Vanessa Demopoulos (9-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC) will look to add a former strawweight title challenger to her resume when she takes on Karolina Kowalkiewicz (14-7 MMA, 7-7 UFC) at the UFC event scheduled for May 20 in Las Vegas.
“I’m very excited that I get to have this fight,” Demopoulos told MMASucka. “I’m really looking forward to it. She was once a title contender. She’s had some very amazing moments in the UFC, and then she has kind of come back from adversity. It’s been a great run for her, and I’m really happy to have her as an opponent.”
Kowalkiewicz fell short against then-UFC strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk in an all-Poland showdown at UFC 205. She has fought a who’s who at strawweight: former champions Jedrzejczyk, Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade, current flyweight champion Alexa Grasso, the expected next strawweight title challenger in Yan Xiaonan, and former title challengers Claudia Gadelha and Jessica Penne.
Demopoulos, while eager to face someone of Kowalkiewicz’s experience, said her opponent is not someone she looked up to.
“When her name came across my desk, it was very much, ‘I know who she is and I’m looking forward to fighting her,’ but she’s not somebody who I had on a pedestal by any means,” Demopoulos said.
“Lil Monster” has dispatched former Invicta atomweight champion Jinh Yu Frey, Silvana Gomez Juarez and Maria Oliveira. She plans to add Kowalkiewicz’s name to her list of victims.
“I’m finishing this. How? You guys just need to watch and find out. But, yes, I’m finishing this fight.”
Demopoulos feels she has a clear strength advantage over Kowalkiewicz. While Kowalkiewicz holds a 4.5-inch reach advantage, Demopoulos pointed out that Oliveira had a 9.5-inch reach advantage.
“That definitely did not make a difference,” Demopoulos said. “She was also a striker, my last opponent. I believe I knocked her out in the second round. I just kept hitting her and she woke up with enough time to continue the fight. I’m not intimidated by any sort of reach advantage. I’m pretty short, so most people have a reach advantage on me.”
Demopoulos secured a unanimous decision win over Oliveira, bringing her current winning streak to three.
While Kowalkiewicz is no longer ranked, Demopoulos believes a win over her would propel her into the top-15 of strawweight, as she would be 4-0 in her last four. At the very least, it should get her a date against a top-15 foe.
“I’m ready to start climbing and start becoming something in the UFC,” she said. “Larger than what I am. I want to start fighting in front of crowds. I want to really start breaking for that title shot myself. I am on the rise right now. I’m looking forward to creating greatness and doing that in the UFC.”
Demopoulos burst onto the scene with an exciting armbar win over Gomez Juarez. The ball of energy has since become known for her signature celebration: jumping into the arms of whoever interviews her in the Octagon post-victory, be it Michael Bisping or Joe Rogan.
She is 3-0 since quitting her job as an exotic dancer – one she had for roughly 15 years.
Since then, “Lil Monster” has been fully focused on fighting. No side hobbies or side hustles, she said.
“Fighting is all I think about. It’s all I do. It’s what I live, breathe and eat. I get to come home and actually relax and cook my food and prepare myself, prepare my body, prepare my mind. Spend time meditating. Spend more time recovering. Because I have that time luxury now, versus before when I was working as an entertainer, it was essentially me training three to four times a day and then also getting a whole other six-hour cardio session in at night time and sleeping maybe four to five hours, waking up, and training more. That was very, very grueling, previously. I was definitely burning the candle at both ends. Now I am actually a fueled fighter. I am fully rested. It’s just been a very dangerous game for everyone else because of that.”
Demopoulos now spends more mental fortitude on fighting rather than trying to split her time and energy between that and dancing.
Her sole focus being on MMA has caused her mental game to skyrocket, which she can then use for learning techniques and sharpening skillsets.
Demopoulos considers herself very well-rounded.
“I have very good striking. I am a blackbelt in jiu-jitsu but I am specifically a submission artist. So I have knockout power and a high submission rate. It’s pretty intimidating, I would say, to be standing across from me. At least I would hope so.”
She will look to put her skills to the test against Kowalkiewicz at the UFC APEX on March 20. The card is set to air on ESPN+.
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