Why Jedrzejczyk's striking poses big problem for Waterson


A former strawweight champion and a popular veteran will both aim to get into title contention in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night main event, when Joanna Jedrzejczyk faces Michelle Waterson.

Jedrzejczyk will be competing in the UFC for the 13th time, but only for the fourth time without a title on the line. She has already built a historic career that has seen her land the seventh-most significant strikes in UFC history (1,345) and hold the third-longest average fight time (18:29).

Her longevity in the promotion is not the only thing that favors her on Saturday. Per the numbers, Jedrzejczyk will have several key advantages over Waterson in terms of striking. However, Waterson certainly has the tools and experience to pull off the upset, and she is coming off perhaps the biggest win of her career over former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz. The following statistical categories detail Jedrzejczyk’s edge in the striking game, but also describe Waterson’s path to a potential victory.

Striking differential

Jedrzejczyk may not have the aura of invincibility that she once had, but she still has some of the best striking numbers in the UFC. Her +3.30 striking differential is the sixth highest in the history of the promotion among fighters with at least five bouts. Jedrzejczyk’s success in terms of striking differential flows from her ability to land with volume while maintaining solid defense. In the UFC, she has landed 6.07 significant strikes per minute, which is well above the average for a ranked strawweight (4.68). She has also absorbed only 2.77 significant strikes per minute, which is behind only champion Zhang Weili (2.24) and Tatiana Suarez (1.45) among the same group.

Waterson (5-2) has not really been on the same level as Jedrzejczyk in terms of striking. She has landed fewer strikes per minute than Jedrzejczyk and absorbs slightly more. In her seven fights in the UFC, Waterson has landed 4.04 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 3.57, for a +0.47 differential. That measure is only ninth best among the top 16 strawweights.

Taking only striking numbers into account, this looks like a one-sided contest in favor of Jedrzejczyk. Even though Waterson has the moniker “The Karate Hottie,” she will need to find another way to attack Jedrzejczyk. She simply will not be able to outland the former champion over the course of a five-round fight without varying her tactics.

Distance striking

Not only will Waterson likely struggle when it comes to striking overall, but also her issues may be exaggerated in terms of distance striking. In the UFC, 81% of Jedrzejczyk’s landed significant strikes have come when standing and not in the clinch, compared to only 55% for Waterson.

At distance, Jedrzejczyk has landed 4.91 significant strikes per minute and only allows her opponents to land 2.20. On the other hand, Waterson’s significant strikes per minute rate falls all the way to 2.22 when including only distance strikes, and she absorbs 1.87 in the position.

One of the key elements of Jedrzejczyk’s distance striking has been her strikes to the legs. She lands 1.62 significant strikes to the leg, and she has landed at least 54 significant leg strikes in four of her 12 UFC fights.

Waterson will likely struggle to keep up with Jedrzejczyk at distance, and she will need to find a way to close the distance and get out of kicking range. If Jedrzejczyk is able to keep the fight at range, she will be able to keep her volume going and crank out a striking-based decision victory.

Striking output

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