Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Strawweight contenders Rose Namajunas and Karoline Kowalkiewicz dueled last night (July 30, 2016) at UFC 201 inside Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
Namajunas has impressed since her title loss. She’s picked up a trio of quality wins in that time and has shown major improvement, setting her up to earn a title shot last night. Meanwhile, Kowalkiewicz is undefeated as a professional and is the only other top Strawweight on a win streak. By shutting down her hyped up opponent, Kowalkiewicz could steal her momentum and make her own title run.
The fighters started out with a bit of a feeling out process, but Namajunas struck first with a pair of clean right hands. Working from the outside, Namajunas did a nice job of making her opponent miss with punches and landed some nice counters.
For most of the round, Namajunas made her opponent miss and landed the cleaner shots. She didn’t land a ton of punches or anything too significant, but she won the fight on the feet and scored a takedown to finish the round.
That’s a solid recipe for winning the round.
Kowalkiewicz found some success in the clinch in the first round, and she looked to start the second in similar fashion. Namajunas stabbed her with some counters at first, but Kowalkiewicz worked inside anyway and landed some hard elbows and knees.
After getting hammered in the clinch for a couple minutes, Namajunas escaped to the center and began smashing her opponent with punches. However, she jammed herself into the clinch once more and eat knees for her trouble.
Namajunas essentially handed the round away by choosing to spend so much time in the clinch, and it cost her conditioning as well.
Both women had some bounce back in their step to start the round, and Namajunas refrained from running into the clinch so often. Still, neither fighter was throwing or landing enough to take over, and it remained a very close contest.
At the halfway point in the round, Kowalkiewicz reversed a takedown and landed in her opponent’s guard. She didn’t do much from top position other than avoid the submission, but she did control her opponent until the end of the round.
All in all, it was a very close fight, but Kowalkiewicz took over in the second half and deserved the decision. In the end, two of the three judges decided that it was enough and awarded her the decision.
This fight definitely showed Kowalkiewicz’s strengths and weakness. On the outside, she’s a bit sloppy with her kickboxing techniques. However, she throws a ton of strikes regardless, and once she works her way inside, it’s a whole different beast.
Inside the clinch, Kowalkiewicz was extremely effective. She dug knees into her opponent’s body frequently, which really slowed Namajunas down and made her desperate. Additionally, Kowalkiewicz’s elbows very pretty damaging as well.
I don’t know how well that combination of skills will do her against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, but she’s earned her chance.
On the other hand, Namajunas definitely has a hole in her game. She’s a solid outside strike, but not the best. While she may be the division’s best submission fighter, she simply isn’t a skilled enough wrestler to consistently bring the fight to the mat and take advantage against the division’s best.
It cost her in this bout, and it very nearly cost her opposite Tecia Torres.
The bright side is that Namajunas is still quite young. There is definitely time for her to improve upon that area of her game. Unfortunately, she’s already in the elite of the division, so she’ll have to make those adjustments while fighting the top Strawweights in the world.
At UFC 201, Karolina Kowalkiewicz battled past Rose Namajunas in the co-main event. Can the Polish striker dethrone Joanna "Champion?"
For complete UFC 201: "Lawler vs Woodley" results and play-by-play, click HERE!