Former UFC strawwweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk retired after her UFC 275 bout, but her career will continue to motivate female fighters of all stripes.
Jędrzejczyk (16-5-0) retired after a TKO rematch loss to former champion Zhang Weili and in the post-fight press conference, declared that it was “time to full enjoy my life.” Well, now it’s time to take a look back at some key bouts in the future UFC Hall of Famers career.
These fights were important or crucial in Jędrzejczyk’s career beyond obvious title implications. Shall we?
1. CLAUDIA GADELHA VS. JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK – UFC ON FOX 13 DECEMBER 2014
This was Joanna’s first matchup with Brazilian Claudia Gadelha and the two would become bitter rivals. They also had contrasting styles that made their fights interesting.
Joanna had her unique Muay Thai striking style, while Gadelha used grappling and takedowns to drag her opponents to the mat. Joanna won a narrow split-decision, which helped set up the title fight with Carla Esparza, but they would fight again.
2. JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK VS. CLAUDIA GADELHA – TUF 23 FINALE DECEMBER 2016
TUF 23 was one of the most interesting seasons, primarily because of Jedrzekczyk and Gadelha. JJ tried hard to ruffle the feathers of Gadelha but the success of Team Gadelha in the show ended up blowing Joanna’s top.
Then, we had the rematch in which Gadelha started off fast, taking JJ down and looking like she would coast to a decision. Jedrzejczyk mustered all she could to get off the deck and fend off Gadelha with her trademark striking to retain the title with a hard-fought decision victory.
It was a great fight for MMA and helped bring WMMA, to another level in the post-Ronda Rousey era. Perhaps one day, this fight will enter the UFC Hall of Fame.
3. JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK VS. KAROLINA KOWALKIEWICZ – UFC 205 NOVEMBER 2016
Joanna’s next bout was a Polish affair. A title bout between two of the best strawweights in the world who were both Polish. Kowalkiewicz at the time was an undefeated phenom whose dynamic striking and all-around personality catapulted her into a title shot in just her fourth octagon bout. Naturally, there were a lot of people looking at this one to see who reign supreme.
When the dust cleared, Joanna took a clear decision. Kowalkiewicz would go on to lose to Jędrzejczyk’s rival, Claudia Gadelha in her next bout. This contest settled who had Poland bragging rights.
4. ROSE NAMAJUNAS VS. JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK II – UFC 223 APRIL 2018
By this time, the shock of Rose’s TKO victory back at UFC 217 in November 2017 had almost worn off and there was a sense that a healthy Joanna would regain the title. But, it was not to be. Rose ushered in the Namajunas Era by destroying the mystique of the woman who had ruled the division with a feared iron fist with a clear decision victory. After this fight, Joanna would struggle to make it back into the title picture and explore other options.
5. VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO VS. JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK – UFC 231 DECEMBER 2018
These two met previously in Muay Thai but now the question was if Joanna could go in short notice at 125 pounds and unseat Valentina, who was enjoying some mystique and dominance of her own at flyweight. Surely, it would be Joanna to become the first female UFC two-division champion even though she was the smaller fighter physically.
Jędrzejczyk fell short in losing a decision, but put in a good performance to remind everyone she was still a great fighter. It helped restore some respect and lustre after the two losses to Namajunas. Ironically, Amanda Nunes at UFC 232 later that month became the UFC’s first female two-division champion when as bantamweight champ, she defeated Cris Cyborg for the featherweight crown.
ZHANG WEILI VS. JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK – UFC 248 MARCH 2020
This one is special for many reasons. It is considered by many fans and experts as the great female UFC bout of all time. The immense amount of strikes and action lifted the sport of MMA and the status of both women. Despite Jedrzejczyk falling short of the title with a split-decision loss, the fight helped set up what we saw Saturday at UFC 275.
So now, Joanna rides off into the sunset with her UFC legacy. She said she would like to still be around the sport, so perhaps we will see her as a coach, or a commentator or something like that. At any rate, no one can deny the impact that Joanna Jędrzejczyk had on combat sports and in particular, the UFC.