG continues to scrounge for fresh faces to build into a new generation of stars, she seems the most obvious and deserving choice.

The 29-year-old Poland native has too much speed, skill and tenacity for her contemporaries. Her performances in the cage routinely earn wide-eyed praise from all corners, as evidenced by the outpouring of social media love she earned by so easily dispatching Andrade.

The media is on board:

Shaheen Al-Shatti @shaunalshatti

In the end, it wasn't even close. 49-46 Jedrzejczyk. Absolute masterclass. #UFC211

Patrick Wyman @Patrick_Wyman

50-45 Jedrzejczyk, who affirmed yet again that she's the cleanest striker in the sport. Unreal performance against a tough matchup. #UFC211

Luke Thomas @lthomasnews

I wonder if JJ cries after she crushes her foes because she is, after all, human and realizes what she's done to another person.

Former opponents can't help but marvel:

Claudia Gadelha @ClaudiaGadelha_

Joanna is like water. Isn't easy to fight her.

Even the UFC's biggest star is a fan:

Conor McGregor @TheNotoriousMMA

That is one ferocious female fighter. Lethal with every limb, and from every angle. A truly amazing fighter. Congrats @joannamma!

Outside the Octagon, Jedrzejczyk possesses a quirky charisma that also makes her an easy sell to the sport’s hardcore fanbase. If the UFC awarded her with the full might of the public relations blitz it once bestowed on Rousey, it’s possible the flicker of excitement she’s engendered inside the MMA bubble might spread into a good-sized blaze outside it.

Jedrzejczyk is not Rousey, obviously, and it’s difficult to believe she could ever enjoy quite the same level of mainstream acclaim. But if the world’s largest MMA promoter is in as desperate need of new draws as we’ve been led to believe through the first four-and-a-half months of 2017, there may be no better candidate on the roster.

Like Rousey, Jedrzejczyk’s dominance in her first handful of title defenses has been staggering, though in a distinctly different way. While Rousey’s Olympic-level judo skills manifested in a series of quick and easy first-round submissions, Jedrzejczyk uses pinpoint kickboxing skills and next-generation footwork to whittle her opponents down over 25 minutes.

Jedrzejczyk is distinctly different from Ronda Rousey, but is dominant in her own way.
Jedrzejczyk is distinctly different from Ronda Rousey, but is dominant in her own way.Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

You can’t fit her fights into an Instagram video, but the complete picture is just as awe-inspiring and arguably more interesting than what Rousey used to offer. So far, it also hasn’t left consumers feeling cheated or like she’s being artificially propped up by her fight company bosses.

While Rousey occasionally felt like a reflection of what UFC ownership wanted women’s MMA to look and act like, Jedrzejczyk’s rise has been more authentic. She’s shaped the UFC strawweight division in her own image, not the other way around.

Jedrzejczyk sprang from obscurity when she defeated Carla Esparza to win the strawweight title at UFC 185 in March 2015. Over the course of the next two years, her greatness has revealed itself without a lot of obtrusive meddling from the UFC.

She is once again a reminder that you seldom get to pick your superstars in this unpredictable sport. As a promoter, you get who you get and you make the best of it.

And Jedrzejczyk is nothing if not the best.

Jedrzejczyk celebrates after defeating Jessica Andrade.
Jedrzejczyk celebrates after defeating Jessica Andrade.Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

All her greatest qualities—her unassuming charm, endearing pre-fight antics and cold-blooded, snowballing offense—were well on display this weekend against Andrade.

Jedrzejczyk began by feeding Andrade a steady diet of leg kicks and jabs, but by the second round, her relentless attack began to diversify. The jab slowly blossomed into full-fledged and dizzying punching combinations. Her low kicks spread up the legs, morphing into thudding knees to Andrade's midsection and, eventually, whipping kicks that paint-brushed across the side of the challenger's head.

Andrade was the shorter but obviously more powerful fighter, and she had been impressive in three straight wins since dropping to strawweight from bantamweight in June 2016. Against Jedrzejczyk, however, her might was outgunned by sheer technical brilliance.

To her credit, Andrade never stopped charging forward, trying to turn the bout into a brawl with winging power punches. When she did manage to connect, she did damage—raising a welt above Jedrzejczyk’s right eye in the first round that got increasingly worse as the fight wore on.

Jedrzejczyk lands a kick to Andrade's body.
Jedrzejczyk lands a kick to Andrade's body.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

But soon enough it was clear that Andrade’s bull-rush attack was all she had to offer, and it wasn’t going to be enough. Jedrzejczyk was too fleet of foot, too good at reversing position when Andrade forced a clinch and too adept at maneuvering out of her takedown attempts.

To date, nobody has had an answer for the rising tide of punishment the champion dishes out during her fights.

In July, Jedrzejczyk foiled the grappling-based attack of Claudia Gadelha.

Four months later at UFC 205, she bested Karolina Kowalkiewicz's striking game.

Saturday at UFC 211, she systematically wore down and dashed Andrade’s brute force assault.

If there is a woman or a style in her division that can beat her, we haven’t seen it yet—and perhaps that more than anything makes her worthy of a stratospheric push from the UFC.

With Namajunas likely on deck—bringing her own unique appeal and a good deal of interest from MMA fans—the time is now to see how high Jedrzejczyk can fly.

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