After her dominant win over inaugural UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza, is it too early to compare Joanna Jędrzejczyk to current UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey? Will the UFC strawweight division even boast a champion as dominant as Rousey? Despite appearing to overmatch her opponent in every facet of mixed martial arts, fans and pundits alike should be cautious when anointing Jędrzejczyk as the next Rousey. Along with it being too early in the career of Jędrzejczyk to make such a boast, the 115-pound women’s division appears to have no lack of contenders, something that cannot be said of the 135-pound division. But, most importantly, there only a few athletes that can achieve such dominance in their careers. For every Jon Jones, there are a dozen Lyoto Machidas.
Everyone remembers the “Machida Era,” right? It was supposed to last for a thousand generations, wasn’t it? How’d that work out?
Anyone thinking that Jędrzejczyk is the next Rousey would do well to remember the aforementioned proclamations about Machida. When the Brazilian defeated Rashad Evans for the light heavyweight title, we were all told how we had entered into a new era of MMA dominance, and that we’d better get used to it. In the end, the “Machida Era” lasted one title defense before it came crashing down in spectacular fashion due to a strong overhand from Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
Before we crown someone the next Anderson Silva or Georges St-Pierre, said athlete needs to prove capable of dominating his or her opponents on a consistent basis. One overwhelming victory does not make you Fedor Emelianenko.
The good news for Jędrzejczyk is that she now sits atop a division that has the depth to push her into the rare air occupied by Rousey if she continues to win on a consistent basis. The UFC added the women’s bantamweight division solely to capitalize on the popularity and talent of Rousey, but it lacked the depth to give Rousey a long line of elite challengers. When the company chose to add a second women’s division, it correctly selected the division with the most overall depth. Joanne Calderwood, Claudia Gadelha, Rose Namajunas, Jessica Penne, Tecia Torres and former champion Carla Esparza all possess championship-level talent. If Jędrzejczyk were to defeat all of them over the next few years, comparing her to Rousey or any of the dominant male champions would be hard to argue.
Consistent domination in the world of mixed martial arts is a rare and beautiful thing, and we should remember its rarity every time a new champion is crowned. Machida is an elite mixed martial artist, but Jon Jones is a step above even him. It takes a special athlete to defeat challengers to your throne on a consistent basis. There have only been a small handful to ever stalk the cage. So before we jump to declare the start of a new era, perhaps we should allow the athlete the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of the proclamation. Only time will tell if Jędrzejczyk is a Machida or a Jones. In the meantime, we should simply enjoy the ride.