Does Rose Namajunas vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk have the potential to become one of the great rivalries in MMA history?
By: Lauren Maharaj
Joanna Jedrzejczyk has, without a doubt, etched herself into the history of the UFC’s strawweight division. A division in its infancy - the Polish superstar elevated the division’s relevance to a new level, defended the title a record five times and did so in a violent and destructive fashion not often witnessed in female MMA. In fact, her work in the 115-lb division is widely considered to be nothing less than brutal amongst fans. This is what has made the former champion so compelling to watch: coupled with her brutish trash talk and embrace as a self-promoter, Jedrzejczyk has single-handedly become one of the most thrilling fighters in the sport. Having begun her journey in the UFC as a former Muay Thai competitor with close to 100 fights to her name and a tenacity that saw every opponent she’s dismantled bloodied and completely defeated, it is no surprise that her ominous 13-0 professional MMA record stayed clean for the years that it did.
Now heading in UFC 223 – a card cursed with debauchery – the epic re-match between Namajunas vs. Jedrzejczyk feels like the only true force we can cling to. This becomes particularly interesting because of the drastic change in demeanor from the former champion. A demeanor that matches her opponent in a such a way that means the result on Saturday at UFC 223 could be explosive.
Thus far, Jedrzejczyk’s approach to this re-match has appeared to be the same women, with the same intentions and a fierce competitive nature, however in a much more reserved package. One could argue (and it feels like a widespread cop out) that her altered self is the result of her derailment by the current champion. Perhaps this is true - but Jedrzejczyk is not that simple. A woman of illustrious experience, who has harvested a perfect record and a previous combat sports career littered decoration, cannot be simple.
We’ve come to know Jedrzejczyk’s unforgiving dominance and brazen trash talk as a constant that will reveal itself in the octagon the same way it does in a press conference. In fact, she’s relished in the role and even exaggerated it. But, this refreshing look appears more dangerous, more brooding and perhaps even more violent than ever before.
Vengeance is a horrifying thing ladies and gentlemen. However, the same can be said for the current champion, in Rose Namajunas. The 25-year-old’s slow ascension to the top of the strawweight division has felt inevitable. She is a woman whose career growth has been well worth the wait, with performances that saw her overcome expectations and one whose mentality has been puzzling, insightful and horrifying all at the same time. This quiet storm between two of the divisions most compelling fighter, but ultimately humans offers a savory match-up that doesn’t deserve to be overshadowed by the antics of fight week.
It can be argued and should be argued that this re-match between the once ever-dominant queen Jedrzejczyk and current champion Namajunas is one of the most important fights in female MMA history.