Posted June 19, 2015 by Melanie Gale in News

UFC Berlin: Jessica Penne Goes After Joanna Jędrzejczyk’s Belt

Some folks scratched their heads and asked “Penne?” when it was announced Joanna Jędrzejczyk (9-0) would defend her strawweight title against veteran Jessica Penne (12-2) at UFC Berlin. Penne’s grappling is a thing of beauty, but many MMA watchers groaned at the thought of another one-sided beatdown like Joanna Champion’s title-grabbing fight with Carla Esparza (10-3) back in March.

But Jessica Penne isn’t Carla Esparza.jessica penne

She’s a slick grappler, the first Invicta Atomweight title holder, a kickboxer with a black belt in BJJ and judo skills. She was the first woman to fight for Bellator, and has roiled around the cage with the best of WMMA. She’s a good striker, a pro at following up combinations with lethal knees. She’s not afraid to bang it up in the clinch before tripping her opponent to change levels to where she really wants the fight: on the ground. Seven of her twelve professional wins have been by submission.

Penne has also earned her shot at the title. She’s ranked #3 in her division, and both #1 Esparza and #2 Cláudia Gadelha (12-1) have lost to Joanna Champion.

Jędrzejczyk roared into the UFC in July 2014 with a decision win over Juliana Lima (8-2), followed a few months later by a controversial split-decision win over Gadelha. Then, nine months after she had joined the UFC roster, she took the barely-dry strawweight title from Esparza.joannajedrzejczyk

Some people have scoffed that Jędrzejczyk isn’t as good as her hype, but I disagree. Is she the strawweight GOAT? Maybe. Doubtful. We’ll see. But that doesn’t matter. She is probably currently the most complete fighter across all WMMA divisions.

Her striking is crisp and targeted and supersonic, and so much fun to watch. Her takedown defense is terrific, and her ability to stand it up on the rare occasions a takedown succeeds is good enough. And she is just so fast. She’s a six-time Muay Thai champion with sixty fights to her name, and has the elbows and power to back that up.

It’s probable the winner of this fight will meet the victor of the highly-anticipated fight between Jessica Aguilar (19-4) and Cláudia Gadelha on August 1, so there’s a lot riding Saturday for both Jędrzejczyk and Penne. The biggest winner will be the fans, because a title fight with a combination of any of these four has a great chance of being the best WMMA fight of 2015.

What will happen tomorrow night?

Penne is one of the UFC atomstraws, so size may be an issue, but I don’t think it will be. Expect Penne to do everything she can to convert clinches to trips and submit Jędrzejczyk. The only way she’ll win this is by changing the level of the game. But Jędrzejczyk’s takedown defense is superb, and she stuffed every attempt Esparza made in their title fight.

If Penne’s takedown attempts are neutralized, she still has a chance if she can gas Jędrzejczyk enough. She’s also fast, and defending takedown attempts is tiring, and Penne has those kicks and knees. Penne will definitely put up much more of a fight than Esparza did, but heart and experience won’t be enough in this match up.

Joanna Champion will use her striking and elbows to inflict early major damage on Penne, and her heavy body shots in the clinch should stall Penne’s trip attempts. If she does get taken down, don’t expect her to stay there for very long, and expect her to inflict more damage on Penne on her way up.

It’s possible Penne will strip Joanne Champion of her honorific surname in Berlin, but it’s not probable. But she’ll leave everything she has in the Octagon like she always does.

Joanna Jędrzejczyk by TKO in the middle rounds.

UFC Berlin airs on Fight Pass, with prelims beginning at 3 pm ET/12 pm PT.


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Melanie Gale