On Saturday, two of the world’s best female fighters will do battle as number one ranked Claudia Gadelha faces number two ranked Karolina Kowalkiewicz in a pivotal strawweight bout. With a combined record of 24-3– all three of those losses coming from reigning champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk–both contenders need a dominant win to make a claim at another title shot.
This fight can easily be penned as a “striker” vs “grappler” match, but the well-rounded skill sets of both fighters make it more complex than that. What must be done to get the upper hand?
– Punishment in the clinch: It’s no secret that Gadelha is one of the physically strongest in the division, however, Kowalkiewicz is often underestimated in the strength department. While it may not be wise to hang out in the clinch too long with Gadelha, she’s got to punish Claudia if she does find herself locked in the clinch. Body shots, knees, and short elbows– similar to the ones she used against Rose Namajunas– will start to chip away at Gadelha’s gas tank.
– Distance and movement: Kowalkiewicz is a strong striker who moves a lot. Gadelha has pretty good striking, but often remains flat footed. Karolina should capitalize on this, moving in and out of the pocket, picking her opponent apart and forcing Gadelha to throw sloppy, wide strikes.
– Takedown defense: Karolina wont just be defending against single and double legs– Claudia has an array of takedowns from the outside and from within the clinch. It’s super important for Team Kowalkiewcz to frustrate Gadelha with defensive wrestling. This is one of the many tools that led the champion to victory against Gadelha.
– Pressure: Claudia needs to make sure Karolina doesn’t find her rhythm in the fight. In past fights, Karolina has started slow in the first round. From the opening bell, Gadelha should attempt to neutralize Kowalkiewicz’s movement and cut off the octagon.
– Patience: Claudia has been vocal about her work with a highly touted conditioning coach to improve her stamina. She feels ready to go, however, she will need to retain a degree of patience against the dangerous Kowalkiewicz. Gadelha wants to come out strong and pressure her opponent, but she has to set a pace that she can work at for the full fifteen minutes. Instead of forcing takedowns with brute strength, she will have to pick her shots while pressuring in.
– Head movement: Claudia’s striking is always improving, but in past fights she has lacked head movement as the fight went on. For example, in her second fight with Jędrzejczyk, Gadelha left her head on the center line and ate a lot of the champions best shots. Karolina also comes from a Muay Thai background, like the champ, and will be able to hunt Gadelha’s head if she isn’t moving it off the center line.
Who takes it? What are some more keys to victory each fighter could implement?