After a two year layoff and many retirement rumors, the boogeywoman of the women’s strawweight division returns to action after having signed a multi-year deal with the UFC. In her comeback, we will see her in one of the most anticipated rematches in women’s MMA history, as she will face former champ Zhang Weili during the UFC‘s first card in Singapore.
The Polish fighter has all the tools and skills to recapture gold, she is one of the most dominant strikers in all of women’s MMA and has more experience in high-pressure situations than most. As a fighter she has competed in MMA (16 wins) Kickboxing (27) and has been elite in both, she is 34 years old and as I mentioned it has been a lengthy layoff. Her rematch vs #1 ranked Weili is no small feat considering their first matchup left JJ with a massive hematoma that turned her head into a balloon (insert McGregor’s voice). Both former champs are on losing streaks as Zhang is currently 0-2 since her rivalry against Rose Namajunas.
Since leaving the sport Joanna has had her ranking taken from her, but the fact that she gets to cut the line in a sense should tell you that the UFC still has some hope in her as well as seeing the financial value that she can generate. The current champ Rose has already defeated JJ twice, but could we see her continue at strawweight or will she move back up to 125 if the opportunity arises? One thing that is for sure is that regardless of weight Joanna has more than enough options regardless of what division she is in.
A rematch vs Carla Esparza would be great considering JJ won her belt from her in a one-sided beating, but Carla is a much more well-rounded fighter than she was as a champ, another name that would make sense is that of Jessica Andrade who is not only was a champion but lost to Joanna in 2017, she recently competed and scored the first-ever standing arm triangle and is the #1 ranked contender at 125. Either way, Joanna looks to be reinvigorated and ready to roll, the 2-year layoff may be a career killer for most, but in her case, it feels like a breather rather than a death sentence.
Joanna is one of the most decorated fighters in all of MMA, she currently holds a record of 16-4 which includes winning the strawweight belt in 2015 and defending it an impressive 5 times. She has scored wins over fighters like Claudia Gadelha (2x), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (2x), Jessica Andrade, Tecia Torres and the Karate Hottie. She lost her belt to Rose Namajunas in dramatic fashion in one of the most memorable rivalries ever, while also moving up in weight and challenging Valentina Shevchenko in 2018. Her final bout before her 2 year hiatus was a fight of the night loss to then-champion Zhang Weili.