Top-ranked women's Strawweight contenders Rose Namajunas (No. 3) and Karolina Kowalkiewicz (No. 5) locked horns tonight (Sat., July 30, 2016) in UFC 201's pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event inside Philips Arena in Atlanta, Ga., with the winner likely earning a future 115-pound title shot against division queenpin, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. And it looks like fight fans might get an all-Polish battle for the strap, as Kowalkiewicz earned a close split decision victory to likely set up a date with Jedrzejczyk down the road.
The action got off to a slow start, with both fighters looking to establish range and not over-commit too early. Namajunas landed a nice right hand two minutes into the first round as Kowalkiewicz chased her around the Octagon. Despite the pressure, Kowalkiewicz was seemingly unable to get close to Namajunas, who landed several counter punches, including a solid right, that did little to slow the Polish fighter's pace. Kowalkiewicz was finally able to trap Namajunas in a Muay Thai clinch, landing several hard, short elbows, knees punches before the pair ended up grappling on the canvas. Kowalkiewicz was able to take her back along the fence, but she ran out of time as the first frame came to a close.
Namajunas opened up the second with a quick one-two combination, which she followed up with an overhand right. Kowalkiewicz quickly went back to the Muay Thai well, drilling Namajunas with knees to the body -- and then an elbow to the face -- as "Thug" pressed her against the cage to avoid additional punishment. Kowalkiewicz continued her assault, though, as Namajunas attempted to get the fight to the ground. Unable to get it done, Namajunas attempted to take her back, standing, but Kowalkiewicz turned away and the pair went back to the center of the Octagon and started to exchange hard shots. Kowalkiewicz soon went back to the clinch and, in response, Namajunas once again pressed her agains the cage. Namajunas appeared winded, perhaps from the heavy diet of knees to the mid-section, which Kowalkiewicz landed early and often throughout the second stanza.
To start the third and final round, Kowalkiewicz had blood dripping down the center of her face, but it didn't appear to be serious. More knees from Kowalkiewicz and Namajunas quickly broke free -- she wanted nothing to do with that attack. Kowalkiewicz slammed home her left jab, looking to work her way in and get her hands locked behind Namajunas' neck. Namajunas landed a nice looping right hand, but an uppercut from Kowalkiewicz sent her face first into the canvas. Kowalkiewicz landed in her guard as Namajunas posted up for an armbar, then a leg lock, which never materialized. Kowalkiewicz stood up to land cleaner shots, giving Namajunas the opportunity to land a few nice up-kicks. Kowalkiewicz continued to be aggressive as Namajunas rolled for submissions that were all defended. As the fight came to a close, Namajunas got back to her feet and finished with a flurry, but it was a case of too little, too late.
Kowalkiewicz went on to win a very competitive split decision, scoring the upset and perhaps setting up an all-Polish women's title fight against Jedrzejczyk later this year.
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