The number one strawweight in the world Joanna Jedrzejczyk is the most dominant champion in women’s MMA right now – fact. Since winning the strawweight championship from current number four ranked Carla Esparza back in March 2015, she has defended the belt a total of four times. There is now a severe lack of potential contenders in the top fifteen for Jedrzejczyk to face.
The champ has run through (#2) Claudia Gadelha, (#3) Karolina Kowalkiewicz, (#4) Carla Esparza, (#14) Valerie Letourneau and (#15) Jessica Penne. Many other competitors ranked in the top fifteen are currently coming off losses (#5) Rose Namajunas, (#8) Tecia Torres, (#9) Jessica Aguilar, (#10) Joanne Calderwood and (#11) Paige VanZant.
It may appear there is little choice left in opponents for Jedrzejczyk, however a few contenders have emerged over the past twelve months.
Jessica Andrade (15-5-0) is currently ranked at number six in the Women’s MMA World Rankings, after making her strawweight debut back in June 2016 when she defeated Jessica Penne via TKO in round two. She followed this up with a round one submission victory over Scotland’s Joanna Calderwood back in September. The Brazilian has looked unstoppable in this division and would definitely make for an intriguing fight with the champion. She was recently offered a title against the champion, revealing she turned it down as she wants one more fight in order to make the funds to pay for a good training camp for the eventual championship fight.
The entire MMA world is talking about former Invicta FC atomweight champion Michelle Waterson (14-4-0). She’s currently ranked number seven in the world after defeating Paige VanZant in the main event of UFC on Fox 22 via a round 1 choke. Waterson is skilled in every area of mixed martial arts and enjoys finishing her opponents, with twelve of her wins coming by stoppage. Waterson has a very marketable image, and has a lot of hype, thanks to her latest win over a fan favourite. Two things which the UFC loves in their top female stars. Don’t be surprised to see the organisation give her the title shot before you might expect.
23 year old Alexa Grasso (9-0-0) from Mexico is currently ranked number twelve in the world. She made her debut for the UFC two months ago, delivering a vicious beat down to veteran Heather Jo-Clark. Grasso is a world class boxer, with a ton of power in her hands. She often leaves opponents battered and bloodied up. Jedrzejczyk was severely rocked at UFC 205 against Karolina during round 4. Grasso has far better boxing than Kowalkiewicz, with her punches leaving a bigger impact on her opponents. The UFC has been desperate to tap into the Mexican market and Grasso may possibly be the superstar they are searching for.
Another 23 year old division who is an emerging contender in this division is Brazilian Viviane Pereira (12-0-0) who made her UFC debut back in December getting the split decision win over Valerie Letourneau. Pereira has four wins via TKO and two via Armbar. We have yet to see Pereira tested against top competition, if she can defeat some of the higher ranked women this year, we could be looking at a future challenger.
(Click HERE to view the strawweight rankings).
Who do you think is next in line for a shot at UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk? Will she remain champion throughout the year, or will one of the emerging contenders finally be the one to beat her? Let us know your opinions in the comments below.