Joanna Jędrzejczyk, a former UFC strawweight champion, is among the most decorated and accomplished combat sports athletes on the planet. The Polish phenom is a multi-time Muay Thai and kickboxing champion, in addition to being one of the most dominant titleholders in the history of women's MMA.
At UFC 275, Jędrzejczyk drew the curtains on an incredible career soon after her rematch with Zhang Weili. Over the course of her scorching run in the UFC, she compiled a dominant championship reign and featured in some of the most memorable rivalries in the history of the strawweight division.
She was also one half of the greatest women's bout in promotional history.
After a gold-laden career in the pure striking arts, Jędrzejczyk transitioned to MMA in 2012 and put together a 6-0 record before being signed by the UFC. Upon joining the world's premier MMA promotion, the stand-up specialist won her first two fights to earn a shot at strawweight gold. She went on to win the title and defended it five times.
In the aftermath of her retirement and in recognition of her Hall of Fame worthy career, we thought we'd pay our dues. Here are the five most iconic moments of Joanna Jędrzejczyk's UFC career.
#5. Joanna Jędrzejczyk cruises to victory in UFC debut – UFC on FOX 12
As mentioned in the introduction, Joanna Jędrzejczyk compiled a 6-0 record before signing with the UFC in 2014. In her first fight in the famed octagon, the Pole took on Juliana Lima and the duo squared off on the preliminary card of a Fight Night event in San Jose, California.
This would be the first time fans would witness Jędrzejczyk's fiery faceoffs as she got in Lima’s face and had some choice words for her fellow octagon debutant.
Jędrzejczyk's speed advantage was evident right from the get-go. Lima could barely keep up during their three-round contest and got caught with numerous pin-point strikes throughout the bout.
The range and movement proved to be too much for Lima to handle and she looked out of her depth going into the third round. Jędrzejczyk didn't slow down in the final frame as she continued to pepper her Brazilian counterpart.
Jędrzejczyk showcased her razor-sharp striking, rock-solid takedown defense and relentless mindset in her octagon debut and came away with a unanimous decision victory. The judges scored the contest 30-27, 29-28 and 30-27 in her favor.
Her diverse offense was on full display on the night and served as a prelude to what was to come from the Polish striker.
#4. Joanna Jędrzejczyk demolishes Jessica Penne to retain title – UFC Fight Night 69
Following a dominant title-winning performance in March 2015, Joanna Jędrzejczyk returned to the octagon just three months later to defend her title. In her first title defense, she took on TUF alum Jessica Penne. This was Jędrzejczyk's first time headlining a UFC card.
The duo locked horns in the main event of UFC Berlin.
Jessica Penne put on a stoic front throughout fight week, well aware of the champion's tendency and ability to get under her opponents' skin.
Despite staying fairly composed in the lead-up to the fight, Penne quickly realized that she was no match for Joanna Jędrzejczyk, in what was one of the most one-sided championship bouts in MMA history.
Jędrzejczyk's lightning-quick hand-speed forced Penne to backpedal throughout the fight. The champion's non-stop forward pressure bloodied and battered the challenger, who looked hapless towards the end of the third round. Mercifully, the referee called a halt to the action upon seeing that Penne had nothing more to offer.
The win over Jessica Penne served as a statement-making show of intent in the strawweight division. Joanna Jędrzejczyk's flawless showing led many to believe that the Pole would reign over the 115-pound weight class for a long time to come, and they were right.
#3. Joanna Jędrzejczyk dismantles Jessica Andrade to assert her dominance – UFC 211
After her ruthless display against Jessica Penne, Joanna Jędrzejczyk went on to defend her title against top contender Valérie Létourneau, TUF rival Cláudia Gadelha and fellow Polish strawweight Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
For her fifth championship defense, Jędrzejczyk squared off against surging Brazilian powerhouse Jessica Andrade. The 115-pound pair locked horns in the co-main event of UFC 211.
Andrade was riding a three-fight win streak going into her championship bout with Jędrzejczyk. The Brazilian had a reputation for being a lethal finisher, with five TKOs and seven submission victories under her belt at the time.
In one of the most skilful performances of Jędrzejczyk's professional career, the reigning strawweight queen completely neutralized all of Andrade's weapons and made light work of the challenger on the feet.
Jędrzejczyk's world-class striking was a sight to behold in this championship fight as she picked apart the hard-hitting Andrade with relative ease. Moreover, she stuffed every single takedown attempt en route to a masterful unanimous decision victory.
The final scorecards read 50-45, 50-44 and 50-45, with Joanna Jędrzejczyk winning all five rounds, according to all three judges. Her resounding win over Jessica Andrade prompted many to label the Polish talent as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in all of women's MMA.
#2. Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Zhang Weili make history – UFC 248
Back in February 2020, in the final UFC pay-per-view in front of a capacity crowd before the subsequent government-imposed lockdowns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Zhang Weili and Joanna Jędrzejczyk delivered the greatest fight in the history of women’s MMA.
Weili was the reigning strawweight queen at the time, while Jędrzejczyk was coming off a unanimous decision victory over top 115-pound contender Michelle Waterson. The former champion was looking to reclaim the belt she lost to Rose Namajunas three years prior.
The fight was a barnburner from start to finish, with Jędrzejczyk using her superior speed and distance management to keep the champion at bay early on while Weili thundered forward with powerful combinations.
For some reason, Jędrzejczyk completely ditched her gameplan and proceeded to throw down with the Chinese titleholder, which created numerous jaw-dropping striking exchanges. The strawweight duo slugged it out for five rounds, and in the dying seconds of the fight, the entire crowd in attendance rose to their feet in ovation.
Their back-and-forth slugfest went on to win the UFC's 'Fight of the Year' award, becoming the first women's bout to earn the accolade. Weili came away with a narrow split decision win on the night and retained her belt as a result.
Nevertheless, many believe that Jędrzejczyk deserved to get the nod and she was praised for her hearty performance by every section of the MMA community. Her showdown with Weili will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greatest fights of all time.
#1. Undefeated Joanna Jędrzejczyk wins UFC gold – UFC 185
Joanna Jędrzejczyk is ubiquitously regarded as the most dominant champion in the history of the 115-pound division.
After back-to-back victories over Juliana Lima and Claudia Gadelha, Jędrzejczyk was handed a championship opportunity at UFC 185, where she took on then-strawweight champion Carla Esparza. This fight kicked off one of the longest championship reigns in UFC history.
Esparza, with her extensive wrestling background, was considered a nightmare stylistic matchup for Jędrzejczyk. The Polish star had never faced a wrestler quite as credentialled as 'Cookie Monster' previously.
Somewhat surprisingly, Jędrzejczyk stopped every one of Esparza's attempts to take the fight to the ground. As the champion realized that she wasn't going to secure a takedown, the challenger's confidence grew and she eventually found her striking rhythm in the second round.
With a minute remaining in the second frame, Jędrzejczyk unleashed a barrage of accurate punches on Esparza, who eventually crumbled to the canvas, prompting the referee to call a halt to the action.
After winning the title with her scintillating TKO victory over Carla Esparza, Joanna Jędrzejczyk went on to defend her belt five times. She will more than likely be inducted in the Hall of Fame at some point down the line, both for her career and her incredible five-round war with Zhang Weili.
More importantly, Jędrzejczyk played a crucial role in the development of the strawweight division, arguably the most exciting weight class in all of women's MMA. Her edgy style, ability the play up the role of the antagonist and unmatched grit will see her go down as one of the greatest female fighters to ever grace the octagon.