When UFC 261 is in the books, who should be the next challenger to either Weili Zhang or Rose Namajunas’ UFC Flyweight title?
One name that instantly comes to mind is Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
The Polish fighter held the UFC Strawweight title from 2015 to 2017 and is still largely recognized as the best 115lber of all time. But should Joanna really be granted another shot at the title?
The answer is no, and here are five reasons why.
#1 Joanna Jedrzejczyk hasn’t fought since her loss to Weili Zhang at UFC 248
The biggest reason that Joanna Jedrzejczyk might not deserve a shot at the winner of Weili Zhang vs. Rose Namajunas is that she simply hasn’t earned it.
There’s no denying that Jedrzejczyk is a great fighter. Her record in the UFC’s Strawweight division is second to none.
However, her last fight came at March 2020’s UFC 248, in a losing effort against Zhang in a title bout.
It’s understandable why the Polish fighter hasn’t returned to the Octagon since. The fight with Zhang was one of the most brutal wars in UFC history and ended with Jedrzejczyk suffering horrendous facial injuries.
However, simply surviving a hellacious war should not mean that a fighter is immediately granted another title shot. At the end of the day, the fight was close, but Joanna lost.
It’s understandable that the UFC like to give immediate rematches to defeated champions. And obviously, had the fight gone to a draw – like Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno or Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson – then a rematch would make sense.
But here, Jedrzejczyk was the challenger, and simply put, she came up short.
And without a rebound win, it’d be hard for the UFC to justify another title shot for her, even if her last fight was an instant classic.
#2 Joanna Jedrzejczyk already has two losses to Rose Namajunas
If Rose Namajunas defeats Weili Zhang for the UFC Strawweight title at UFC 261, then it’d become even harder to justify a title shot for Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
That’s because the Polish fighter already has two losses to Namajunas on her ledger, and she wasn’t really competitive in either bout.
Thug Rose knocked Jedrzejczyk out to win the UFC Strawweight title in their first fight at UFC 217. The win was seen as one of the biggest upsets in UFC history at the time, and so quite reasonably, Joanna was offered an immediate rematch.
But in that rematch, Namajunas showed her world-class striking skills by out-pointing the famed kickboxer across five rounds, using a ramrod jab along with some wonderful timing and movement to keep her at bay.
And in the years that have followed, there’s no real evidence to suggest Jedrzejczyk would be more successful against Thug Rose in a third fight.
Essentially, if Namajunas wins the title at UFC 261, then if anything, Jedrzejczyk should probably be considered near the back of the queue for a shot.
#3 There are arguably more deserving contenders
Another thing that doesn’t help Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s cause is that the UFC Strawweight division is packed with plenty of talent.
The Polish fighter is currently ranked at #2, putting her behind only champion Weili Zhang and Rose Namajunas.
But underneath those fighters, there are a number of exciting contenders who could provide the UFC with fresh Strawweight title fights for some time to come.
Yan Xiaonan and Marina Rodriguez both possess extremely dangerous striking games, while the resurgent Carla Esparza is now on an impressive four-fight winning streak.
But perhaps the most dangerous contenders in the division are both grapplers.
Mackenzie Dern – arguably the most accomplished female grappler in UFC history – is now 6-1 in the UFC and recently submitted the highly-rated Nina Nunes in one-sided fashion.
Tatiana Suarez, meanwhile, was looking like an unstoppable monster, with her phenomenal wrestling and grappling game taking her to a 5-0 UFC record before a spinal injury in 2019.
While Suarez has yet to return to action, any of those five aforementioned fighters would make for a more intriguing UFC Strawweight title challenger than Joanna Jedrzejczyk right now, despite the former champion’s accomplishments.
#4 We’ve seen Joanna in too many title fights already
Joanna Jedrzejczyk is undoubtedly the most accomplished Strawweight fighter in UFC history.
The Polish striker defeated Carla Esparza for the UFC Strawweight title at UFC 185 in March 2015 and held onto the belt for two and a half years – turning back the challenge of five straight contenders.
And to add to that, her fight with Claudia Gadelha in 2016 was widely recognized as the best UFC Strawweight title fight in history before her amazing war with Weili Zhang in March 2020.
However, those accomplishments also mean that, for the most part, UFC fans are somewhat tired of seeing Jedrzejczyk in UFC Strawweight title bouts.
Since the title was introduced in December 2014, there have been 12 UFC Strawweight title fights. Incredibly, Jedrzejczyk has been involved in no fewer than nine of them.
Sure, the Polish fighter is largely exciting when she does step into the Octagon. But surely at this stage, it’s time for the UFC to give some fresher contenders a go?
#5 Joanna may be past her prime
While the last time we saw Joanna Jedrzejczyk inside the Octagon, she put on a war for the ages with Weili Zhang, there’s no guarantee that she’s capable of replicating that again.
In all honesty, there’s every chance that the Polish fighter may have fossilized overnight after going through such a crazy war and taking so much damage.
Jedrzejczyk is 33 years old now, and while that doesn’t mean she’s past her athletic prime, she has been fighting in MMA for nearly a decade now.
And when you consider her kickboxing career prior to that dates back to 2008, she’s probably taken countless amounts of damage over the years.
Add in the fact that she cuts a tremendous amount of weight to make 115lbs, and it’s likely that she could see a drop in terms of her ability to both take punishment and dish it out at any time.
So for the UFC to put her in with a proven killer like Zhang or Namajunas might actually be the worst thing they could do for Jedrzejczyk’s own health.
With that considered, passing over her in terms of the next title shot could be seen as the UFC being cruel to be kind.