The Film Room: Joanna Jedrzejczyk

By Kevin Wilson Oct 10, 2019
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Former Ultimate Fighting Championship strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk will draw her first assignment of 2019 when she faces Michelle Waterson in the UFC Fight Night 161 main event on Saturday in Tampa, Florida. Though Jedrzejczyk was once the most dominant female fighter on the roster, she has posted a 1-3 record across her last four appearances and desperately needs a win to maintain her status as a contender.

The American Top Team export supplies the material for this edition of The Film Room.

At this point in her career, most fans know that Jedrzejczyk is at her best when walking her opponents to the cage with quick and varied combos before unloading with a flurry of strikes once they hit the fence. This stalking approach allows her to make the most of her muay Thai base by forcing exchanges in the pocket, where she can use lightning-quick combos that she mixes from head to toe before resetting at range. Something to notice is how calm and collected she remains during these moments of chaos. Very few fighters are more comfortable in a firefight than a regularly paced fight, but Jedrzejczyk is one of them. She has been fighting since she was 16, and at this point in her career, no one is going to surprise her with anything she has not dealt with before. Few fighters on the roster have more fighting experience, which means she will not be overwhelmed with pressure or wild exchanges in the pocket.

When Jedrzejczyk cannot force opponents to the cage, she can also find success striking at a 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. Instead of rushing forward with strikes to force the opponent to the cage, she will feint and jab her way into the pocket before throwing a quick two- to three-strike combo and resetting at range. In her fight with Jessica Andrade, Jedrzejczyk had a tough time backing the ultra-aggressive Brazilian 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 Jedrzejczyk does not 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. Although we have seen lately that rangy strikers can be her kryptonite, she can still outstrike most women from the outside.

Since Jedrzejczyk is usually the leading attacker, we do not get to see much of her counterstriking, but she is adept enough to keep opponents honest and negate them from being aggressors. On the other hand, she has historically struggled with elite counterstrikers like Valentina Shevchenko. Something to notice: She almost always counters with a quick combo instead of a single precision strike. This plays into her aggressive style and allows her to counter while regaining control of the Octagon and changing the pace of the exchanges.

From 2014-17, Jedrzejczyk looked unstoppable and was on the verge of becoming arguably 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 eight bouts. Then Rose Namajunas shocked the world, finished Jedrzejczyk in the first round and outclassed her on a technical level in the rematch. The holes in Jendrzejczyk’s game were always there, but “Thug Rose” developed and executed the perfect game plan to exploit her deficiencies and changed the way we perceive the former champion. As stated earlier, Jedrzejczyk’s style relies on opponents who are willing to stand and trade with her; the first opponent to use footwork and feint her way into the pocket beat “Joanna Champion” 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. However, Jedrzejczyk is one of the most intelligent strikers in the UFC and after these fights, some figured she would take some time off to allow her camp to completely revamp her style. Instead she fought two more times that year and seemed to ignore her shortcomings.

Jedrzejczyk and Shevchenko fought three times in muay Thai before they encountered one another in MMA, so they were quite familiar with each other. Shevchenko won all three bouts, so she had few adjustments to make. However, Jedrzejczyk did not change much of anything and was dominated for all five rounds. She played directly into Shevchenko’s counter-heavy style by only coming forward with single strikes that had no setups or feints behind them. Shevchenko’s counters forced Jedrzejczyk to fight at range, and her distance striking lacked just as much as it did in the fights with Namajunas.

One of the most important aspects of Jedrzejczyk’s game is her takedown defense. As a striking-based fighter, she knew she had to develop elite takedown defense to keep the fight where she wanted it. Jedrzejczyk has defended 82 percent of takedowns in her UFC career.

In her three muay Thai fights with Shevchenko, Jedrzejczyk struggled with trips and throws in the clinch, which would come back into play in the fourth fight. Shevchenko has always had an underrated grappling game, and to change the pace, she would lead with a jab and grab a single collar tie to attempt trips or throws. Waterson has some of the best clinch throws in the division, so do not be surprised if she tries to take down Jedrzejczyk despite her usually stellar takedown defense. Something to note: This is the longest layoff Jedrzejczyk has had since joining the UFC in 2014. After getting exposed by Namajunas in 2017, she tried to fight and prove she was still a title contender, but the decision to do so only made her look worse. Perhaps now she has finally come to grips with the idea that her style needs to be overhauled if she wants to have continued success. Without those adjustments, we may witness one of the most surprising slumps in UFC history. Advertisement


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