After Sundays fights and Alexander Gustafssons brilliant performance against Glover Teixeira, the UFC is back with more action with a robust card in Rio de Janiero. While the main event features two of the top featherweights in the world, the co-main event offers up some strawweight action as two former title challengers square off. Claudia Gadelha versus Karoline Kowalkiewicz has all the makings of fight of the night written all over it. Both women fight at a high pace with their own individual strengths and weaknesses. Its a nice style clash that should offer up some interesting results.
Claudia Gadelha missed her opportunity to become the third strawweight champion as she lost her grudge match to Joanna Jedrzejczyk last July at the TUF 23 finale. Since then shes made a few changes to her training, the biggest of which was a shift in camps. She left Nova Uniao and relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico at the Jackson-Winklejohn gym. There, she has hoped to improve upon her style which is a nice mash up of hard nosed Muay Thai, wrestling, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Gadelha has always excelled in grappling and did well in her rematch against Jedrzejczyk in the early goings before fatigue set in.
Shell once again want to rely on her grappling skills in this match up as Kowalkiewicz is a fighter who thrives on battling things out on the feet. Gadelhas striking is sound and is arguably on par if not more technical than her opponents approach, yet she does have a tendency to brawl and remain stationary when throwing strikes. Instead, Gadelha should want to entice her opponent into a brawl then surprise her with a reactive double leg takedown. From there, Gadelha should look to ride things out in half guard, defend the underhook, and land ground and pound to her hearts content. Playing around in full guard and mount is certainly an option, but Kowalkiewicz is savvy and isnt afraid to throw up submission. Softening her up should be Gadelhas priority before hunting for submissions.
On the flip side of things we have Karolina Kowalkiewicz who could be one of my favorite female fighters in the game today. While Joanna Jedrzejczyk may be the queen of technical skill, Jessica Andrade the queen of ferociousness, and Claudia Gadelha the queen of grappling, Karolina Kowalkiewicz is the queen dirty fighting in strawweight division. That is neither a reference to her cleanliness or an allegation of cheating, but rather her ability to take fights where she wants them and excel in close in combat, particularly the clinch.
While she came up short against the champion at UFC 205 due to being picked apart from the outside, Karolina Kowalkiewicz proved that she wont stop moving forward. But shell want to control her aggression in this bout as Claudia Gadelha is likely looking for an opportunity to put Kowalkiewicz on her back. Rather than resorting to her blitzing style of attack, Karolina should look to throw jabs, straights, and front kicks to keep Gadelha at bay. She also needs to keep her feet moving laterally in hopes of avoiding the takedown. If she is taken to mat however she should look to get the cage, wall walk, then use the opportunity to battle inside the clinch. Barring that, the occasional 2-1 blitz could be a nice way to close the distance and get into clinch territory.
Who wins this battle of strawweight contenders?