Matches to Make After ‘The Ultimate Fighter 23’ Finale

By Brian Knapp Jul 9, 2016

Joanna Jedrzejczyk has no equal at 115 pounds.

Jedrzejczyk improved to 12-0, turned away her chief rival for a second time and retained the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight title, as she captured a unanimous verdict over Nova Uniao standout Claudia Gadelha in “The Ultimate Fighter 23” Finale headliner on Friday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Judges struck scorecards of 48-46, 48-45 and 48-46.

Gadelha forced the champion to deal with genuine adversity for two-plus rounds. She dropped Jedrzejczyk with a jab early in the first round, pursued a merciless clinch and completed four takedowns. However, the Brazilian pushed a pace she could not keep across 25 minutes. Jedrzejczyk kept frustration at bay and started to seize control in the middle stanza before hitting the gas in the third and fourth rounds. According to FightMetric figures, Jedrzejczyk landed more than three times as many significant strikes as the challenger -- 146 to 40 -- over the final three frames.

In wake of “The Ultimate Fighter 23” Finale, here are five matches that ought to be considered:

Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas-Karolina Kowalkiewicz winner: At 28 years of age, Jedrzejczyk has only begun to test her powers -- a frightening thought for the rest of the strawweight division. During her three-fight reign as champion, the Polish superstar has connected on 522 significant strikes; her opponents have landed just 191. Takedown defense remains a question mark for Jedrzejczyk, but with Gadelha out of the way for the time being, she figures to be a substantial favorite against any potential challenger on the horizon. Namajunas and Kowalkiewicz will collide at UFC 201 on July 30.

Will Brooks vs. Edson Barboza-Gilbert Melendez winner: Brooks introduced himself to the UFC with a unanimous decision victory over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 winner Ross Pearson, and while his performance was far from flawless, he got the job done as a short-notice replacement for the injured James Krause. The former Bellator MMA champion has rattled off nine consecutive victories and gives matchmakers a new toy with which to play at 155 pounds. Barboza and Melendez on July 23 will lock horns at UFC on Fox 20.

Doo Ho Choi vs. Yair Rodriguez-Alex Caceres winner: In a word, dazzling. Choi put another first-round knockout in the books, as the Deep and Sengoku veteran wiped out Thiago Tavares with punches in a little less than three minutes. The fast-rising Korean star bounced back from two Tavares takedowns, rose to his feet and shredded the Brazilian’s defenses with a pair of right hands that resulted in a momentary bout of unconsciousness and necessitated the stoppage. Choi will carry a 12-fight winning streak into his next appearance. Rodriguez and Caceres have been booked atop a UFC Fight Night event on Aug. 6.

Kevin Lee vs. John Makdessi: Lee took another step toward erasing the memories of his surprising UFC 194 defeat to Leonardo Santos, as he carved up Jake Matthews with ground-and-pound for a first-round stoppage on the undercard. The promising Xtreme Couture prospect has posted back-to-back wins since his ill-fated encounter with Santos, quickly reclaiming his position in the lightweight pecking order. The confident 23-year-old has gone 6-2 since arriving in the UFC two years ago, his losses to Santos and Al Iaquinta offset by victories over Matthews, Efrain Escudero, James Moontasri, Michel Richard Cunha dos Prazeres, Jon Tuck and Jesse Ronson. Makdessi threw the brakes on a two-fight skid with a split decision over Mehdi Baghdad at UFC Fight Night 90.

Claudia Gadelha vs. Tecia Torres: Her rivalry with Jedrzejczyk likely far from over, Gadelha will have to navigate some uncertainty in the coming weeks and months. The clear No. 2 in the strawweight division, she has lost both of her meetings with the champion and now has to step aside while other worthy contenders step forward. In the meantime, the UFC if it so desires can utilize her talents to separate the wheat from the chaff at 115 pounds. American Top Team’s Torres suffered her first pro defeat on April 16, when she wound up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision against Namajunas in the UFC on Fox 19 co-main event.
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