Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s Statistical Domination of UFC Strawweights
The UFC’s newest division scored the first ever European champion before even Conor McGregor’s dramatic victory at UFC 189. Joanna Jedrzejczyk has been on a tear, showing dominant aggression and lightning fast strikes that have overwhelmed her last two opponents while still standing. And in fact, when we look at the numbers for the Women’s Strawweight division to date, we see that the champ has been backing up her performances with solid stats.
Fight Metric’s Significant Strike is the basic unit measure of output in MMA, as it tends to correlate highly with fighter effectiveness and in success in a specific fight. For those who haven’t read the chapter on this in the “Fightnomics” book, just know that Significant Strikes are all strikes while standing at a distance, plus power strikes only in the clinch or on the ground. It excludes light (jab) strikes in the clinch or on the ground. They’re the strikes that do damage and help win a fight. Generally speaking, landing more often is good, and getting hit is bad. So that’s why Fight Metric tracks these two basic stats of Significant Strikes Landed and Absorbed per Minute for each fighter.
Let’s assess the young Strawweight division fighters on their performances to date. Some newer or unranked fighters with only one fight have been excluded. These fighters are ranked in the graphic below by the differential of Significant Strikes Landed per Minute minus Significant Strikes Absorbed per Minute. And right there at the top, outlanding opponents by 3.5 strikes per minute, every minute, is the current Champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. But how do the rest of these ladies stack up?
Click image to enlarge.
For more on these and other MMA performance metrics, get the book “Fightnomics.”
Leading the Pack
Fighters who land at the top of the list are getting it done consistently. Hit, and don’t be hit. Although we’re just a few fights into the evolution of this division, undefeated champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk is already dominating the competition on the statline. She’s among the more effective and highest paced strikers, but also tends to take minimal damage. Only Michelle Waterson took less damage, and that was just in one fight.
Jedrzejczyk has scored two of the three total TKO victories that have occurred in the division’s 25 fights to date, and she’s the only fighter with four UFC appearances. Her +3.5 differential score may not seem like a huge number, but it ranks among the highest of all UFC fighters. For perspective, Cain Velasquez is at 3.8, and Georges St-Pierre was a 2.4. The next closest among fighters with sufficient sample size is TJ Dillashaw at +3.1. Of course, we must point out that the nascence of the division, and therefore the still growing competitive forces, allows for a superlative fighter to better distance themselves from the rest of the pack. But right out of the gates, it’s no surprise that Jedrzejczyk is already turning heads.
Trying to Catch the Leader
But who else might have a shot to steal the belt back from Poland? Some interesting contenders include Joanna Calderwood, an early TUF favorite who competes this weekend at Fight Night 72. Though she has lost twice by submission, should she eventually earn a title shot she would certainly make for a more competitive striking matchup with the champ than recent opponents thanks to her blistering pace of output.
Another potential contender who would surely have the UFC’s support is Paige VanZant. She has more than doubled the Significant Strike damage compared to her opponents in her 2-0 UFC start.
Tecia Torres also makes a compelling striking matchup for the current champ, as Torres has performed similarly to VanZant, despite succumbing to superior submission artists in prior fights.
Still in the Race
The list of fighters who are still well above average includes No. 2 ranked Claudia Gadelha, who lost a spilt decision to the current champ, and is the only one of Jedrzejczyk’s opponents to still have a positive effectiveness score. A rematch could definitely be in her future.
Other notables, like newcomer Michelle Waterson, probably need a few more fights at Strawweight to determine contendership, but she already has a fair bit of support behind her.
Randa Markos has lost twice in TUF/UFC action, but only to highly ranked title contenders. Anyone with a strong wrestling base that can actually use it against the champ is a threat to the belt.
And it’s too bad the matchup this weekend between Bec Rawlings and Joanna Calderwood was scrapped due to injury, as it might have turned into a barnburner between two of the divisions highest paced strikers.
Several highly ranked fighters are low on the chart for different reasons. In the case of Jessica Penne and Carla Esparza, we have two grapplers who were severely outstruck on the feet by Jedrzejczyk in title fights, and have yet to rebound and build their fight history.
Another fan favorite, Rose Namajunas has only had one official UFC fight, and it was also a loss in a title fight – at that time to wrestler Carla Esparza. Rose Thug, along with Penne and Esparza should all creep back up the statline as they face less elite competition in their next outings.
Need to Get Back on the Track
Some fighters at the bottom of the list have taken a lot of damage in the UFC so far. That includes Alex Chambers, Seohee Ham, and Angela Magana, who are collectively 1-4 in the division inside the UFC. But it’s hard to dismiss these fighters given the talent they’ve faced, as all four losses came against ranked opponents.
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