In preparation for UFC 237, we take a look at the top 10 strawweight fighters to grace the UFC’s Octagon.
1. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
🇵🇱. Zawsze w biało czerwonych barwach.⚪️🔴 Dumna z pochodzenia i szczęśliwa z reprezentowania naszej ojczyzny na arenie międzynarodowej.☝🏼 Dzień Flagi RP🇵🇱🦅 🇺🇸. Always wearing white and red colours!⚪️🔴 Proud of being Polish and happy to represent our country internationally.☝🏼Polish National Flag Day🇵🇱🦅 📸 @ufc 👸🏻 #polska #poland #dzienflagi #bialoczerwoni#bialoczerwoni
A post shared by Joanna Jedrzejczyk (@joannajedrzejczyk) on May 2, 2019 at 7:17am PDT
For everyone saying, “Why isn’t Rose #1? She beat Joanna twice,” I bring up one man; Chris Weidman. He beat Anderson Silva twice. Is he the greatest middleweight of all time? Okay then. For her two and a half year reign, Joanna Jedrzejczyk was not only the best striker in women’s MMA but considerably also the cleanest striker in all of MMA. There was an aura of invincibility around Joanna. She was transcending in her skillset, shipping back challengers Claudia Gadelha and Jessica Andrade, who nobody else in the division could even remotely figure out. Pair that with flair and the capability to sell her fights effectively, and she became one of Dana White’s favorite fighters. Although her reign finished in devastating fashion at the hands of Rose Namajunas, her dominance as UFC strawweight champion is still the greatest in women’s MMA history, better and more impressive than even that of Ronda Rousey’s.
2. Rose Namajunas
A post shared by Rose Namajunas (@rosenamajunas) on Sep 23, 2018 at 3:12pm PDT
The UFC’s current strawweight queen could have a legitimate argument for the number 1 spot on this list, just by the fact that she holds two wins over Joanna Jedrzejczyk. No other 115-pounder on Earth has been able to hold a torch to Joanna, at least as of yet. Namajunas has been a finisher ever since entering the UFC through The Ultimate Fighter. Outside of her losses to a much more seasoned Carla Esparza in The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale and a controversial split decision against Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Namajunas has delivered in the Octagon. She has finished four of her six opponents, with her most deadly weapon being her top game, specifically controlling her opponent’s back and utilizing her deadly rear naked choke. A win against Jessica Andrade at UFC 237, as well as another title defense or two, could very well give Rose the classification of being the UFC’s greatest strawweight.
3. Jessica Andrade
A post shared by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Jessica Andrade (@jessicammapro) on Sep 18, 2018 at 9:13am PDT
Prior to her drop down to strawweight, Jessica Andrade honed her skill at bantamweight, 20 pounds heavier, and found some success defeating the likes of Rosi Sexton, Sarah Moras, and future title challenger Raquel Pennington. However, due to her height disadvantage, Andrade made the move to 115 and hasn’t looked back since. Ever since dropping down to the strawweight division in 2016, Andrade has been one of the most feared contenders in any women’s division, due to her combination of constant forward pressure, incredible chin health, and power. So far, her only loss at strawweight has come to former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who was on an ungodly run at the time of their matchup. Since then, Andrade has taken another massive step forward, dominating Claudia Gadelha, outmuscling Tecia Torres, and flatlining Karolina Kowalkiewicz in her last three fights to set up her title bout with Rose Namajunas at UFC 237. A win over Namajunas and a title defense against Jedrzejczyk, to try and avenge her only strawweight loss, or another top contender, like the incredibly dangerous Tatiana Suarez, could give Andrade legendary status in all of women’s MMA.
4. Claudia Gadelha
Hello December!!! I f****** love you!!! So damn ready to do great things in this great moth!! Blessed kid from the jungle. Alô dezembro!! Eu sou completamente apaixonada por este mês!! Pronta pra fazer grandes coisas neste grande mês!! Sorriso de uma abençoada cabocla nordestina. Obrigada papai do céu, por tudo!!! #teamcg #proteinhouse #ufc231 #ufctoronto #socialanimal #professionalbadass #mymonth #birthdaymonth
A post shared by CG (@claudiagadelha) on Dec 1, 2018 at 9:57am PST
Not too long ago, Claudia Gadelha was considered one of the best non-champion fighters in the UFC. Her body of work included some of the sport’s most impressive strawweights, some of which had and some of which hadn’t been in the UFC, as Gadelha controlled both the Invicta FC strawweight and flyweight divisions. Since joining the UFC, Gadelha has become a consistent top contender and legitimate title threat. Her only professional losses have come by way of decision, two of which to former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in what were both very competitive, and almost controversially decided fights. Since the second Jedrzejczyk fight, Gadelha has suffered a bit of octagon inconsistency, trading wins and losses in her last four bouts. With a new champion, as well as new contenders emerging all the time, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Gadelha could find herself in yet another UFC championship event. Claudia is one of the naturally strongest fighters in the division, only being matched in raw strength by Jessica Andrade. She carries an immense amount of power that can end a fight in seconds, as well as possessing a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that has made her one of the most feared ground fighters in the division. If Gadelha could improve her gas tank and better manage her energy, the strawweight title is absolutely reachable.
5. Carla Esparza
A post shared by Carla (@carlaesparza1) on Apr 26, 2019 at 5:56am PDT
This is where it starts getting difficult. Many women could fit in this slot, but the tiebreaker goes to Carla Esparza, the UFC’s inaugural strawweight champion. Esparza won the championship by going through The Ultimate Fighter in 2014, where she rolled through the tournament as the top seed culminating with a submission win over Rose Namajunas in the finale to claim the belt. Esparza is a natural wrestler who established her pedigree in Invicta FC, where she became one of the most feared prospects the all-female promotion had ever produced. Since losing her belt to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2015, Esparza has been relatively inconsistent in the Octagon, holding a 5-4 record with a couple of controversial decision losses mixed in, against Randa Markos and Claudia Gadelha. At times, however, Esparza has still shown that skill set that earned her both the top seed on The Ultimate Fighter, and the UFC championship. While Esparza could improve her striking game, her wrestling is still revered by many of her opponents and despite the unfortunate results, she’s still established herself as a presence in the division.
6. Michelle Waterson
When you're not even sweating but you use a towel as a prop 😂😂😂 jk but for real, this was taken before we smashed some videos for our up coming project! Go to my fitness page @michellewatersonfitness for more insight on fitness and motivation!
A post shared by Michelle Waterson (@karatehottiemma) on Apr 8, 2019 at 12:57pm PDT
Too high on this list? Possibly, but that just goes to show how tough it gets to rank these ladies after the first few. So, at 6, we have Michelle Waterson, and while Waterson hasn’t really made a lot of noise with her performances, primarily being a decision fighter, her presence in the division can’t be denied. Waterson has been a fixture of the UFC top 10 for the vast majority of her UFC career. The former Invicta FC atomweight champion has carved a name for herself as a contender, defeating the likes of long-time threats like Felice Herrig, Cortney Casey, and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, all the while showing a well-rounded skill set mixing her karate and striking base (of course, her nickname is The Karate Hottie), and a deceptively elite ground game, with a dominant top presence and a slick guard. Waterson has struggled to live up to expectations when facing the higher ranked contenders, but given her recent form, The Karate Hottie may finally be starting to find her championship vitality.
7. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
A post shared by Karolina Kowalkiewicz Official (@karolinakowalkiewicz) on Mar 27, 2019 at 6:01pm PDT
An argument could be made for Karolina Kowalkiewicz to be as high as 5 on this list, due to her body of work when she joined the UFC and the impressive results that led to her getting a title shot in late 2016 against Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Karolina has garnered a reputation as being one of the fastest and more elusive strikers in the division; her Thai-point boxing style has given almost all of her opponents issues in the Octagon. She also has high-level takedown defense, which has come in handy in her bouts with Felice Herrig and Jodie Esquibel. The biggest criticism of Karolina is her body of work against higher-ranked competition. While she did defeat Rose Namajunas, albeit controversially, she struggled mightily against the likes of Jedrzejczyk, Claudia Gadelha, and Jessica Andrade, getting brutalized and finished by both Gadelha and Andrade. While Karolina has now somewhat taken the role of gatekeeper in the division, it’s not impossible to think a return to her original form is out of the question. A couple of wins could put her right back into the title conversation.
8. Tecia Torres
A post shared by Tecia Torres (@teciatorres) on Mar 1, 2019 at 11:11am PST
Similar to Karolina is Tecia Torres, another veteran of The Ultimate Fighter 20 and Invicta FC. Torres is known for the pressure and toughness she brings to each fight. Despite being at a height and reach disadvantage in almost every fight, she is very effective at closing the distance and landing with power shots at a high volume. Torres showed some success early in her octagon tenure but has fallen on hard times since, albeit against the top level of competition in the division. Torres currently sits on a three-fight losing streak against Jessica Andrade, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Weili Zhang. That’s a title challenger, the most dominant fighter in the division’s history, and one of the hottest prospects in the division currently. So, while Torres hasn’t found much success lately, her Octagon career has been, at the very least, above average. Torres currently holds a split record with current champion Rose Namajunas, having defeated her in Invicta FC and Namajunas winning the rematch in the UFC. She also holds wins over Felice Herrig (in Invicta), as well as sustained contenders Michelle Waterson and Angela Hill, among others. Similar to Kowalkiewicz, if Torres can string together a few wins, she could find herself back in the title picture very soon.
9. Tatiana Suarez
2018 was a great year. I want thank everyone who believes in me and supports me. I’m ready for another year and being able to do what I love the most. Im blessed to be able to live this life. The journey has just begun. 💕🙏🏽#2019 #ufcgoldcomingsoon #wmma #mma #ufc #strawweight #blessed
A post shared by Tatiana Suarez Padilla (@tatianasuarezufc) on Dec 31, 2018 at 1:19pm PST
If there was ever a candidate who could move to the top of this list at an exponential rate, it would have to be the currently unbeaten, Olympic-caliber wrestler Tatiana Suarez. Suarez joined the UFC through The Ultimate Fighter 23, where she was coached by Claudia Gadelha. Since winning the TUF 23 Finale and joining the UFC in 2016, Suarez has been a puzzle that nobody has been able to figure out. While her record is only 7-0, her incredibly high-level and high-pressure grappling attack has garnered her the nickname “Female Khabib.” Suarez has dominated all of her octagon opponents up to this point, with her biggest wins coming by way of dismantling high-profile prospect Alexa Grasso and following that up with a drubbing of former champion Carla Esparza. Many people believe that Suarez is already the uncrowned strawweight champion, as there appears to be little to no weakness in her game. A crisper striking attack would make Suarez virtually unbeatable. I have a feeling that by this time next year (May 2020), Suarez will be far higher on this list, if not at the very top.
10. Nina Ansaroff
A post shared by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Nina Ansaroff (@ninaansaroff) on Jan 4, 2019 at 11:52am PST
This one could’ve been a number of ladies, but the choice is Nina Ansaroff, in part due to her recent form, but also due to her underrated skill set. Ansaroff has created a reputation as being one of the toughest women in the strawweight division, withstanding early wars with Randa Markos and Claudia Gadelha to earn her two biggest wins to date. All of the sudden on a four-fight winning streak, Ansaroff now finds herself in legitimate title contention, and another high-profile win over the extremely high-level Tatiana Suarez at UFC 238 could solidify that title shot. Getting past Suarez will be the farthest thing from an easy task, but if she’s able to get the job done, a title shot will be expected, and Ansaroff could also be much higher on this list in no time.
With the strawweight division somewhat still in its infancy, even now being one of the promotion’s newer divisions, there are some names that deserve a little bit of recognition for either a respectable body of work so far, or the potential to have a real impact on the division moving forward.
Felice Herrig – One of the sport’s longtime representatives and a women’s MMA pioneer, a bit more Octagon consistency could see Herrig earn a spot on this list.
Randa Markos – The Ultimate Fighter 20 veteran is similar to Herrig, in that more consistency could see the relatively well rounded and scrappy Markos rise into the rankings.
Weili Zhang – I have a great feeling Zhang will be ranked on this list a year from now. She’s one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division, and with only three octagon appearances so far, the possibilities are endless for the current face of Chinese MMA.
Cynthia Calvillo – Another one of Dana White’s favorite up and comers, Calvillo has only one loss in her career so far. A finisher with a very slick ground game, a couple more top-10 wins would put Calvillo straight into title contention at strawweight.