Written by Tommy Hackett
This week’s edition of “Who Takes It?” casts its focus on Ultimate Fighting Championship, which is making its third visit to Germany this weekend – and first in Berlin — for UFC Fight Night 69.
The event is headlined by a title bout in the women’s strawweight division: champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland defending her belt for the first time, against Jessica Penne of the US. The show also features a pretty good featherweight bout in the co-main, with Germany’s Dennis Siver taking on Japan’s Tatsuya Kawajiri.
Then – oh, man… or, as they may say in Germany, “ach, mensch” — this show really thins out. Way out, in fact – to a surprising degree, even in today’s glut of MMA fights. Still, maybe someone will surprise.
What shouldn’t come as a surprise is the striking acumen of the headliner here, UFC women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who is always worth a watch.
Since entering the UFC last year, Jedrzejczyk (pronounced yen-jay-chick, more or less) has punched out three opponents to bring her MMA record to 9-0.
First was a dominant decision win over Brazilian Juliana Lima, where Jedrzejczyk showcased what has become her typical performance: utilizing good footwork to find the range to snap out her combinations, with enough skill and athleticism to stay out of trouble on the mat. The Pole also landed a few kicks to the body and, maybe surprisingly, mostly out-worked the more muscular Lima in the clinch. While Lima held tough and had some bright spots, including a late takedown, the night clearly belonged to Jedrzejczyk.
Next, Jedrzejczyk earned a (much closer) decision win over another Brazilian, Claudia Gadelha. Gadelha, a two-time BJJ world champion at brown belt, had more success with her takedowns than Lima, but she worked hard for them and Jedrzejczyk’s defense held tight on the mat. Victory was carved out by a great stretch of striking from Jedrzejczyk in the second round, and a knockdown off a right uppercut in the first.
Interestingly, the title match between Jedrzejczyk and the division champion Carla Esparza was, seemingly, the easiest win of the three. There, Jedrzejczyk slipped away from the wrestler’s grasp repeatedly and essentially engaged in target practice until the ref (wisely) stepped in.
Her opponent, Jessica Penne, prides herself on a more well-rounded game but is mostly known as a grappler. The BJJ black belt has recently begun training with judoka Justin Flores to continue developing as a martial artist:
It’s often said that MMA is a young sport. That’s true, but if the sport’s modern era is only a decade or two old, this division is still in an embryonic stage. Simply put, when a 9-0 fighter like Jedrzejczyk seems dominant, it’s indicative of a particularly shallow pool of talent. Fighters are developing rapidly though; and no one knows what will happen next.
Still, it’s safe to say Penne didn’t look like a world champion in her last bout, a decision win over Randa Markos. Fighting as a slight underdog, Penne hit a pretty harai-goshi throw (seen in the video above) to get the fight to the mat, and landed some pretty sweeps to get the advantage later. But Markos stayed on the attack and adjusted well in standup exchanges, out-landing Penne in significant strikes by a margin of 55 to 39 per FightMetric (http://www.fightmetric.com/fight-details/fa2bed87e5d6c568) She won with scrambles, superior positioning, and pitter-patter punches on the mat. A more powerful athlete in Jedrzejczyk, who was able to (mostly) keep Gadelha from imposing a BJJ game, doesn’t seem susceptible to those tactics.
Previously, Penne split two bouts in the atomweight division (105 lbs.), both by submission.
Look for Jedrzejczyk to get the early advantage with her striking combinations. She may need to make an adjustment or two to avoid the clinch – maybe we’ll see her switch stances as she did to good effect against Lima. She may end up on the mat briefly – but look for her to bounce right back to her feet. Eventually, jabs to head and body lead to a hard overhand right, and ultimately a round three TKO win.
As always, enjoy the fights!