Ronda Rousey isn’t the only woman putting her title on the line at UFC 193 this weekend.
In addition to the “Rowdy” one’s bantamweight championship bout, UFC women’s strawweight titleholder Joanna Jedrzejczyk defends her crown against challenger Valerie Letourneau in Melbourne, Australia. The event airs Saturday night on the East Coast, but actually takes place on Sunday due to the time difference with the land Down Under.
It’s forgivable if the two women vying for the 115-pound crown are unfamiliar to you. The women’s strawweight division is the UFC’s newest, so here’s a primer on all the names worth knowing. For conveniences, they’ve been sorted into five descending categories based on standing in the division.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk (10-0, 4-0 UFC)
Jedrzejczyk was scarcely on the radar of most observers when the UFC announced it was adding this division, but picked apart inaugural champion Carla Esparza in March to take the division’s top spot.
Her superior kickboxing and impressive takedown defense have led to some violent clashes in her nascent UFC career. All four of her UFC wins have come against women appearing on this list, and she notched stoppages due to strikes in both of her championship victories.
Jessica Aguilar (15-5, 0-1), Carla Esparza (10-3, 1-1), Claudia Gadelha (13-1, 2-1)
Aguilar and Esparza represent the old guard in this division. Aguilar was ranked No. 1 for years before her 10-fight win streak was snapped by Gadelha in August. That streak also included a win over Esparza, whom herself was the Invicta FC champion when the UFC launched its division.
Gadelha was initially set to face the champ this weekend before being sidelined by injury. Beside the aforementioned win over Aguilar, the 26-year-old Gadelha’s only loss was by split decision to Jedrzejczyk last December.
Jessica Penne (12-3, 1-1), Tecia Torres (6-0, 2-0), Michelle Waterson (13-4, 1-0)
Penne is the last woman to challenge Jedrzejczyk for the title in June. The nine-year veteran isn’t likely to get a title shot for awhile, but she’s still a tough out.
Torres’ best work came in her pre-UFC career. While fighting in Invicta, she defeated Paige VanZant, Rose Namajunas and Felice Herrig. While unbeaten, she has yet to earn a finish in the cage.
Waterson in 2013 won the Invicta atomweight (105 pounds) championship from Penne, but lost the title last December. “The Karate Hottie” opted for a return to strawweight and won her UFC debut in July.
Joanne Calderwood (10-1, 2-1), Valerie Letourneau (8-3, 3-0), Randa Markos (5-2, 1-1), Maryna Moroz (6-1, 1-1), Rose Namajunas (3-2, 1-1), Paige VanZant (6-1, 3-0)
Markos, Moroz, Namajunas and VanZant are prospects, more or less. But in a young division, that still places make of them in the top 10. Namajunas and VanZant, in fact, will headline an event next month.
Calderwood was first scheduled to face VanZant before an injury forced her to withdraw. She was once considered a top five strawweight before a stunning loss to late replacement Moroz.
Letourneau won her first UFC bout at bantamweight before two straight wins at 115 pounds. The latest win, a decision over Moroz, propelled her into this weekend’s title fight. The three fighters to defeat her are all elite — bantamweights Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis in 2007 and Gadelha by split decision in 2012.
Best of the Rest
Heather Clark (7-4, 1-0), Aisling Daly (16-6, 2-1), Felice Herrig (10-6, 1-1), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (7-0, 0-0), Juliana Lima (8-2, 2-1)
Clark, Daly and Herrig are veterans, but at this point might be relegated to gatekeeper status.
Kowalkiewicz could rise fast. The newest signee on this list is scheduled to face Markos in December.
Lima got back on track after losing her octagon debut to Jedrzejczyk by winning two in a row. At 33, she may be running out of time to make a run in the sport.
Outside the Octagon
DeAnna Bennett (8-0, 0-0), Alexa Grasso (7-0, 0-0), Livia Renata Souza (8-0, 0-0)
Bennett and Souza are the best Invicta has to offer at present. While Souza is the champ, Bennett holds a victory over current UFC bantamweight contender Julianna Pena.
Grasso isn’t far off, and holds a victory over Japanese standout Mizuki Inoue.
Don’t be surprised if all three women show up in the octagon in the next year or two.