Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Yan Xiaonan Announced for UFC Auckland

Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Karolina Kowalkiewicz Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Karolina Kowalkiewicz will attempt to pull out of a tailspin at UFC Auckland, where she will take on China’s Yan Xiaonan.

The UFC has unveiled an important strawweight fight for its return to Auckland, New Zealand. On Sunday, the promotion announced via social media that Karolina Kowalkiewicz would meet Yan Xiaonan at the event, which takes place in February. UFC Auckland is expected to be UFC Fight Night 168, and will air on ESPN+ in the U.S.

Kowalkiewicz (12-5) is a former title challenger in the 115lb division. However, she has hit hard times of late, going 0-3 in her last three outings. Losses to Jessica Andrade, Michelle Waterson, and Alexa Grasso have piled up, while her last win came against Felice Herrig at UFC 223. That April 2018 victory was a split decision.

In her run up to a title challenge against then-champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk, however, Kowalkiewicz looked like a very different fighter. A former KSW flyweight champion, she started her career 10-0, racking up wins over Mizuki Inoue in Invicta and Kalindra Faria in KSW before joining the UFC and defeating Randa Markos, Heather Jo Clark, and Rose Namajunas.

China’s Yan Xiaonan (11-1, 1NC) finds herself in interesting territory heading into the fight with Kowalkiewicz. She has won all four of her fights in the octagon to date, most recently taking home a unanimous decisino over ex-Invicta FC champ Angela Hill at UFC 238. All four of those victories have come by unanimous decision, although outside the UFC, Xiaonan was a finishing machine, with five of seven wins ending early.

A fifth straight win, especially a convincing one over a former title challenger, would normally put her within striking distance of a title shot. However, the belt is held by fellow Chinese standout Weili Zhang, which could hurt her prospects in a very deep 115lb weight class.

UFC Auckland (UFC Fight Night 168) takes place on February 23, 2020 at the Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand. The card is headlined by a lightweight clash between Dan Hooker and Paul Felder.