Chris Isaak

Wicked Game

UFC Fight Night Tampa preview: A legacy fight for Joanna Jędrzejczyk

Former UFC Women's Strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk (15-3-0) will look to get another shot at the title with a win Saturday versus no. 7 ranked Michelle Waterson (17-6-0) at UFC's Fight Night 161 in Tampa, Fla.

Jędrzejczyk, 32, has lost three of her last four bouts, all title fights, with two versus former Strawweight champion Rose Namajunas, and the most recent for the vacated Women's Featherweight title won by current champion Valentina Shevchenko. 

Waterson, 33, is riding a three-fight win streak, all by decision, two unanimous and one split.

"Joanna has more to lose," TSN's Aaron Bronsteter told Let's Talk Sports Radio. "Joanna has a legacy to maintain. At Strawweight, she's only lost to Rose. She lost to Valentina at 125 lbs. She was undefeated for a long time, and had five title defenses. Waterson is on the fringes of the top five of the division at best, and is very small Strawweight. Joanna is better than her, especially at the stand up, and should outclass her."

"That is the expectation, and if she is unable to meet those expectations, I think her legacy would take a big hit. I wouldn't be surprised if she didn't stick around because the climb to get back into title contention is very steep."

 A win for either woman would put them in line for a shot at newly minted Strawweight champion Weili Zhang who shockingly knocked out Jessica Andrade in her first title defense just 42 seconds into the first round of August's Fight Night in Shenzhen, China to improve to 4-0 in the UFC and 20-1 overall.

"Joanna told me that she does have it in her contract that she will get a title fight if she does win. I imagine Waterson does have similar wording in her contract, as she's talked about getting a title fight for some time," said Bronsteter.

Stylistically, the main event sees the superior striking of Jędrzejczyk versus Karate-based offense of Waterson. 'The Karate Hottie' has 53% of her career wins via submission, but just two in the UFC, with the first dating back to The Ultimate Fighter in 2015. Overall, Waterson grapples to a 2.15 takedown average per 15 minutes, while Jędrzejczk owns just one career submission win and .14 takedowns per 15 minutes.

"They call her the Karate Hottie for a reason," said Bronsteter. "She has pretty good distance control."

Jędrzejczyk registers an impressive 80% take down defense and a 6.07 significant strike per minute advantage to Waterson's 3.61. The former champion also holds a superior reach of 65.5 inches reach compared to Waterson's 62 inches. 

"Joanna striking level is the best striker of anyone in the division," he said. "She's looking to bounce back, and she has a sizable advantage over Waterson. In terms of Waterson getting Joanna to the ground, Waterson's size isn't very big for the division, and Joanna hasn't been held down by anybody at Strawweight. She's been taken down, but not kept down. That frustrates opponents, and over the course of five rounds that can be grueling."

"I don't think Waterson will have a very strong grappling attack as her plan. If the opportunity arises, she will seize the opportunity. I don't think she's going into this fight with a grappling heavy attack. I think she will use her Karate to control range and keep Joanna on the outside and try to out strike her there."

"Over the course of her career, Joanna is +730 and Waterson is +39. Joanna has had 12 UFC bouts, most of which went five rounds, and Waterson only has seven bouts, but that's a pretty staggering differential. Per fight, Joanna's strike differential is +60 to Waterson's +5.6. On paper, it favours Joanna whether it goes to a decision or ends inside the distance."

Prediction: Jędrzejczyk wins via unanimous decision

Listen to the entire preview here.

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