In the days leading up to UFC 211, Joanna Jedrzejczyk made it clear she’s all for the UFC adding the women’s flyweight division.
After all, that could very well give her the opportunity to become the second UFC fighter, along with Conor McGregor, to hold two weight-class titles simultaneously.
Joanna Champion put on another clinical performance in pitching a shutout against the game-but-overmatched Andrade on Saturday night in Dallas. She took her aggressive challenger’s fast start in stride, stuck with her game plan, and exhibited her otherworldly level of movement, pacing, and precision strikes.
Those low kicks Jedrzejczyk threw in the early rounds might not have seemed killer in the early going, but when Andrade started to feel them later, the champ really put on a show, peppering Andrade from range and mauling her every time Andrade dared wade in close.
And with that, we seem to have the perfect set of conditions for Jedrzejczyk to really make her mark on the sport’s history. Jerdzejczyk -- whose 75 leg kicks, incidentally, broke her own UFC single-fight record of 70 set against Valerie Letourneau at UFC 193 -- is now one win shy of former bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey’s UFC women’s record of six successful title defenses.
The Ultimate Fighter 26 will crown the first UFC women’s 125-pound champion before the year is out. If Jedrzejczyk defends her title once before the end of the year, and again by the middle of next year, she’ll break Rousey’s title-defense record. She’ll likely have the division cleared out.
It’s almost as if she’s ready made to walk into a 115 vs. 125 superfight sometime around the end of next year.
Of course, these scenarios rarely play out as clean as they sound on paper. But right now, Jedrzejczyk seems as sure a thing in the UFC this side of Demetrious Johnson.
And if you need any more convincing, the champ doesn’t sound like she’s in any rush to rest on her laurels.
“I feel this fire, and I want to learn,” she said. “Since I moved to American Top Team, I feel like I’m the bird that got to escape from its cage, if you know that meaning. I’m very hard on myself everyday, you can ask my coaches, and after a good training session, I’m not happy because I know I can do better or change something to do better, you know? That’s why I keep on defending this belt.”
UFC 211 quotes
“I’m not going to sell myself just because I want to be a champion, just because I want to make more money, you know? I don’t sell myself. I am what I am.” -- Demian Maia isn’t going to do a song and dance to get a welterweight title shot
“I’m not one to root for either guy. Sometimes you want something so bad and it doesn’t happen, so we’ll let them figure that out and cross that bridge when it happens.” -- Frankie Edgar, on whether he wants Jose Aldo or Max Holloway to win their UFC 212 main event.
“I really don’t care. I mean, yeah, if I keep winning, I’ll break history. Big deal. I’m just going to keep winning. I like winning. It’s fun. I like being called champ, especially.” -- Stipe Miocic, not overly concerned about whether he’ll be the first UFC fighter with three successful heavyweight title defenses
“Today it didn’t work well for me. But I felt good. I felt almost there, and I felt like winning. After my third kick, I felt winning until lights out.” -- dos Santos on his loss
Up: Stipe Miocic It’s not just that Miocic has joined the likes of Randy Couture, Cain Velasquez, Tim Sylvia, and Brock Lesnar in the UFC’s “two heavyweight title defenses” club. It’s the manner in which he’s done it. In case you haven’t noticed, Miocic has now knocked out Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, and Junior dos Santos in the first round in three consecutive fights. His unflappable demeanor might be just what’s needed to navigate this gauntlet of angry monsters and come out the other side. Sure, this isn’t the first time the pundits have proclaimed that we finally might have our first dominant UFC heavyweight champion, but then, we’ve never had a Stipe Miocic before, either.
Up: Demian Maia There are people out there who are going to look at Maia’s post-fight comments after defeating Jorge Masvidal, in which he said he won’t sell himself out to get a title shot, and mock him for not grabbing after every last dollar. You have to wonder if those folks were born with souls. Maia’s run of seven consecutive wins has been a victory for sport over spectacle. And his style is a reminder that, despite what Meryl Streep might think, there is an art in mixed martial arts. Against Jorge Masvidal, Maia wasn’t able to quickly finish Jorge Masvidal like he did Carlos Condit in his previous fight. But he did show tenacity when Masvidal, one of the sport’s most hard-nosed fighters, didn’t buckle under Maia’s relentless first-round pressure. And Maia showed his veteran guile in doing what he needed to secure the win. In an era in which profane rants and complaints drown out nearly everything else, Maia’s run is a breath of fresh air.
Up: Frankie Edgar I’ll admit, I was ready to buy into the idea Edgar’s match with Yair Rodriguez was going to be one of those passing-the-torch moments, the one where we lament Edgar is not quite the fighter he used to be. Instead, Edgar ruthlessly snuffed out any hints he might be past his prime with an absolutely merciless victory over Rodriguez, battering the young hotshot for two rounds until the bout was waved off before the third. That’s two straight wins and seven out of eight for a guy who, by the way, still has never been finished in a career which dates back to 2005. While it would be beneficial for Edgar to have Max Holloway defeat Jose Aldo next month at UFC 212 in the featherweight title unification bout, since a third Aldo-Edgar fight would be a tough sell, there’s little dispute he’s got a valid claim on the next featherweight title shot.
Down: Yair Rodriguez Nope, we’re not going to go calling Rodriguez a hype or a fraud after his first UFC loss. Especially when it came to a fighter the quality of Edgar. Instead, we’ll call on Rodriguez and his camp to consider the case of Stephen Thompson after his loss to Matt Brown in 2012. Thompson took the information he learned from a one-sided loss to a crafty vet, committed to becoming a better all-around fighter, and went on a run that took him within a hair’s breadth of the welterweight title. Will Rodriguez, who seems to have about 90 percent of what’s needed to become a breakthrough star, buckle down and focus on shoring up that remaining 10 percent? That could be the difference as to whether he’s simply an interesting guy on the card or whether he fully lives up to his potential.
Hold: Jessica Andrade We’re not going to write off Andrade, either. Andrade has proven one of the sport’s more fearless fighters. She had an above-.500 record at bantamweight despite being undersized when 135 was the only option for women in the UFC. She’s buzzsawed her way through 115. And she took her best shot against one of the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters in Jedrzejczyk. Sure, she came up short. But she’s only 25 and with a 125-pound class opening up, her options have only expanded. One gets the feeling that one way or another, we’ll be writing about Andrade in a title fight again some day.
Once again, a controversy over illegal knees marred an exciting fight. This time, it was Eddie Alvarez drilling Dustin Poirier with three illegal knees, just one month after Chris Weidman vs. Gegard Mousasi ended in controversy.
I’m not even going to bother getting too worked up over the whole deal over whether it should have been a no-contest vs. a disqualification (Okay, for the record, it probably should have been a DQ, but I’m not going to call Alvarez, who plainly was in survival mode, a dirty fighter).
Rather, this fight felt like the tipping point for me on the entire deal about downed knees for fighters being banned. We generally accept that PRIDE-style knees to grounded fighters shouldn’t be legal as our starting point before deciding what the delineation point between legal and illegal knees should be. Why? There’s the brain trauma argument, of course, but that’s a bit of selective judgment when you’re okay in the first place with a sport with punches and elbows both standing and on the ground and kicks and knees to the head in the standup.
Maybe it’s time to get the idea of fully legalizing knees back on the table. And if not, for the love of god, the commissions need to get the rules straight across the board. Maybe you didn’t like the “playing the game” rule on technically downed fighters, but at least it was consistent, MMA’s equivalent of a play being in bounds or out of bounds. The way things are now, with different rules in different jurisdictions, is like an annoying television ad for a prescription drug: the side effects of the new rule have been worse than the original condition it was supposed to fix.
Fight I’d like to see next: Stipe Miocic vs. Cain Velasquez
Yes, I know all the reasons why we’d balk at having the UFC book this one. Velasquez’s injuries are the reason why he’s simply listed among the all-time great heavyweights, and not the single best of all-time in his division. Still, if you look at the landscape at the moment, Miocic has mowed through Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Werdum, Overeem, and dos Santos in the first round. But, putting aside for the moment the fact he’s still on the shelf, Velasquez has won five of his past six fights. If you want to build intrigue around Miocic’s last fight, facing a two-time former champ and another member of the two-defense club in his attempt to make a record-breaking third defense, with the Werdum-Overeem winner on standby in case Velasquez falls out, seems worth the risk.