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Fortunes changed for five at UFC on FOX 30

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Joanna Jedrzejczyk had looked to be almost unbeatable at strawweight, battling past every top contender before running into Rose Namajunas. Two losses later, followed by Saturday’s convincing win over Tecia Torres, she’s facing a fork in the road.

On one side, is to stay at strawweight, a division she has had brutal weight cuts to make, and where she may have to wait for a title change on top before getting another title shot. The other direction is to move up to flyweight.

At strawweight, she has to hope Namajunas get knocked off as champion, because if that happens, and Jedrzejczyk doesn’t lose again, she’s almost a shoe-in for the first shot against the new champion.

If she moves up to flyweight, she would immediately be the star of the division. And now more than ever, with stardom comes privilege. If she made that move, she could probably walk right into a title shot at the winner of the Sept. 8 fight between champion Nicco Montano and a heavily-favored contender Valentina Shevchenko.

But in a move to that division, she might get a title shot quicker, but would be facing a steady stream of bigger women. Most of the top UFC flyweights were bantamweights, who had success in the heavier division, but with the opening up of the lighter weight class felt it would give them more opportunity.

Shevchenko is the best of that group, someone who beat Holly Holm and hung in close with Amanda Nunes twice at bantamweight. Shevchenko also handed Jedrzejczyk all three of her losses in her 37-3 Muay Thai career.

Under normal circumstances, a third Jedrzejczyk vs. Namajunas match would be difficult. The UFC showed that in never making a third Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez fight even though Benavidez was generally considered the top contender in the flyweight division for years. They don’t like to book a champion against somebody they already have beaten twice. A similar decision was made when Miesha Tate won a series of bouts, including a title eliminator win over Jessica Eye, only to have UFC make the call that since then-champion Ronda Rousey had beaten her twice, that Holly Holm would get the shot.

But the strawweight division is thin on contenders. The winner of the Sept. 8 fight with Jessica Andrade (18-6) vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-2) should face Namajunas next. If the winner of that fight takes the championship, Jedrzejczyk would be in line for a title shot, since she’s got wins over both of them. If Namajunas continues to win, the title contenders will start to run thin.

Let’s look at how Fortunes Changed for Five Stars of Saturday night’s UFC on FOX show from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

DUSTIN POIRIER - Straight wins over Justin Gaethje, Anthony Pettis and Eddie Alvarez should be enough to earn Poirier a lightweight title fight.

And if Conor McGregor doesn’t commit to a fight with champion Khabib Nurmagomedov by the end of the year, Poirier (24-5 , 1 no contest) should be next in line.

But he’s going to have to wait months because everything possible will be done by UFC to get a Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor title fight.

Poirier should next face Tony Ferguson (23-3), and whoever wins that fight should be guaranteed a title shot next. Of course, if McGregor regains the title, he’d probably be looking for a Nate Diaz or Georges St-Pierre fight and the bigger pay-per-view numbers and the Poirier vs. Ferguson winner could be waiting awhile for that shot.

EDDIE ALVAREZ - Alvarez (29-6, 1 no contest) and his reputation for exciting fights should give him either Kevin Lee (17-3) or more likely Edson Barboza (19-6) for his next outing. Even with the convincing loss and a deep division, Alvarez had Poirier in trouble when he inadvertently was called for a 12-to-6 elbow, which saved Poirier from a bad situation. Even if some would argue that rule makes no sense, the reality is it is still on the books and the referee made the right call in that situation.

But Alvarez came out of the fight as a star and should still be put in with the top contenders.

JOSE ALDO - Aldo (27-4) stopping Jeremy Stephens (28-15) with a devastating body punch has put him back in an interesting position.

He has a lot of similarities to Jedrzejczyk. Aldo was considered almost unbeatable and among the best fighters in the world until McGregor knocked him out. But Aldo is also in that dreaded position of losing twice to current featherweight champion Max Holloway.

Where Aldo’s next direction falls depends on what happens with Holloway. If Holloway moves to lightweight, then Aldo should face Brian Ortega (14-0) to determine the new featherweight champion. If Holloway stays in the division and faces Ortega next, as had been planned already, then Aldo should face Alexander Volkanovski (18-1),

JEREMY STEPHENS - Stephens (18-15) could face Volkanovski next should that not be the next direction for Aldo. Volkanovski deserves a higher ranked fighter and Stephens, despite what his record indicates, is still viewed as one of the best in the division.

Two other alternatives for him would be Chad Mendes (18-4) or Mirsad Bektic (13-1). Of the two, Mendes would be preferable because it would be a higher-profile fight.

JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK - There are different options depending on which division she goes into.

Jedrzejczyk has indicated staying at strawweight. But the options right now are limited. If Tatiana Suarez (6-0) beats Carla Esparza, it’s a fight that could be made, but the UFC may deem it too early to put Suarez in that position. If Esparza wins, Jedrzejczyk already beat her, and handily. The other bout would be a third meeting with Claudia Gadelha (16-3), although Jedrzejczyk won both of their prior bouts. But both were also competitive.

Where a win over Gadelha again is beneficial is it would knock Gadelha out of the title shot picture, and even with Jedrzejczyk’s two prior losses, she may get that title shot no matter who emerges as champion, because there would be nobody else.

At flyweight, she probably could wait for a title shot, or if the feeling is she needs a win in the division, she should face Katlyn Chookagian (11-1), where the winner would likely get the next title shot.