On Saturday night live on FOX, women’s strawweight fighters Randa “Quiet Storm” Markos and UFC newcomer Karolina Kowalkiewicz will open the card.
On the surface, this fight seems out of place on a card loaded with title contenders and household MMA names, including a title fight between lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos and fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
Markos and Kowalkiewicz were given a proper opportunity to shine on the main card, even when featherweight contenders and jiu-jitsu wizards Myles Jury and Charles Oliveira were still available. A guaranteed barnburner between Josh Samman and Tamdan McCrory would have made sense for the main card too.
It’s good to see the UFC values other female fighters outside its poster girls, seeing as Markos vs. Kowalkiewicz could present a dark-horse contender in the division. The fight itself could be a back-and-forth scrap.
Markos has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the chaotic women’s strawweight division. She was one of the 16 competitors on The Ultimate Fighter and was initially seeded third lowest. In spite of that, she upset undefeated contender Tecia Torres and submitted tough veteran Felice Herrig before losing a back-and-forth battle with finalist Rose Namajunas. Markos lost her UFC debut in another wild and entertaining affair with former title contender Jessica Penne, but rebounded in a hard-fought fashion against Aisling Daly five months later.
The Tristar Gym fighter is still a work in progress, but has the heart and explosiveness to be a solid contender at 115 pounds. She has a strong, albeit unpolished, wrestling game. She’s strong and can power her way out of positions or force an opponent to the ground despite a bad angle. Her weakness is she can overcommit and end up in bad positions or be prone to submissions.
Markos’ striking is a weapon. She has quick hands and stiff shots, which she throws in bunches whenever she chooses to swarm her opponent. Her defense needs fine tuning, as she can absorb strikes when she gets aggressive.
One thing is for certain with her: She brings the fight, and her compulsion to out-alpha her opponent from any position in the Octagon makes for a very active fight. She wasn’t picked to open the FOX show for no reason. She stands a good chance of setting the bar in lively fashion.
Her path to the UFC hasn’t been easy and fighting Kowalkiewicz, who has many similarities with her fight mentality, will only help solidify her resume.
Kowalkiewicz fights out of Poland. The Gracie Barra Lodz fighter has pretty solid boxing herself. She throws in combinations and isn’t against standing and trading in the pocket when necessary. She’s unbeaten, but this will be only her second pro fight outside Polish soil.
Her first fight in the U.S., Kowalkiewicz has previously defeated highly touted prospect Mizuki Inoue in a split decision. She negated Inoue’s wrestling and outstruck her. She also showed the ability to move a lot against Inuoe, which could force Markos all over the Octagon Saturday. Kowalkiewicz is strong in the clinch and throws knees, which could be an x-factor in this bout.
The strawweight division is heating up with contenders like Claudia Gadelha, Namajunas and Torres all knocking on champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s door. A victory for Markos or Kowalkiewicz could push them right onto that short list.
At the moment, neither fighter appears ready to challenge Jedrzejczyk, but this fight, which will be contested mostly on its feet, will provide greater insight on just how much further they have to go.