Weekend Warrior: UFC Fight Night Spotlights Strawweights Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Michelle Waterson
Joanna Jedrzejczyk has designs on someday reclaiming her place atop the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s women’s strawweight division. “The Karate Hottie” stands in her way. Jedrzejczyk will square off with Michelle Waterson in the UFC Fight Night 161 headliner on Saturday at the Amalie Center in Tampa, Florida, where they will jockey for position in the line forming behind current 115-pound champion Weili Zhang. It has the feel of a de facto title eliminator.
Anchored at the star-studded American Top Team camp, Jedrzejczyk was once the talk of the sport. The 32-year-old Polish muay Thai stylist held the strawweight championship for nearly 1,000 days and successfully defended it on five different occasions before being upset by Rose Namajunas in November 2017. Jedrzejczyk has now lost three of her last four fights, including a rematch with Namajunas, and finds herself in need of a victory to remain relevant in the division she once ruled. She last fought in December, when she moved up to 125 pounds in a failed bid to capture the UFC women’s flyweight crown from Valentina Shevchenko.
Cover Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile (Getty Images)
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Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland punches Valentina Shevchenko. Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)
Waterson’s fortunes are headed in the opposite direction. The former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder has rattled off three consecutive victories over Cortney Casey, Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz to position herself among the strawweight elite. Waterson, 33, operates out of Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she trains alongside some of the sport’s top fighters, including UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm. She has delivered 12 of her 17 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission.
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Michelle Waterson. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)
UFC Fight Night “Jedrzejczyk vs. Waterson”—which streams live to ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT—will also feature a featherweight co-main event between Cub Swanson and Kron Gracie, a welterweight affair pairing Niko Price with James Vick, a women’s strawweight tilt pitting Mackenzie Dern against Amanda Ribas, a lightweight battle matching Matt Frevola with Luis Pena and a middleweight confrontation slotting Eryk Anders opposite Gerald Meerschaert. ESPN+ will also carry the entire eight-fight undercard, starting at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT.