Monday, October 3, 2022

Joanna Jedrzejczyk Could Make History at UFC 231, But No One Is Talking About It

Through 25 years of UFC history, there have only been five fighters to have held championship titles in two weight classes, five legends. All five of them are among the greatest fighters in MMA history. Randy Couture was the heavyweight and light heavyweight champion. BJ Penn held the welterweight and lightweight titles. Conor McGregor won the featherweight and lightweight titles. Georges St-Pierre held titles at welterweight and middleweight. And right now, Daniel Cormier is the heavyweight and light heavyweight champion. Considering there have been thousands of fighters who have stepped foot inside the Octagon, the fact these five men have held titles in two separate weight classes really shows how special an accomplishment it is.

While five men have had the opportunity to win two titles in the UFC, we haven’t yet seen a female fighter do the same thing. But this month there are two chances for that to happen. The UFC announced a few months ago that women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg would fight women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 232. We thought when that fight was announced that it would be Nunes who would be the first female fighter to have a chance to be a double champ in the UFC. But when the promotion needed a co-main event for UFC 231, another fighter jumped in front of the line to get the first crack at being the first woman to win two UFC belts. That’s none other than Joanna Jedrzejczyk, the former long-time women’s strawweight champion who takes on Valentina Shevchenko for the vacant flyweight title in the co-main event of UFC 231.

Jedrzejczyk has an amazing opportunity to put her name in the history books this weekend, but for whatever reason no one is talking about it. There are a few reasons why I think that’s the case. First and foremost, there aren’t many people who expect Jedrzejczyk to beat Shevchenko, and the betting odds have her as a considerable underdog to win the flyweight title. The fact Shevchenko beat Jedrzejczyk three times previously in Muay Thai and the fact she’s the bigger fighter make it seem like a long-shot for an upset to happen. But this is MMA, and we see upsets happen all the time. There weren’t many people who were picking Cormier to beat Stipe Miocic back at UFC 226, but he went in there and knocked him out. Yes, this is a tough stylistic matchup for Jedrzejczyk as Shevchenko should match her in the striking and have the better grappling, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility Jedrzejczyk wins. Imagine she does it? She’ll be back on top of the world again. Even though I think Shevchenko wins this fight, I’m still curious to see how it plays out.

What I think is a bigger problem is the UFC doing so many cards and that means stories like Jedrzejczyk becoming a double champion fly under the radar. Just last week we had two UFC cards that featured a number of highlight-reel finishes and amazing performances. But with 25 fights last weekend and then another 13 this weekend, you can see why some fights will fly under the radar. For whatever reason, this fight between Shevchenko and Jedrzejczyk is going unnoticed. That may change as we get closer to fight day, but it sure seems like this fight has taken a back burner. It’s not like the main event between Max Holloway and Brian Ortega is taking all the shine away, either. That’s an amazing fight, but even that matchup is flying under the radar.

This fight between Jedrzejczyk and Shevchenko isn’t getting the attention it deserves, but it’s a very intriguing matchup between two of the best female MMA fighters of all time. If we put a belt around each of their waists we could call this a superfight, and even without them being champions it still is in many ways. Shevchenko is the favorite to win this fight and all the pressure is on her to do so. But don’t count out Jedrzejczyk, because the prospect of making history is no doubt going to motivate her to no end, even if the world doesn’t notice it’s happening.

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