Joanna Jedrzejczyk at her peak was as dominant as any fighter in mixed martial arts.
The decorated muay Thai stylist started her transition to MMA in 2012, joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster as an undefeated prospect a little more than two years later and soon rose to the top of the women’s strawweight division. Jedrzejczyk was crowned queen of the 115-pound weight class at UFC 185, where she knocked out Carla Esparza, and made five consecutive title defenses before being dethroned. Though she has lost four of her past six bouts—a decision defeat to current champion Weili Zhang at UFC 248 in a frontrunner for “Fight of the Year” marked her latest setback—the 32-year-old Olsztyn, Poland, native remains a factor in the division she once ruled.
As Jedrzejczyk awaits her marching orders from UFC matchmakers, a look at a few of the rivalries upon which she has built her career:
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 Gadelha in “The Ultimate Fighter 23” Finale headliner on July 8, 2016 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 for 25 minutes. Jedrzejczyk—who had outpointed the Nova Uniao standout across three rounds in their first encounter in December 2014—kept frustration at bay and started to seize control in the middle stanza before hitting the gas in the third and fourth rounds. She landed more than three times as many significant strikes (146-40) as Gadelha over the final three frames.
A violent whirlwind of skill, speed and technique, Jedrzejczyk turned away another challenger, as she claimed a unanimous decision from Kowalkiewicz and retained the women’s strawweight title under the UFC 205 banner on Nov. 12, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. All three judges scored it 49-46 for the American Top Team export. The unbeaten champion battered Kowalkiewicz with leg kicks, crisp punching combinations and standing elbows in the clinch. Jedrzejczyk was briefly dazed in the fourth round, where a clean right hand to the face buckled her knees. She withstood Kowalkiewicz’s bid to finish, cleared her head and picked up where she left off. By the time it was over, Jedrzejczyk had landed 171 significant strikes and taken just 50 in return.
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 20 finalist marched to the Octagon as a 7-to-1 underdog and unseated Jedrzejczyk with first-round punches to capture the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight title in a UFC 217 showstopper on Nov. 4, 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Jedrzejczyk bowed out 3:03 into Round 1, suffering her first professional defeat. Namajunas was measured and confident. She got Jedrzejczyk’s attention early, when she floored the off-balance Pole with a right hand. Moments later, to the shock of the 18,201 fans in attendance, Namajunas decked the champion with a vicious left hook and pounced with follow-up punches until the deed was done. It was no fluke. Some five months later, Namajunas took a five-round decision from Jedrzejczyk in their UFC 233 rematch and cemented herself as the sport’s top competitor at 115 pounds.