UFC 281: Karolina Kowalkiewicz Defeats Silvana Gomez Juarez by Decision Despite Scorecard Confusion

Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Silvana Gomez Juarez, UFC 281
Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Silvana Gomez Juarez, UFC 281 weigh-in Credit: Youtube/UFC

Scoring controversy aside, Karolina Kowalkiewicz came away from UFC 281 with a clear decision win over Silvana Gomez Juarez.

Former strawweight title challenger Kowalkiewicz righted the ship in her last fight, after a rough five fight skid. Her opponent at UFC 281 would be Entram Gym trainee Gomez Juarez, a striker known for her knockout power but a deficiency to grappling, having been armbarred in her first two UFC fights before scoring an impressive, eighty-two second knockout over Liang Na in her last fight.

Despite being the same age on paper as her opponent at thirty-seven years old, Kowalkiewicz was much older in fight years having fought in major promotions like KSW and Invicta starting in 2012 and in the UFC since 2015. The question was if that experience could win out against the hard hitting newcomer.

The athletes came out trading jabs, with Juarez being more active initially as she tried to draw Kowalkiewicz into the knockout shot. Kowalkiewicz began to use the front foot to push Juarez back. Karolina was then able to take her down off of a caught leg kick and immediately transition to the back with both hooks in, then switch to a body triangle. Juarez used the wrist control to avoid getting submitted as she tried to escape. She got to her knees but Kowalkiewicz stayed on the back expertly. The fence helped Juarez clear one hook momentarily but then Karolina got back on right away and snaked her forearm under Juarez’s chin as the Mexican fighter tried to stand up. Juarez was able to survive but was being thoroughly dominated. Finally, in the last minute, Juarez was able to clear both hooks and get to a knee but Karolina kept blanketing her. Pure explosion helped Silvana finally get back to her feet in the last twenty seconds of the round, which ended with Juarez landing a body punch. The round could easily be scored 10-8 for Kowalkiewicz.

Kowalkiewicz got immediately on the front foot again, pushing Juarez backwards as she had in the first round and making her opponent uncomfortable. Kowalkiewicz tried to use a blitzing combo into a takedown but Juarez was aware and pushed her away from her hips. Still, Silvana was getting hit and not landing her own shots very often. Finally, halfway through the round, she landed a big overhand right but it must have been discouraging to see Kowalkiewicz eat it with no issues. The pair traded combos back and forth as Karolina stalked Gomez-Juarez across the octagon constantly. Juarez was landing slightly more in the latter parts of the round but was still seemingly behind on the scorecards. A big knee in the collar tie from Kowalkiewicz landed to close out the round, although Silvana almost hit referee Mark Goddard in trying to get that one back as the bell rang.

The activity of Juarez was high to start the final round and she did not show any signs of slowing. Some big combos in the pocket landed after a minute from Juarez but Kowalkiewicz kept walking her down, undeterred by anything coming her way. A big right overhand may have stunned Karolina momentarily as she tried to clinch with Juarez, but the Pole recovered quickly. Silvana was beginning to occasionally target the body mid-combination and it seemed effective. Despite her corner calling for a takedown between rounds, Kowalkiewicz had showed no signs of shooting one in the third. Karolina Kowalkiewicz was able to bundle over Juarez with one minute left in the fight but as she tried to take the back Juarez was able to push her off, spring to her feet, and get back to striking distance. Karolina went for another collar tie late and landed some knees inside. The women swung big shots for the last ten seconds until the bell rang.

The fight got competitive in rounds two and three but when Juarez was put on her back in round three it may have appeared to the judges to be a knockdown, and round two was close but with perhaps an edge for Kowalkiewicz. There was some kerfuffle with the scorecards late as a commissioner came in and seemed to change the scores for the third round on the scorecards.

The crowd, the commentary, and surely fans at home yelled out in confusion. The situation dragged on for another two minutes to the puzzlement of everyone. When the decision was finally read out by Bruce Buffer, all three judges had Karolina Kowalkiewicz winning the fight 29-28. The former title challenger broke down in tears as not that long ago she was on a five fight losing streak and her job was in question. But now, after moving to American Top Team when invited by fellow Polish legend Joanna Jędrzejczyk, she sits on a two fight winning streak at thirty-seven years old.

Official Result: Karolina Kowalkeiwicz def. Silvana Gomez Juarez by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)