Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women's Strawweight standouts Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Valerie Letourneau will collide this Saturday (Nov. 14, 2015) at UFC 193 inside Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.
What can be said about Jedrzejczyk that hasn't already been repeated a few thousand times in pre-fight advertisement? Joanna "Champion" is undoubtedly the nastiest striker in women's mixed martial arts (WMMA), and she's been mauling her recent opponents.
Meanwhile, Letourneau's success has received less coverage, but she is undefeated in her new weight class. Plus, the Canadian is a talented striker in her own right.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both women:
Key Wins: Carla Esparza (UFC 185), Claudia Gadelha (UFC on FOX 13), Jessica Penne (UFC Fight Night 69)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: A veteran of 10 years worth of Muay Thai competition, Jedrzejczyk is an absolutely nasty striker. She pushes a high pace, stalking her opponent and constantly beating her down with a barrage of straight punches.
So far, she has finished four of her opponents via knockout, including both of her title victories.
In this bout, Jedrzejczyk is faced with an opponent who is fairly well-rounded, but also comes from a striking background. In short, that means while Letourneau may attempt a few takedowns to mix it up and keep Jedrzejczyk honest, she's unlikely to have the grappling necessary to bring Joanna "Champion" down to the mat.
Especially when you consider that two of the divisions better grapplers were brutalized for trying in Jedrzejczyk's most recent wins.
All in all, that means Jedrzejczyk should be able to employ her usual and devastating style of kickboxing. Against Letourneau -- one of the rare Strawweight fighters both longer and taller than Jedrzejczyk -- she should increase her pressure and attempt to work Letourneau into the fence, where her opponent's extra range will be meaningless.
In addition, this whole card in general is a massive opportunity for Jedrzejczyk to gain more exposure. Plenty of casual (read: Ronda Rousey) fans will be seeing her for the first time, and if Jedrzejczyk can savage her third opponent in a row, it will definitely win her a bigger following.
Key Wins: Maryna Moroz (UFC Fight Night 74), Jessica Rakoczy (UFC 186)
Key Losses: Claudia Gadelha (Wreck MMA: Road to Glory)
Keys to Victory: An American Top Team (ATT) representative and Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, Letourneau has grown rapidly in the last several years into a universally skilled martial artist. Additionally, Letourneau is known for her kickboxing, which carried her to victory over Moroz in her last bout.
Let's face it, Letourneau is definitely fighting an uphill battle here. More than a 20:1 underdog, the chances of Letourneau pulling off the victory are decidedly slim, even if she is a talented and crafty fighter.
Letourneau's biggest problem in this match up -- besides her opponent's vicious offense -- is that Joanna "Champion" has yet to display many weaknesses in the cage, as she's only had four UFC fights.
Since Letourneau doesn't really have a base to build from in that regard, she has to stick to what she knows best. In her last bout, Letourneau did a very nice job working the outside with a high volume of strikes and then countering her opponent when she tried to move in.
Letourneau should look to use the same strategy here, as she is the larger fighter. Plus, Letourneau has decent pop in her hands, and Jedrzejczyk is an aggressive fighter. It's not likely, but one hard counter shot could change the entire fight.
Bottom Line: Obviously any fight with a title on the line is important, but this bout will have more eyes on it than any woman's Strawweight fight ever has.
Fight fans -- and clearly the oddsmakers -- know just how good and dangerous Jedrzejczyk is, but this is a chance for her to make her dominance even more widespread. If Jedrzejczyk performs impressively in this bout, she could become a far more main stream fighter.
On the other hand, a loss would be devastating for the Polish striker. If she falls to Letourneau, it would likely mean that we -- the collective MMA community -- have jumped the gun on naming her the next unbeatable champion. She has, after all, only had 10 professional fights.
As is the case with an massive underdog, this is an equally large opportunity for Letourneau. Her opponent is seen as unstoppable and a victory would completely shake the division.
The more likely scenario is that Letourneau comes up short, and that leaves the 32 year old in an unpleasant position. At the moment, the 115-pound female division is wide open, so this is the time to make a title run and steal the belt. One year down the line, it may be far more difficult to earn another title shot.
At UFC 193, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Valerie Letourneau will scrap in the co-main event. Which woman will leave with the title?