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[UFC] Who’s Got Next? Strawweight implications of UFC 228

UFC 228 Saturday, September 8, 2018 in Dallas, TX will feature two one championship bout, between Tyron Woodley versus Darren Till, and Nicco Montano versus Valentina Schevchenko. The card will also help to clear up the Women’s Strawweight title picture with two other featured bouts.

Current UFC Strawweight Champion, Rose Namajunas has not fought since defeating long- reining ex-champion Joanna Jedzejczyk in their rematch at UFC 226 in Brooklyn, NY on April 7, 2018. Namajunas is currently recovering from a compression fracture in her neck as the rest of the division plays out. Although Jedzejczyk is the #1 ranked contender, another title rematch even after her recent win over #5 rank Tecia Torres is unlikely because of the dominance shown by Namajunas in both victories against her.

Leading contender, Jessica Andrade after her KO of Karolina Kowalkiewicz on September 8th, 2018

The leading contender for the next title shot comes in the form of #2 rank Jessica Andrade (Record 18-6-0) and #4 rank Karolina Kowalkiewicz (Record 12-2-0) who meet on the main card of UFC 228 this Saturday in Dallas, Texas. Both fighters are on two fight win streaks after coming up short in title contests. With new champion, Namajunas, at the helm, it gives them new life and a possible second shot at the belt. It was two years ago on UFC 201 when Kowalkiewicz won a close split decision victory versus a young up and coming Namajunas. If Kowalkiewicz is victorious Saturday, a sequel between the champion makes the most sense. However, beating Andrade is no guarantee for Kowalkiewicz. Andrade, a Brazilian, is an aggressive pressure fighter who looks to land heavy shots mixed with takedowns. For Kowalkiewicz, Poland’s other outstanding MMA fighter, to win she must be able to take advantage of her 2-inch arm reach advantage and 6-inch leg reach timing with counter punches and kicks. Something she wasn’t able to do against Brazilian Claudia Gadelha in a recent loss. The contrast in styles makes for a fight of the night candidate. If the main card fight serves as Namajunas’ next opponent, another fight may serve as the next opponent for Joanna Jedrzejczyk. As #6 rank ex-champion, Carla Esparza (Record 14-5-0) fights #9 rank season 23 winner of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Tatiana Suarez (Record 7-0-0). Suarez will face her stiffest competition since winning TUF. The first ever UFC Strawweight champion Esparza has impressed in her last three fights, winning two of them and losing a controversial decision to Claudia Gadelha. Despite this, the UFC looks to use her as the gate keeper of the division by matching her up with Suarez. Both fighters wrestling pedigree has brought them to the dance, but it may be the better striker who wins. Suarez has a noticeable 4-inch height advantage and 5-inch reach advantage over the former champion. If not for an injury that caused her to miss 16 months, Suarez may have already fought for the title. Esparza has been in this position before when she agreed to fight rising Strawweight prospect Cynthia Calvillo on December 30, 2017 at UFC 219. Her experience proved too much for Calvillo then and she now looks to put a halt to another rising contender the UFC wants to push. With a victory, Esparza will thrust herself in the title picture looking to take back the belt she won three and half years ago against Namajunas. If Suarez prevails the rest of the division will know, if they don’t already, that she is a force to be reckon with.

UFC Strawweight Champion, Rose Namajunas is now the hunted in the most competitive woman’s division in the organization. After Saturday night she won’t need to wonder any longer who her next challenger is as the rest of the division line up to pry the gold from her.

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