The mantra is typically two strikes and you’re out when referring to title opportunities in combat sports, but things have obviously escalated to a traditional baseball sense when breaking down the scalding feud between UFC women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas and former titleholder Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
It could take three strikes before Jedrzejczyk is out.
At Saturday night’s UFC on FOX 30 fight card, after lighting up fellow strawweight contender Tecia Torres on the feet for three rounds, Jedrzejczyk staked her claim as the rightful ruler of the 115-pound division in a post-fight vociferation aimed directly at Namajunas.
“They are saying that I lost to Rose twice and I’m not the strawweight queen, but if you take all of the 10-ranked strawweight fighters and you put them all together, they don’t have that big legacy like mine,” Jedrzejczyk said at the post-fight press conference. “…Rose saying she will give me the third fight after I will say that she’s the best—no way. Maybe you beat me and you’re the champion. Maybe you won. But your legacy is not that big, and you should bow down because I’m the queen.”
Jedrzejczyk’s not-so-popular decision to stick around at 115 pounds has been the talk of the MMA community following her return to the win column after losing in back-to-back title fights to Namajunas.
However, the very idea that a former champion should abandon their post, particularly when they’ve been as dominant as Jedrzejczyk has been for so many years, is simply ridiculous and shortsighted.
There is no question strawweight is her optimum weight class, considering she has already walked through a murderer’s row of contenders. Jessica Andrade, Claudia Gadelha, Carla Esparza, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Valerie Letourneau, Jessica Penne and Torres—they have all fallen before the self-proclaimed queen of the strawweight division.
Meanwhile, Namajunas has yet to even defend the title against anyone not named Jedrzejczyk. She also has losses on her record to Esparza, Torres and Kowalkiewicz.
Upending the greatest strawweight in UFC history doesn’t come with any guarantees of a long title run. If Namajunas slips up against one of the many great contenders at 115 pounds, Jedrzejczyk could have an immediate path back to a title shot.
Another run through murderer’s row could do the trick for the former champion as well.
While Namajunas was dominant in her first win over Jedrzejczyk—a first-round TKO nearly a year ago at Madison Square Garden—the rematch ended in a unanimous decision that was much closer than the 49-46 scorecards had it. In fact, Jedrzejczyk actually landed 145 strikes to Namajunas’ 105 total, according to FightMetric, in the strawweight championship bout back in April.
There were obviously other factors in play when juxtaposing the importance of head damage to leg and body damage. Namajunas landed more shots to the head and also secured the only takedown of the fight, but it’s completely understandable how Jedrzejczyk could have walked away from that bout feeling like the victor after statistically out-landing her opponent.
There is also the chance that all of this bowing down talk is for naught, and Namajunas is simply the new 115-pound rockstar that has Jedrzejczyk’s number.
The evolution of her abilities has been a true treat for fans that remember her from The Ultimate Fighter reality television series, and it’s a testament to the hard work going on behind the scenes to ensure her sustainability as a UFC champion.
But there will be several challenges along the way.
One style that has given Namajunas problems in the past is when being matched with stronger opponents capable of taking her down or controlling her from various positions. Both Esparza and Kowalkiewicz were able to stifle her otherworldly striking by getting in her face and taking her long-distance sniping out of the equation.
Andrade and Gadelha are two more world-class grapplers that could also present some future stylistic problems for the reigning strawweight champion. They might also be two more opportunities for Namajunas to put even more separation between herself and the rest of the division.
As for Joanna Jedrzejczyk, the plan is to continue winning long enough and see what comes out on the other side of another title shot—a hardened Namajunas with a legacy to match or even surpass her own or a new strawweight queen that needs dethroning.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 7/30/2018.