Joanna Jedrzejczyk will attempt to defend her strawweight title for the fifth time when she faces well-rounded Brazilian Jessica Andrade at UFC 211 this Saturday.
Last year signified a lot of changes for the UFC strawweight champion Jedrzejczyk. Relocating her training camps over from her hometown of Olsztyn, Poland, to American Top Team in Florida, Jedrzejczyk also parted ways with her manager Tiago Okamura. Regardless Joanna went 2-0 in 2016, with wins over both Cláudia Gadelha and Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Nicknamed the ‘Pile Driver’ (Bate Estaca in Portuguese), Jessica Andrade has certainly bulldozed through her opponents since dropping down to 115-pounds. Finishing highly regarded strawweights Jessica Penne and Joanne Calderwood last year, the Brazilian started 2017 off with a bang when was victorious in a Fight of the Night display against Angela Hill in February.
Joanna’s Jeopardizing Flaw
If there’s one clear advantage Joanna will hold in this fight, it’s the speed aspect. Although her height may not suggest it, Andrade is by no means a natural 115-pounder, fighting most of her career at bantamweight. Whilst the Brazilian may get the nod in terms of power, that may not matter if Jedrzejczyk can run circles around her like she has done to so many of her opponents.
Joanna’s combinations are often so fast that it’s hard to appreciate the technicality of her strikes. She shows off her veteran Muay Thai experience through almost always finishing her combinations with a leg kick. The champion does have a tendency to drop her guard when torquing up these kicks. Her last fight saw Kowalkiewicz try to counter off this, but she had little to no success in doing so.
If Andrade can counter this, the outcome could be devastating. For the first time in Joanna’s last fight we saw her chin being tested, and in fairness to the champion, she did recover very well. But you have to think the power difference between Andrade and Kowalkiewicz is huge, which means if the Brazilian does land, Jedrzejczyk may not be able to stay on her feet like last time.
Andrade’s Athleticism at Strawweight
UFC analyst Dan Hardy recently compared Andrade to fellow Brazilian powerhouse John Lineker. It’s a great comparison. If Andrade could have it her way, she would love to just stay in the pocket and wing heavy shots, to make it a ‘slobberknocker.’
That’s how much confidence Andrade has in her hands though, since fighting 20 pounds lighter she has kept her power, but also improved on her speed. Landing almost seven significant strikes per minute, in her last fight against Angela Hill she showed off her newly improved striking. Even come the third round Andrade’s stamina held up and she continued to force Hill back landing hard and fast striking combinations.
The ‘Pile Driver’ has said the biggest difference in fighting at strawweight is how light her opponents are, tossing them around like ‘feathers.’ Whether Andrade can penetrate Jedrzejczyk’s great takedown defense is an enigma in itself. There’s no questioning that if Andrade can keep Joanna down, a submission victory for the Brazilian could become very likely.
For Andrade, it just circles back to that keyword, if. During Joanna’s time in the UFC, she has proven that she’s a hard target to hit, and take down. Often a slow starter, much like Robbie Lawler she gets better as the fight progresses. The same can’t be said for Andrade, the Brazilian has never been scheduled for five rounds before. The muscle mass and power she holds suggest that if she is to get the job done, it will be in the early rounds.
What It All Means
Excluding women’s featherweight, we are yet to have a new champion crowned in the UFC in 2017. Andrade will be looking break this statistic and become only the second female Brazilian champion in UFC history. Whilst for Jedrzejczyk, it’s just another step in retiring an undefeated champion.