UFC: Joanna Jedrzejczyk says either herself or Zhang Weili should be next for Namajunas

Former UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4) is working hard to prepare for her octagon return. The former champion hasn’t fought since March of 2020 when she lost a split decision to Zhang Weili (21-2).

The two women had a war at UFC 248 and Jedrzejczyk came up just short in her attempt to regain the strawweight title. After dominating the 115 pound division and defending her title five times, Jedrzejczyk is now 0-4 in her last four title fights.

That said, Jedrzejczyk has still only lost in title fights in her entire career. She’s lost twice to the current strawweight champion Rose Namajunas (10-4), she lost to Valentina Shevchenko at flyweight, and she lost to Weili.

The only three women to defeat her in her career are at the very top of the sport. Jedrzejczyk has been very vocal that she wanted another UFC title shot upon her return to the octagon. The former champion wants to get a third crack at Rose Namajunas.

However, it’s not the easiest of sells when she’s just 2-4 in her last six fights. That said, you can easily say that Jedrzejczyk is still one of the very best fighters in the UFC.

On paper, it appears that Carla Esparza (18-6) should get the next UFC title shot. She’s won five fights in a row and she holds a victory over Namajunas. However, Jedrzejczyk doesn’t believe that Esparza is deserving of the next shot at the champion.

Who should get the next UFC title shot?

In an interview with The Schmo this weekend, Jedrzejczyk said that she believes either herself or Zhang Weili should be next for Namajunas. While she acknowledged the winning streak of Esparza, she said she didn’t believe it was the right fight to make.

From a business perspective, the former UFC champion is correct. If you were to line up the three leading contenders, the least sexy fight is the rematch between Carla Esparza and Rose Namajunas.

Despite the fact that Esparza is the only one of the three to hold a victory over Namajunas, there’s significantly less interest from the fans. Ultimately, this is going to come down to what the UFC prioritizes.

I do not believe that Jedrzejczyk is getting the next shot at the title. However, I do believe she will fight the other contender who doesn’t get the shot. With that, the next shot will either go to Zhang Weili or Carla Esparza.

If I had to guess, I think the UFC would prefer to put Weili in that title fight. However, I think Namajunas is the type of champion who would want to give it to the deserving contender. It’ll be an interesting storyline to follow over the coming weeks.

After impressive victory at UFC Vegas 26, what’s next for Marina Rodriguez?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 26, Marina Rodriguez (14-1-2) took on Michelle Waterson (18-9) in the main event. The fight came together on short-notice, but both of these ladies threw down for five minutes.

With a full camp, I really liked Marina Rodriguez in this matchup. She’s much bigger than Waterson with more powerful striking. However, I wasn’t sure how she would hold up under the short-notice circumstances.

Waterson just fought in a short-notice UFC main event back in September. That combined with her grappling ability, I thought she could pickup a decision. However, Marina Rodriguez looked sensational.

The two top ten strawweights both had their moments throughout the fight, but it was clear that Rodriguez was getting the better of the exchanges. Ultimately, all three judges gave the win at UFC Vegas 26 to Marina Rodriguez.

It’s a massive win for Rodriguez who has bounced back strong from her first UFC loss last July. Now, Rodriguez has won two in a row and she’s looking towards the top of the strawweight division.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 26?

After UFC Vegas 26, it’s time for Rodriguez to take the next step up in competition. Having won two fights in a row, Rodriguez is now 4-1-2 in her seven fights inside the octagon. However, she’s looking better every time she steps in there.

So who should the UFC pair her up with? Rodriguez and others have hinted at a potential matchup with former UFC champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). Jedrzejczyk is looking to make her comeback soon and a matchup with Rodriguez does make sense given their standing.

Not too mention the fact that it would be an incredibly fun matchup stylistically. Another option that could be out there is Mackenzie Dern (11-1). Dern has been surging having won four fights in a row.

A matchup between Rodriguez and Dern could present the UFC’s strawweight division with a fresh title contender. Either one of these ladies would be a perfect next opponent for Marina Rodriguez.

After losing the title at UFC 261, what’s next for Zhang Weili?

This past Saturday at UFC 261, Zhang Weili (21-2) was set to defend her strawweight title against Rose Namajunas (10-4). Weili has been dominant since she came to the UFC and was the betting favorite heading into Saturday.

I personally thought she was going to be too much for Namajunas. If you go by MMA Math, Weili looked like a tough matchup for Namajunas. We’ve seen Thug Rose struggle against Jessica Andrade.

Andrade knocked Namajunas out with a slam in their first fight and hurt her very badly in their second fight. Now, Namajunas did get the split decision win in the second fight, but it was a really tough fight for Thug Rose.

Weili is just as powerful as Andrade, but she’s more well-rounded. She destroyed Andrade to capture the UFC strawweight title and appeared to have no weaknesses. She’s tough, powerful, and she has incredible technique.

However, on Saturday night, she didn’t have much time to show it. Thug Rose looked better than ever and knocked Weili out in the first round with a beautiful head kick. Weili protested the stoppage, but the stoppage was justified. UFC 261 saw Weili lose for the first time in her UFC career.

What’s next after UFC 261?

After the fight was over, Weili posted on her Instagram that she was hopeful that the UFC would book the rematch. Now, you can make the argument for the rematch considering the way the fight ended.

One big strike and the fight was over quick. No telling how the fight goes if that strike doesn’t land, but at the end of the day it did. On the flip side, you can say that the fight was incredibly one-sided with how quickly Namajunas knocked her out with that kick.

I could definitely see the UFC booking the rematch next. However, if they don’t, there are other options for Weili. The one I like the most is the rematch with Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4).

The two former UFC strawweight champions had the fight of the year in 2020. Weili edged Joanna with a split decision win, but the rematch would be incredibly easy to sell. Before UFC 261, Joanna said that she wanted a shot at the winner.

However, with Joanna coming off the Weili loss and having already lost to Namajunas twice, I don’t see it happening. Weili – Joanna is the way to go in my opinion and I really hope the UFC looks at that rematch next to establish the number one contender.

After submission win at UFC Vegas 23, what’s next for Mackenzie Dern?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 23, Mackenzie Dern (11-1) took on the returning Nina Nunes (10-7) on the main card. Nunes was ranked fifth in the division, but she was making her first appearance since 2019 after giving birth to her daughter last year.

Dern on the other hand had fought and won three times in the UFC in 2020. The jiu jitsu world champion was looking to pickup her fourth consecutive win on her march towards a potential shot at the strawweight title.

Over the last year, Dern has spent her time training under Jason Parillo. During that time, we’ve seen incredible improvements in her striking to go along with her world class skills on the ground.

However, she was going to have her toughest striking matchup at UFC Vegas 23. On Saturday night, Dern fought exactly how she needed to fight. With Nunes having been out for so long, Dern immediately pressed the action.

She set a vicious pace early which didn’t allow Nunes the time to get comfortable. Dern chained some big lunging punches into a takedown attempt. After Nunes defended well throughout the round, Dern was able to lockup an armbar and secure her fourth straight UFC victory.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 23?

Make no mistake about it, Mackenzie Dern is looking like she’s going to be a force in the strawweight division. Dern said that her goal was to fight for the UFC title before the end of 2021.

So after another big win, what’s next? Dern made the jump up to fifth in the strawweight rankings after this week’s update. For her next fight, I think there are a couple fights that could make sense for Dern.

The highest profile fight would be against former UFC strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). Jedrzejczyk has been enjoying life outside the cage, but once fans return, she said she’ll ready to come back.

If Dern wants to fight for the title before the year is over, Jedrzejczyk would be the opponent that could put her in that position. Another matchup the UFC could look at is a matchup with Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2).

Rodriguez is ranked one spot behind Dern in the rankings and she’s coming off of a massive win. She knocked out Amanda Ribas at UFC 257 in January. Ribas is the lone strawweight to have defeated Dern. With that, this matchup with Rodriguez also makes a ton of sense for the promotion.

2020 UFC Fight of the Year

It’s been a crazy year for the world and a crazy year for the UFC. The promotion started on a high note back in January when Conor McGregor headlined a card that sold over one million PPVs. The promotion was off and running.

However, in March, production had to be shutdown by the UFC due to the global pandemic. COVID-19 shut the entire world down and the UFC was no exception. However, the promotion worked hard to get back on track.

After just over a month off, the UFC was back open for business in May. They were the first professional sport league to come back in full force and they delivered. Despite the lack of live crowds, the fighters delivered all the way since May.

There have been so many incredible fights this year inside the octagon. One of the fights that was on the shortlist for fight of the year was Josh Emmett (16-2) and Shane Burgos (13-2) from back in June.

This was a featherweight shootout where both men were trading serious shots back and forth. Both are extremely powerful and Burgos was able to holdup and survive the ungodly power from Josh Emmett.

Another candidate just took place at UFC 256. The flyweight title fight between Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1) and Brandon Moreno (18-5-2). An absolute back-and-forth war between the two best flyweights in the world that resulted in a draw.

All year long, I believed that one fight in particular would be the UFC‘s fight of the year. However, the Figueiredo – Moreno fight made me start hedging my bets. However, in the end, I’m sticking to the one fight that I think truly deserves to be the fight of the year.

UFC’s Fight of the Year

In a crazy 2020, the UFC‘s Fight of the Year has to be the strawweight title fight between Weili Zhang (21-1) and Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). This title fight took place at UFC 248 which was the last PPV event with fans in 2020.

The fans that were in attendance that night should thank their lucky stars they got to witness this fight in person. This UFC strawweight title fight had it all and it was such a perfect fight for that division.

In Jedrzejczyk, you had the greatest strawweight in UFC history. In Zhang, you had the new champion who appeared to be a force that would become the greatest strawweight in the promotions history.

What ensued was a back-and-forth high level war over five rounds. These two ladies didn’t stop the entire time. The pace was incredible and the technique from both of these fighters was just perfect.

They both hurt each other numerous times throughout the fight. After the fight was over, Jedrzejczyk was not even recognizable. Ultimately, Zhang walked away retaining her UFC title after a hard fought five rounds.

In a year that has truly been remarkable, this fight stands out to me as the most remarkable. If you haven’t had a chance to watch this fight, I would suggest trying anyway you can to sitting down and watching this classic from UFC 248. You won’t regret it.

State of the UFC’s strawweight division

Last night at UFC Vegas 13, a new contender emerged in the strawweight division. Eighth ranked Yan Xiaonan defeated fourth ranked Claudia Gadelha. Xiaonan became just the third women in UFC history begin her career at 6-0 with the victory.

She did a fantastic job last night of showing off her beautiful striking from distance. While Gadelha was able to take her down in the first round and control her, Xiaonan bounced back in the final two rounds to really dominate the striking and win the decision.

As stated, it was the sixth straight UFC victory for the Chinese born strawweight. The UFC‘s China market has taken off over the last couple of years and a major contributor to that is the current strawweight champion, Weili Zhang.

You have to imagine that the promotion is already daydreaming about a potential matchup between Zhang and Xiaonan. That would easily be the biggest fight in the history of Chinese MMA. With last night’s victory, Xiaonan is perhaps only one more win away from securing that shot.

With the win, Xiaonan is expected to jump into the top five of the UFC‘s rankings while Gadelha will drop a little. The division is very exciting right now and it seems extremely fluid when it comes to the top contenders.

What’s the state of the UFC’s strawweight division?

Starting at the top, you have Zhang. Zhang has become a superstar for the promotion and was the first Chinese born UFC champion in history. This year, she had what many are considering to be the fight of the year against Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

It was an absolute war and Zhang walked away with the decision. The next fight for the UFC champion seems pretty obvious. Currently, the promotion is targeting a fight between her and former UFC champion, Rose Namajunas. That fight is expected to take place next year.

After those two, the division gets interesting. You have Jedrzejczyk ranked second, however, her next steps aren’t clear. She flirted with retirement, but recently said that she would be fighting again but wants to wait for fans to return before she comes back.

Another former UFC champion is ranked right behind her in Carla Esparza. Esparza is currently on a four fight winning streak that has her knocking on the door for another potential UFC title shot. After Esparza you’ll have Xiaonan, Nina Ansaroff and Michelle Waterson. Tatiana Suarez is also in there, but has been inactive due to injuries.

After last night, I believe that the UFC should look to book Xiaonan against either Jedrzejczyk or Esparza. Whoever they can book her with in early 2021, I try to make that happen. Perhaps on the same card as Zhang and Namajunas with the winners facing off in the summer.

UFC: Did Joanna Jedrzejczyk retire?

You cannot mention the greatest female fighters in UFC history without considering former strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). Before the strawweight division really took off, Jedrzejczyk built the division and reined supreme for years.

Jedrzejczyk has gone 0-4 in her last four attempts at UFC gold with her last chance coming against Weili Zhang (21-1). Their fight at UFC 248 is likely the fight of the year and was razor close. It’s clear Jedrzejczyk is still one of the best, but has she hung up her gloves?

Former UFC Champ – “33 and Retired”

Jedrzejczyk took to Instagram over the weekend and posted a photo of her on vacation in Bulgaria. An interesting read is the first hashtage where the former champion stated that she was, “33 and retired.”

Obviously we haven’t heard any confirmation on this as of now. Jedrzejczyk could walk away from the sport now with nothing to prove.

Jedrzejczyk is a hall of famer in my book. After becoming the second ever UFC strawweight champion, Jedrzejczyk defended the title successfully five times over the course of two years.

Jedrzejczyk was an active and dominant champion before losing to the title to “Thug” Rose Namajunas at UFC 217. I think that Jedrzejczyk still has plenty of fight left in her, but again, there’s nothing left for her to prove.

I think her fight in February shows that she’s still at the top of the sport. Zhang is considered on the Nunes/Shevchenko level by most. But, Jedrzejczyk is right there with a lot of people thinking she won that split decision over Zhang.

It’ll be something to pay attention to in the next few weeks to see if we get any confirmation on the topic. Jedrzejczyk has given us great fights over the last five years, and maybe she’s just ready to enjoy life outside the cage.

UFC: Halfway through 2020, what has been the FOTY so far?

We are officially halfway through 2020. The UFC has put on some incredible cards, and the UFC has overcame a worldwide pandemic over the last two months to bring sports back to the world. There have been some incredible fights so far in 2020, but what has been the fight of the year?

Best of the Rest

This year has been so much fun when it comes to the UFC. We have seen the return of Conor McGregor, we’ve seen highlight reel knockouts, and we’ve seen some unforgettable fights. I have come up with a list of the three best fights of 2020, but there are several fights beyond my list that have brought many to their feet. Some of the fights that come to mind are: Emmett/Burgos, Felder/Hooker, Yadong/Vera, and many more. However, the three fights I have picked, I believe stand above the rest.

Justin Gaethje vs Tony Ferguson – UFC 249

When this fight was announced in April, did you expect anything else? Tony Ferguson (25-4) was the boogieman of the lightweight division, and Justin Gaethje (22-2) lives up to his name in being the highlight of the lightweight division. After UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, was pulled from his fight with Ferguson due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gaethje stepped up.

The UFC booked Ferguson/Gaethje for the interim lightweight title at UFC 249. The smart money was on Ferguson leading into the fight. Ferguson hadn’t lost in eight years, and many believed that he was the best lightweight in the world. Gaethje might have been the most exciting fighter in the world, but his reckless style has caused him to drop a few of his bigger fights. However, it became very apparent from the beginning, this was not the old Justin Gaethje.

Gaethje immediately took the center of the octagon throwing sharp and crisp combinations at Ferguson. “El Cucuy” was fully prepared to go to war firing back. The first round was action packed with Gaethje hitting Ferguson often. However, most got the sense that Gaethje would slow down as the fight went on. In the second round, Ferguson picked up his pace and dropped Gaethje near the end of the round.

Personally, I thought Ferguson was going to assume control, but that wasn’t the case. Gaethje came right out in the third with the same pace he started with. However, he was much more calculated. Gaethje was smart and picked his shots wisely against the former UFC interim champion, Ferguson. After putting on a clinic in the later rounds, Gaethje smashed Ferguson’s nose which caused Ferguson to turn away. The referee stopped the fight giving Gaethje the interim title. Both men threw everything they had at the other in an absolute war for five rounds, but on May 9th, Justin Gaethje was the better man.

Dustin Poirier vs Dan Hooker – UFC on ESPN 12

Man, I think I’m still recovering from this one. This past Saturday at UFC on ESPN 12, Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) and Dan Hooker (20-9) put on an absolute show. The fight was booked earlier in the summer after Hooker had called Poirier out back in February. Poirier was coming off a title shot against Nurmagomedov, and was looking to get back to victory. A win for either man would put them squarely in title contention.

There was really no feeling out process with this fight. After throwing big kicks early, both men looked to focus completely on the other man’s face. In the first two rounds, Hooker did a fantastic job of landing clean and precise shots. Poirier was landing his shots too, but Hooker seemed to have the cleaner lands. Several times early, both men ended up in close quarters just throwing reckless power shots at the other.

Late in the second round, Hooker unleashed a combination that would have put most lightweights down. In fact, if it wasn’t for the cage, I’m not sure Poirier would have stayed on his feet. Poirier went back to his stool down to rounds to the contender from New Zealand. At this point, I thought we were looking at the next UFC title contender in Dan Hooker.

Starting in the third round, Poirier drastically turned the tables. Both men were still throwing all they had at the other, but it was Poirier who was now landing the cleaner shots on Hooker. Both men really started to fatigue in the middle rounds, but Poirier seemed to have just a little more in the tank.

The last two rounds were where Poirier really won the fight. Hooker had slowed massively, and Poirier was taking advantage. Despite getting caught a few times coming in, Poirier’s relentless pace took over in the later rounds. Both men were absolutely battered coming down the stretch of this one.

The fight went to the scorecards and all three judges gave the fight to Poirier. Hooker had won the first two rounds on all scorecards, but Poirier won the final three rounds. A tremendous back and forth battle that will go down as one of the better fights in UFC history.

Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk – UFC 248

You really can’t get much better than the fight between UFC strawweight champion, Weili Zhang (22-1), and former champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). A few years ago, Jedrzejczyk was known as the best female fighter in the sport. Since losing the title back in 2017, Jedrzejczyk has desperately tried to get back to UFC gold. UFC 248 gave her the chance.

Weili Zhang is the first UFC champion to be born in China. She is turning into a superstar, but she needed an opponent that could truly shine a light on her greatness. She found that opponent back in March when she took on the former champion, Jedrzejczyk.

This fight was so special because it was on the highest of levels, and the action was non-stop. From the opening bell, both ladies threw precise combinations at the other. The pace was unlike anything that I had ever seen in a title fight. Both women were putting everything on their shots, but it wasn’t wild.

This was a striking match on the highest of levels. Jedrzejczyk was really light on her feet throughout the entire fight landing great shots from the outside. Zhang did a tremendous job at stepping in and countering as Jedrzejczyk threw. Both women hit the other frequently, and they hit each other clean. Watching this fight you just had to keep wondering when someone was going to get tired.

All the way into the championship rounds, the women never slowed down. Both ladies pushed forward throwing everything. You had spinning attacks, leg kicks, head kicks, straights, uppercuts, hooks, you know it. It was a striking clinic put on by both women. Both women were visibly beat up, and the fight was razor close.

Entering the final round, I don’t think anyone knew who was winning. The fight was dead even at all times. Every time one woman would land, the other would land a counter. The UFC fans were getting spoiled back in March. In the end, two of the three judges gave the fight to the champion, Weili Zhang. The fight was truly one of the best fights I had ever seen, and it was at the highest level of the sport for a UFC title.

The UFC’s FOTY in 2020 (So far)

All three of these contenders are excellent fights, but if I’m going to give the award, it’s going to Zhang and Jedrzejczyk. The fight was truly a thing of beauty. The perfect balance of technique and violence. It never turned into a brawl where technique went out the window, but you would think with the damage that both women suffered, it was a massive brawl with no defense on display. Also the fact that it was for the title puts it over the top. Women’s MMA has come so far over the last few years, but the fight that Zhang/Jedrzejczyk put on back at UFC 248 is the greatest female fight of all time, and it’s not close in my opinion.