November 14th, 2015 will be a historic night for the UFC as Melbourne, Australia will hold its first event for the MMA promotion in the form of UFC 193: Rousy vs Holm. The night holds host to two championship fights involving two of the most dominant fighters we have come to know, Ronda Rousey and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
For the series ‘Breaking down the Takedown’, I will be looking at very crucial co-main events as well as the main event itself. It should be no surprise that the first title fight of the night be a part of this breakdown examination series.
Breaking down the Takedown: Jedrzejczyk vs Letourneau
Joanna Jedrzejczyk will be defending her 115lb title for the second time against Canadian native Valerie Letourneau. The bout is being claimed to be another classic huge favorite vs even bigger underdog story in favor of Jedrzejczyk. Nevertheless, I will be looking at both fighter’s strengths, weaknesses and certain edges they possess before their meeting at UFC 193.
• 28 years old, 10-0 MMA record
• Current UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion
• 6x IFMA World Muay Thai Champion (5 Gold, 1 Silver)
While it is no surprise to the fans who are familiar with Jedrzejczyk, her strongest trait lies in her devastating striking. Her world class Muay Thai skills transition very well in the MMA world and have led her to championship gold in only ten fights as a professional. Her jab is used to set up her combos proficiently and almost with complete ease. A flurry displayed in her latest title defense against Jessica Penne resembled Chuck Liddell’s finishing combo of Tito Ortiz and had fans wanting only more. With her intense combos, fast hands and devastating accuracy, Joanna’s striking is without a doubt one of the best to grace the Octagon’s presence.
Over the course of her UFC career, Joanna has only been taken to the mat 9 times out of a total 58 attempts. Her impeccable takedown defense has allowed her to keep control of the fight and lead her to victory. A very crucial technique we have seen from Jedrzejczyk is the elbow during the sprawl to standup transition. She landed this technique a number of times against former champion Carla Esparza after her numerous failed takedown attempts. If Letourneau tries to take the fight to the mat, she had better be wary about these devastating strikes.
While this could technically fall under her striking strength, I personally feel that the ability to recognize and attack from different angles is a complete step up aside from just having a great striking pedigree. During her UFC debut fight against Juliana Lima, Jedrzejczyk showed her knowledge of getting past defense as Lima would occasionally change from a low guard to high guard trying to throw off Joanna’s strikes. Joanna would adjust and start looking for the right hand over the guard much like former UFC champion Chuck Liddell would do. Not only are her strikes fearful in bunches but with her accuracy and different angles, it can be a hard night for anyone wanting to stand toe-to-toe with her.
-Iron dulls Iron?
To date, Joanna Jedrzejczyk has only been shown stiff competition in the face of Claudia Gadelha, a fighter who moves forward almost as much as Joanna Jedrzejczyk does. It was only in this fight that I realized it seems when an opponent moves forward with her does she stiffen up slightly when looking for counters. It appears that counter striking may be the path to place Jedrzejczyk on when engaged in a fight, however, this can be dangerous in itself with her elite striking. It’s not a huge hole in her game and we can expect she has only gotten better since the 2014 meeting. Time and Letourneau will tell.
-Lack of Weakness
Hear me out on this one. We all know a champion or a fighter that is so good they seem almost invincible and not a single weakness can be seen, and when that time comes in a fighters career it is the crossroad from being a great fighter to being one of the all-time greats. A fighter can either take it upon themselves to advance in every aspect or wait until their weakness is exposed and proceed to work on it at a later time. Joanna Jedrzejczyk is at that point of her young career and on Saturday we will be able to see if she has the mindset of a champion instead of an ordinary great fighter.
The attribute that instantly sold me on Joanna was her mentality and the ‘I will win. I will be champion’ attitude. Going into her fight with Esparza most people had never heard (or pronounce it for that matter) of Jedrzejczyk. They saw only a woman who enjoyed what she did and knew she would be the best on any given day. She had no doubt that she would step into the cage, stare Carla straight in the eye and beat her in every way to claim what she was already calling ‘my championship’. With this mentality it can be almost impossible to beat her as she is willing to dig deep even if her body disagrees and do what it takes to go home with the belt still around her waist.
Letourneau’s striking arsenal may seem at the very least basic to most people, but with her boxing background it certainly shows that she has a very clean counter in her left hand. During her fights with Elizabeth Phillips as well as Jessica Rakoczy, she displayed how effective the left hand can be in a standup exchange. Her jab is straight, crisp and fast and her left check hook is thrown with excellent technique that if Joanna shows up slow or sloppy in a brawl it could end up costing her a few points either on the judge’s scorecards or by possibly losing her title.
Most fighters will obviously disengage from their opponent if they are taken away from their comfort zone. With Letourneau, it seems like she is willing to engage in almost every aspect without a second thought. If the fight is taken to the ground she starts working for submissions, if the fight doesn’t seem to be going her way on the feet, she tightens her technique down and keeps moving forward, if her opponent wants to grind out a fight in the clinch she works her ATT camp style and pushes just as hard. Her fight with Elizabeth Phillips was a testament to this as even though suffering a gigantic bruise in the early rounds she was still game to fight back on the feet.
In all of her bouts, Letourneau hasn’t shown that she is one to take one the duty of dictating where the fight goes. She normally follows the flow of the fight and works from there, which can be a gigantic problem in her upcoming title bout. Should Joanna be allowed to take the pace of the fight, Valerie will be in for one of the most grueling fights of her life.
-Finishing the Fight
All 3 of Letourneau’s UFC career wins have come by way of decision, and gives me the conclusion that maybe the Canadian boxer just isn’t a finisher which is by all means fine. What this presents however is a flaw that may end up costing her ever obtaining a title in such a competitive promotion such as the UFC. It is a very dog eat dog world in MMA and having a sense of finishing fights is very crucial to keep a top spot in any division.
Valerie Letourneau is coming out of American Top Team, a very historic fight camp and one that has seen its own Cinderella story in the form of their first and current champion Robbie Lawler. Coming out of such a camp overflowing with veteran fighters can really give one the mental edge when heading into a tough fight. Training with a champion gives you the inside look at what It means to dig deep to win it all and do what needs to be done to come home a champion.
Both women have a very strong sense of passion and heart when it comes to the sport and both are always willing to show that when the cage door closes. With Joanna’s elite striking as explosive hands coupled together with Letourneau’s willingness to engage wherever the fight takes place, it has all the ingredients make an instant classic for such a young division and set the bar high for future strawweights to come. The two women are set to clash November 14th, 2015 from Melbourne, Australia as the world’s largest MMA promotion presents UFC 193: Rousey vs Holm.