UFC 185 continues the streak of strong UFC PPV cards for the promotion in 2015, and in the co-main event of the evening this Saturday, newly crowned women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza will defend her title for the first time against noted striker Joanna Jedrzejczyk. It’s a classic wrestler vs. striker match-up in the first ever women’s strawweight title defence in the UFC, and it could turn into a fantastic five rounds or less of action in the cage.

Esparza established herself as Invicta MMA’s strawweight champion, and on The Ultimate Fighter 20, running the gauntlet to win the title. For Jedrzejczyk, the Polish fighter whose name even Dana White has struggled to pronounce, this is really her first big fight — a fact that brings all sorts of complications with it. How will she handle the spotlight? Will there be any big-fight jitters? Is she ready, or is this a case of too much, too soon?

Undefeated in her pro MMA career at 8-0, Jedrzejczyk, simply put, has the best record of any potential challengers in the UFC strawweight division at the moment. Because she debuted in the cage while the tournament to crown a champion in the division was still ongoing, she in essence got a head start as a challenger over the girls in the TUF house, compiling a 2-0 record in the UFC while TUF was still playing out, with wins over Julianna Lima and Cláudia Gadelha (prior to her UFC debut, her last win was over former UFC fighter Rosi Sexton, in Sexton’s final bout).

Esparza, however, is in another league. She showed that on TUF, and in defeating Rose Namajunas in the final.

So what are Jedrzejczyk’s keys to victory?

Maintain Focus, Win The Mental Game

As mentioned, this is Jedrzejczyk’s first big fight. While it’s not her octagon debut, she may feel the butterflies on her way to the octagon. She no doubt has heard about the odds, heard about Esparza’s dominant wrestling, watched the tapes, yet come fight time, she needs to find serenity. Calm, cool, and collected is going to be the only way to overcome Esparza, who is not unbeatable: she has fallen in the past to both Megumi Fumi and Jessica Aguilar.

Keep The Fight Standing

This is probably the most obvious key to victory for Joanna Jedrzejczyk: as much as possible, she needs to keep this fight standing. Hopefully, she has spent the months leading up to this bout shoring up her takedown defence. Escapes, and working her way back to her feet, will also be key. It is highly unlikely that she will stuff all Esparza’s takedown attempts and stay off her back completely, but as much as possible, she needs to make this a stand-up war, where she has a clear advantage.

Be Prepared To Go The Distance

Carla Esparza has gone twenty-five minutes before, against Bec Rawlings back at Invicta FC 4. Jedrzejczyk has not, though she has gone the full 15 minutes several times. With Esparza having only been stopped twice, and never by KO/TKO, if the Polish striker is to pull off the upset here, she’ll likely need to go the distance and take the bout on points.

It would be a huge upset — but there is a chance Jedrzejczyk could be Joanna Champion, should she execute the right game plan.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.