UFC Calgary will feature two of the best strawweights in the world as Joanna Jędrzejczyk will battle Tecia Torres in a bout with major title implications.
The UFC strawweight division is currently muddled, and several key match-ups need to be take place before things are sorted out. One of them is Joanna Jędrzejczyk versus Tecia Torres, who will collide in a battle of top ranked contenders eager to get back to the head of the division. The winner will remain on the short list for a title shot, while the loser could find themselves on a much longer path to the belt.
Former strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk is attempting to rebuild momentum after back-to-back losses to Rose Namajunas. The first was a shocking upset in the first round to lose the title. Her second attempt was a high-paced five round effort that came up short to retain the title. In the process, she has seen Namajunas become the new budding star of the division. “Thug” in the last year has now been nominated at awards shows such as the ESPYs and Kids Choice Sports Awards. Both are honors that Jędrzejczyk never received in two years as champion and five title defenses.
The Polish phenom finds herself in an unusual spot. At just 30 years old, she has plenty of time left in the fight game and could conceivably return to the top of the weight class. But after two straight losses to the current champion, there are few options for her. Torres represents arguably the last top five opponent for Jędrzejczyk to complete her sweep of the strawweight ranks. Prior to losing the title, the plan was that Jędrzejczyk had only to defeat Namajunas and Torres to have cleaned out the weight class and move up to the flyweight division. Her losses derailed those plans. With the flyweight division still currently developing and the title yet to be defended, Jędrzejczyk has more to gain from adding her status as the most dominant strawweight in history rather than moving up to flyweight to fight a lesser name opponent at this stage.
Tecia Torres is looking to bounce back from a tough loss to Jessica Andrade earlier this year. “The Tiny Tornado” had gone on a three fight win-streak after losing a razor close split decision to the current champion Namajunas in 2016. A title shot appeared to be on the line. Andrade was a former title challenger, and Torres had a storyline of having split a pair of exciting bouts with Namajunas, so a rubber match for the title practically sold itself. However, Andrade denied Torres the chance, and now the fight with Jędrzejczyk is a critical opportunity.
Currently, Andrade is slated to fight Karolina Kowalkiewicz in September in what is being perceived as a number one contender bout. Assuming Torres wins, she would arguably be next in line for a title shot after the winner of the Andrade/Kowalkiewicz bout faces Namajunas. As the top contenders in the division have all faced each other, Torres could elect to wait and see how the timeline with Namajunas plays out before she considers another bout.
The key to victory for Jędrzejczyk is to use her height and reach to keep Torres at the end of her punches. The former champion is a master of controlling the distance and getting in-and-out with strikes. With a three round fight, the key will be to spend as much time in mid-range as possible, as fighting Torres at close distance will give her opponent a chance to tie her up in the clinch or get in range to throw shots of her own.
For Torres, she needs to get in the face of the Polish striker early and not allow Jędrzejczyk to create space between them. Staying in the face of Jędrzejczyk will neutralize the former champion’s attack and allow Torres to get in with short punches which are her specialty. It will also give Torres the chance to get in the clinch and wear on Jędrzejczyk against the fence as she works for a takedown.
Even with a dominant victory, Jędrzejczyk is highly unlikely to set up a third fight with Namajunas so soon. However, she would be on the short list for the belt should it change hands. The option of moving up to flyweight remains open if the strawweight division sees little activity. Torres has the most to gain from a victory, earning likely no less than a title eliminator in her next bout. A title shot could materialize, but a possible bout with Claudia Gadelha in a title eliminator could be more likely. One thing they both have in common, however, is that a loss puts both of them further back for arguably the next year or so. In a loaded division like strawweight, it will be a tall order to work their way back into contention.