LAS VEGAS – It’s easy to rave about Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s hands, because she’s clearly one of the finest strikers, male or female, in the UFC.
She peppered Claudia Gadelha on Friday with her hands, elbows, knees and feet, roaring from behind at the MGM Grand Garden to successfully defend her strawweight title going away.
Jedrzejczyk won a unanimous decision by scores of 48-46 twice and 48-45, largely because of her striking.
But her conditioning is what really sets her apart. Gadelha set a furious pace in the first two rounds on Friday, winning them on all three cards, and was in position to even their bitter rivalry at a fight apiece.
The fight changed dramatically in the third. Jedrzejczyk began avoiding the takedowns and landing her punches and took control of the fight. But she was breathing easily, as if she were out for a light run.
Gadelha was visibly tired in the third and couldn’t keep up the pace.
“I got tired,” she admitted.
Jedrzejczyk seemed to get stronger as Gadelha faded. And she fully impressed her boss.
UFC president Dana White raved about her, and particularly her ability to maintain her conditioning as the fight moved on.
“She is so bad ass,” White said. “Her pace picked up as the fight went into championship rounds [and] she got faster and stronger. Pound-for-pound, [she is the] best female fighter on Earth.
“Her killer instinct is ridiculous. When she thinks the fighter is hurt or tired, she turns it up.”
It would be hard to dispute White’s contention. She busted up Gadelha’s face and bloodied her nose and mouth. The strikes were powerful and they slowed Gadelha’s attack noticeably.
Jedrzejczyk, who hadn’t fought since November, said it’s because of her grueling training camps.
“I work so hard,” Jedrzejczyk said. “I do my conditioning for 10 or 15 rounds. I’m ready for anyone.”
Jedrzejczyk, who said “I’m happy I won,” sneered when she was asked if she felt she won the third round. Gadelha had said earlier that she felt she’d won the first three and lost the last two. That was also the opinion of a small but vocal group of fans on social media.
Jedrzejczyk didn’t see it the same way. She felt she swept the last three rounds.
It also left her filled with bravado. The win raised her MMA record to 12-0 and her UFC mark to 6-0. She seems to have lapped the field and no one is particularly close to her at this point.
“I want to retire undefeated and make all my dreams come true,” she said.
If she maintains the same level of conditioning, to go along with those lethal hands, she’s going to be difficult to beat.
Gadelha still hopes to get another shot, though she understands with two losses on her mark, it’s going to be a while.
Though Jedrzejczyk apologized to her in the cage for some of the ugly things she’d said during “The Ultimate Fighter,” Gadelha was in no mood to make nice.
“I respect Joanna as a person but I don’t respect her as an opponent,” she said. “I said that too many times. The reason I wanted to get this title is to show everybody how to be a real champion, very respectful.”
She may not be respectful, but there is no disputing that Jedrzejczyk is a real champion.
She’s a lethal mix of power, accuracy and quickness and could hold the belt for a long time.