UFC 231 is now available on Amazon Prime.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk returns Saturday for her 10th Ultimate Fighting Championship title fight when she takes on rival Valentina Shevchenko in the co-main event of UFC 231. The two have fought on three previous occasions in muay Thai, with Shevchenko winning all three, but now they face off for a fourth time a decade after their last fight and this time for UFC gold.
At this point in her career, most fans know that Joanna is at her best when walking her opponents to the cage with quick and varied combos and then unloading with a flurry of strikes once they hit the fence. This stalking approach allows her to make the most of her muay Thai background by forcing exchanges in the pocket, where she can use her lightning-quick combos that she mixes up from head to toe before resetting at range. The problem with this style is that it only works against slow-paced opponents who are willing to stand in the pocket and allow Joanna to set the range and pace of the fight.
When Jedrzejczyk can’t force opponents to the cage, she can also find success striking at distance in the center of the Octagon. Although her flurries against the cage can be a bit disorderly, when striking at range she takes the tactical approach of slowing the pace and patiently looking for openings. In her fight with Jessica Andrade, Jedrzejczyk had a tough time backing the ultra-aggressive Andrade to the cage and had to spend most of the fight striking at range and circling off the cage to avoid takedowns. This showed that Joanna doesn't need to be the aggressor to win a fight and can be as comfortable working off her back foot as she is working on the lead.
Since Jedrzejczyk is usually the leading attacker, we don’t get to see much of her counter striking but she is adept enough to keep opponents honest and negate them from being the aggressor. Something to notice about her counters is how she almost always counters with a quick combo instead of a single precision strike.
From 2014 -2017, Jedrzejczyk looked to be unstoppable and was on the verge of becoming the greatest female fighter in UFC history. She broke a slew of records during her title run and only had one close fight in her first 8 bouts. But then Rose Namajunas shocked the world when she finished Joanna in the first round and then outclassed her on a technical level in the rematch. The holes in Jedrzejczyk’s game were always there, but the new champ developed and executed the perfect game plan to exploit her deficiencies and changed the way we perceive the former champion. As stated earlier, Joanna’s style relies on opponents willing to stand and trade with her and the first opponent to use footwork and feint their way into the pocket beat her twice. We learned that she struggles with pressure and exchanges in the pocket that she does not initiate. We also learned she is not great at making mid-fight adjustments, most likely due to her dominance early in her career. But Joanna is one of the most intelligent strikers in the UFC and she trains with a great camp that is surely working on her shortcomings.
One of the most important aspects of Jendrzejczyk’s game is her takedown defense. As a striking-based fighter, Joanna knew she had to develop elite takedown defense to keep the fight where she wants it and she has defended 82 percent of takedowns in her UFC career. In her three fights with Shevchenko, Joanna struggled with trips and throws in the clinch which could come back into play in the fourth fight, especially since they won’t get stood back up after a takedown as they did in muay Thai.
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