You can never deny the heart of a champion. But it's been a while since the woman everyone calls Joanna "Champion" has been on top of the mountain. The Strawweight title has been passed around like a hot potato since she lost the strap to Rose Namajunas at UFC 217. Her in your face pressure, her mind game taunts, all fell on deaf ears to "Thug" Rose.
After Rose then beat her again just a tick less than five months later, the potato was passed. First Jessica Andrade power slammed her way to the title, then the present holder of the 115 belt, Weili Zhang ripped the strap away from her.
But back to the 32 year old Pole who lives in Coconut Creek, Florida. Yes, it seemed like for a while she'd truly be champion forever. Her ability to throw punches in bunches and her kickboxing background always make her a threat. As the ATT fighter admits; she has gotten rid of all the "negatives" out of her life and is refocused. Her coach Mike Brown raves about how zeroed in she is now.
Not that she looks gaunt but hitting the 115 mark never looks good on her. She attempted to do what many thought she should do in going up to 125. But there the 1 or 1a queen of MMA, Valentina Shevchenko rules with an iron fist and an iron leg too. So back down to 115 it is.
Only problem now is the division has caught up to her and surpassed her. Weili, Andrade have serious come forward attacks. Claudia Gadelha and Angela Hill are well rounded and always under estimated. Tatiana Suarez is the next big young thing. And there's another serious threat coming out of China also in Yan Xiaonan.
The deck has never been so stacked against Joanna as it is now. Lots of talent and all are hungry for gold. If Jedrzejczyk falls short of her goal, she'll be 2-4 in her last six. Not anywhere close to being cut; but a possible rethinking of career goals may have to happen. She might fall into that Glover Teixeira/ JDS category. That's a fine place to be if she accepts that a strap might not be in her UFC future.
Outside of that first round TKO loss to Rose at UFC 217; she's gone to the judge's scorecards in nine straight fights. The chances that this fight goes the distance is as likely as finding Waldo in a haystack holding a needle.
She'll need to survive the blitz that is coming her way early and often. Because of her actions; viewed as disrespect by Zhang, she's going to want to end it fast. This is kind of like the way Fury handled Wilder in the rematch. Even in the two losses to Namajunas we have yet to see anyone truly come after Joanna. Weili has the firepower to do that, the ground game to match, and more importantly the focus to do so. However, if JJ can pull it off, it'll be in the top 10 UFC upsets.Published 03 Mar 2020, 07:47 IST