Sunday June 21st, 2015

Jędrzejczyk” is not the easiest surname to spell or pronounce. So the UFC strawweight belt holder wants to keep things simple for her fans, who are growing in number.

She’s fine with you calling her by a less tongue-twisty, more descriptive name: “Joanna Champion.” In fact, she prefers it.

Of course, in order to bear that moniker, one must live up to it. And on Saturday, in a title defense that headlined a UFC Fight Night at O2 World in Berlin, Joanna Jędrzejczyk put on a performance that not only was worthy of her adopted name but surely left linguistically inclined observers speculating that her middle name must be “Dominant.” Or “Untouchable.” Or “Merciless.”

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The 27-year-old Pole thoroughly battered Jessica Penne, bloodying and staggering the jiu-jitsu black belt from California with a relentless stream of fists, elbows, and shins for nearly 15 minutes before referee Marc Goddard mercifully stopped the fight at 4:22 of the third round.

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“And again and again and again! And still!” the exuberant champ said afterward in the cage. “And I’m going to be a champion for a while. Nobody is going to take this belt from me.”

It would be hard to argue with that after witnessing this blowout. Jędrzejczyk (10-0) was in charge from start to finish, stalking Penne (12-3) with a striking game honed in a 60-fight Muay Thai career, during which she was a five-time world champion. Just as the newest UFC weight division’s first champ, Carla Esparza, had failed to turn her March fight with Jędrzejczyk into a wrestling match (1 of 16 on takedowns), Penne also was unable to bring her jiu-jitsu game to the fore. The one-time Invicta FC 105-pound champion attempted 11 takedowns, and while she came close a few times, she did not finish any of them.

That kept the fight standing ... in Joanna Champion’s world.

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

​Jędrzejczyk was methodical and relentless, landing 162 strikes to Penne’s mere 28. She was accurate (66%) with her offense and evasive when her challenger flung leather in her general direction (30%). What was no less remarkable was her patience. Even as she was turning Penne’s face redder by the minute, most brutally with a short elbow to the bridge of the nose out of a second-round clinch that rocked Penne's world, Jędrzejczyk didn’t rush in. She could sense that victory was hers for the taking, but why rush the inevitable?

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Here’s where the unavoidable comparison to the UFC’s other female champion comes into play. Ronda Rousey displays her dominance in short snippets of brilliance—her last three bantamweight title defenses lasted 14 seconds, 16 seconds, and 66 seconds. That’s maximum efficiency for you. And according to “Rowdy Ronda,” it’s also something else. “When I finish people fast,” she told SiriusXM recently, “that’s me at my most merciful.”

By that standard, it’s abundantly clear that Jędrzejczyk has no mercy. In each of her last two fights—in which she won the belt, then defended it—she nullified her opponent’s game while dishing out a beatdown that perpetuated until the other fighter was broken and the referee had seen enough. That’s her brand of dominance. And while it’s far different from what Rousey does, Jędrzejczyk does have a fan in Rousey. 

That last part, with the hashtag, was the same question asked of Jędrzejczyk in the octagon after the fight, since strawweight is well stocked with potential challengers. Her answer: “Are they ready for me? No.”

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Jędrzejczyk is bursting with confidence, as well she should be. But there are challenges ahead. In six weeks, on the undercard of Rousey’s defense against Bethe Correia in Rio de Janeiro, there’s a strawweight bout between Cláudia Gadelha and Jessica Aguilar. Gadelha has a history with Jędrzejczyk. They fought to a split decision in December, which earned Jędrzejczyk her title shot. As for Aguilar, she’s a UFC debutante, but while reigning in the World Series of Fighting, she was considered by many the world’s top strawweight. So it makes sense that the winner of the UFC 190 showdown would be next in line for Jędrzejczyk.

Are they ready, though? Is anyone? The fans sure are ready to watch and not waste their time learning how to say “Jędrzejczyk.” It’s looking like “Joanna Champion” might be around for a while.

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