Back-to-back TKO victories. Dethroning the formerly No. 1-ranked fighter in their division. Undefeated professional records. Back-to-back victories that lasted a total of 30 seconds. If I listed those superlatives, you probably wouldn’t think I was talking about these two:
But that’s exactly who I’m talking about. UFC women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk and UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. Otherwise known as the two most dominant fighters in all of mixed martial arts.
Yeah, that’s right. I said it.
Most, if not all, of the champions in the big MMA organizations (UFC, Bellator and the World Series of Fighting) have displayed their dominance in various ways. UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson has cleaned out his division without ever really being in serious danger of losing his title. UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman defeated the formerly-thought-to-be-unbeatable Anderson Silva (twice) and recently demolished Vitor Belfort. Bellator lightweight champion Will Brooks proved his title win was no fluke, as he emphatically defeated former champion Michael Chandler in their rematch. WSOF lightweight champion Justin Gaethje batters challenger after challenger and shows he may be ready for a step up in competition. Even in Asia’s ONE FC, welterweight champion Ben Askren constantly proves that he’s among the best fighters in the world who aren’t currently fighting in America.
But as impressive as those guys are, their bodies of work do not match those of Jędrzejczyk and Rousey. I’ve already extolled Rousey’s accomplishments, and so has Sports Illustrated. So I’d like to focus on Jędrzejczyk. She really arrived in her second UFC fight, a close split-decision victory over Claudia Gadelha that some thought Gadelha might have won. But Jędrzejczyk left no doubt about who was the best when she absolutely battered former strawweight champion Carla Esparza at UFC 185 and won the title.
Jędrzejczyk defended her belt in even more emphatic fashion earlier this month on UFC’s Fight Pass card in Germany against Jessica Penne. Jędrzejczyk turned Penne into this:
That fight should have ended much sooner than the third-round TKO stoppage indicates. Jędrzejczyk engaged in target practice with Penne and landed her punches at will. In case fans weren’t convinced yet of Jędrzejczyk’s dominance, her most recent performance also led to her becoming only the third female UFC fighter to land an exclusive sponsorship deal with Reebok, joining fellow strawweight Paige VanZant and the aforementioned Rousey.
The fact that two women are so head-and-shoulders above their peers in their respective divisions and even receive pound-for-pound consideration represents a gigantic step forward for female athletes. The Women’s World Cup is going on right now in soccer, and ratings are up due partly to the presence of the U.S. team, which continues to be one of the more popular draws in the sport. Women athletes have come a long way from the days of participating in sports few, if any, people bothered watching.
Fighters like Rousey and Jędrzejczyk play a big role in that. Rousey’s endeavors outside the cage, such as modeling and acting, also bring more attention not just to MMA, but to female fighters as well. It’s only a matter of time before Jędrzejczyk joins Rousey as an ambassador of not just women’s MMA, but MMA as a whole.
It will be long overdue.
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