Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Strawweight scrappers Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Jodie Esquibel will collide this Saturday (Oct. 21, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 118 inside Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland.
After winning the opening 10 fights of her professional career, Kowalkiewicz first tasted defeat last year opposite divisional queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk. She looked to bounce back a few months but came up short once more, putting some pressure on “Polish Princess” to perform in her home country. Those with better memories than myself will remember Esquibel from a brief appearance on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). More recently, Esquibel has compiled a decent record in Invicta FC, competing mostly as an Atomweight.
This is a bizarre step up in competition for Esquibel, but let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Rose Namajunas (UFC 201), Randa Markos (UFC on FOX 17), Heather Jo Clark (UFC Fight Night 87), Mizuki Inoue (Invicta FC 9)
Key Losses: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 205), Claudia Gadelha (UFC 212)
Keys to Victory: Kowalkiewicz has proven to be a rather effective sprawl-and-brawl fighter. Unlike many of that style, Kowalkiewicz does her best work in the clinch, breaking down her foes with elbows and knees.
Sounds like a great way to beat up Esquibel.
Kowalkiewicz’s opponent is quite a bit smaller than her and without any technical advantages on paper, which leaves Kowalkiewicz free to approach the fight pretty much however she decides is best. The most violent aspect of her game is clinch work, and it has the best chance to produce a finish as well.
It’s not always complicated. Kowalkiewicz is the bigger, better and more experienced fighter, which usually adds up to a relatively easy victory.
Key Wins: DeAnna Bennett (Invicta FC 22), Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc (Invicta FC 9)
Key Losses: Alexa Grasso (Invicta FC 18), Alex Chambers (Invicta FC 5)
Keys to Victory: I’ll be completely honest, I watched a few fights, and I’m still not entirely sure what Esquibel is great at. She’s reasonably well-rounded and has a professional boxing background — admittedly with a record of 7-7 — but that doesn’t often shine through. Esquibel throws some hard power punches, but she also spends a lot of time in the clinch trying to force takedowns.
This is a rough match up for Esquibel. She winds up in the clinch quite a bit, and that’s not where anyone really wants to be opposite “KK,” particularly given the size disadvantage.
Realistically, Esquibel needs a finish to pull off the upset. Since knockouts from non-knockout artists are quite rare in the Strawweight division, I would normally recommend trying to jump on the back and strangle her foe like Gadelha did earlier this year.
Unfortunately, that leads her into the clinch, which is the worst-case scenario. In truth, Esquibel would be best advised to rely on that professional boxing experience and try to put her fist through Kowalkiewicz’s chin early.
Bottom Line: It’s something of a tune up fight for Kowalkwicz.
No offense to Esquibel, but at some point all the odds point to her being offered up as a sacrifice. Why else would UFC match her with a Top 5-ranked contender in her Octagon debut? Furthermore, the fight itself is taking place in Poland where Kowalkiewicz trains and resides. It’s pretty clear the organization is looking to return Kowalkiewicz to the win column and give the home crowd something to cheer for.
If Esquibel manages to buck that natural flow of things with a win, that’s a huge moment and she’s an instant contender. If not, she should receive a more reasonable opponent in her next bout.
As for Kowalkiewicz, a win returns her to the mix. Title contenders are few and far between at 115 pounds, meaning it won’t take more than a couple solid wins to earn a second title shot, especially since she already owns a win over the current title contender Rose Namajunas. That said, if Kowalkiewicz does come up short, it effectively erases her from the title picture and sets her back at the beginning.
At UFC Fight Night 118, Karolina Kowalkiewicz will welcome Jodie Esquibel to UFC. Which woman will have her hand raised in Gdansk?