UFC 193 will be cemented in time as the night that the legend of Ronda Rousey was squeezed dry in just under six minutes.
In short, the whole experience was weird. The nonexistent build up to the fight. The seemingly forced emotional exchange at the weigh-ins. The early energy dump. All of it. It was all part of this tumbling snowball of chaos and chance.
But as unworthy and unsatisfying as Rousey’s striking efforts were opposite a tactical Holly Holm this past Saturday in Melbourne, Australia, the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion wasn’t the only titleholder to encounter struggle.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who was thrust behind UFC 193’s main event in effort to mainstream her world-class striking, found it difficult at times to ward off the relentless Valerie Letourneau, who was competing in her first five-round fight of her career as the biggest underdog on the entire card.
Now while the “Polish Princess” touched up the Canadian a grand total of 220 times over five frames (a UFC title fight record), she seemed to be operating at a lesser level than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. She apparently lacked the killer instinct that transformed her reputation after finishing her last two title fights by vicious TKO.
Staggered and bloody, Letourneau remained in the pocket, meeting the champion at will. Jedrzejczyk, hesitant to duel nose-to-nose with her physically stronger adversary, advanced with caution. She played it safer than usual, stating after the fight that she expected the bout to last the full 25 minutes.
On a night decorated with the corpse of Rousey, another UFC champion failed to cash in under the scrutiny of the casual fight fan. Jedrzejczyk was anything but the perfected tornado she was made out to be, despite a formidable victory fueled by timely front kicks, splintering elbows in the clinch and infrequent combinations.
So where does that leave us? Is Jedrzejczyk as good as she was made out to be? Maybe Letourneau was a better contender than people thought, much like Holm?
Letourneau certainly put forth a greater effort than her mere average MMA resume would indicate, especially against a fighter as potent on the feet as Jedrzejczyk. But maybe it was the champ’s slightly reluctant display that helped level the playing field to a point.
Either way, Jedrzejczyk lost a little momentum at UFC 193. Her stock was intended to rise as a successor to big sister Rousey, but she still finds herself in search of superlative stardom entering 2016.
It may seem unfair considering the 28-year-old did what she needed to do in order to remain an undefeated champion, but she failed to take advantage of the openings Letourneau presented her. Openings that could have very well culminated with a patented Jedrzejczyk finish.
With all of the said, Jedrzejczyk has not lost her potential. She may have missed her biggest chance to catch the public eye, but her abilities speak for themselves. Equipped with speed, knockout power, pristine technique and mental toughness, she remains the division’s most worthy leader.
It should be noted that Letourneau is one of only three women in the weight class who reside at 5-foot-seven. Her length and natural power may have lent a hand in prohibiting Jedrzejczyk from teeing off like she usually would.
— theScore MMA (@theScoreMMA) November 6, 2015
Luckily for the champ, the core group of contenders crowding her doorstep fail to meet the same physical demeanor as Letourneau. Top title threats like Claudia Gadelha, Paige VanZant, Tecia Torres and Michelle Waterson are all less than 5-foot-4. That’s quite a difference in appearance, especially for a rangy striker like Jedrzejczyk who relies on positioning and timing to land her best flurries.
While Jedrzejczyk’s inability to avoid a decision at UFC 193 may have been yet another instance of superior matchmaking, she will have her chance to cut through murderer’s row and regain her promotional prowess early next year.