Je­drze­jczyk looks to al­ter his­tory

Calgary Sun - - SPORTS - DAVE HILSON Post­media Net­work dhil­[email protected]­media.com @dav­e_hil­son

You know that old pearl of wis­dom about peo­ple not learn­ing from his­tory be­ing doomed to re­peat it?

Well, Joanna Je­drze­jczyk is likely hop­ing she's not one of those peo­ple.

You see, the Pol­ish fighter has a lit­tle bit of his­tory with Valentina Shevchenko, the woman she is step­ping into the oc­tagon with on Satur­day night at UFC 231 in what prom­ises to be an ac­tion­packed slugfest.

“I know Valentina Shevchenko, we are go­ing to put on one of the great­est fights in women's MMA his­tory,” Je­drze­jczyk said this week.

Though it was a decade ago, the two have squared off, early in their mixed martial arts ca­reers when they were both highly ranked Muay Thai spe­cial­ists.

And the re­sults were not favourable for Je­drze­jczyk: Three bouts, in 2006, '07 and '08, and three losses.

Now, Je­drze­jczyk will get an­other crack at the Kyr­gyzs­tan fighter.

For the first time in their ca­reers, the pair will be bat­tling it out in the UFC, this time in the co-main event for the women's fly­weight ti­tle, the 125-pound belt hav­ing been stripped from in­au­gu­ral champ Nicco Mon­tano for fail­ing to make weight at UFC 228, where she was sup­posed to de­fend against Shevchenko.

Though Je­drze­jczyk's losses came a long time ago, the for­mer strawweight queen, who no doubt will be seek­ing a lit­tle re­demp­tion, likely hopes she has learned from the past.

“I took a les­son and I know her good sides and bad sides,” said Je­drze­jczyk, who will be par­tic­i­pat­ing in her record-break­ing ninth UFC ti­tle fight, sur­pass­ing the mark set by Rhonda Rousey. “She hasn't changed her game that much. Of course, it's MMA and not Muay Thai, so we have more op­tions now.

“You know, it's all about be­ing smart and stick­ing to a plan. Of course, you have to take the fight sec­ond by sec­ond and I must do what I do best.”

The ques­tion is, will she be able to do it against Shevchenko, a woman she al­ready knows is ca­pa­ble of beat­ing her?

“It was a decade ago, so I don't look back, I look for­ward,” Je­drze­jczyk said. “I take a les­son from ev­ery sin­gle day, from ev­ery mo­ment but I want to step for­ward. I know how I have changed over the last decade. The UFC is my field, the oc­tagon is my field, I've been in so many cham­pi­onship fights, I'm just a gifted fighter in great con­di­tion. I could do this over and over all day long.”

Shevchenko doesn't agree that it's all just an­cient his­tory, that Je­drze­jczyk has com­pletely for­got­ten about those losses.

“She can say the losses don't af­fect her, but they af­fect her,” Shevchenko said. “Some­times what fighters say is dif­fer­ent than what's go­ing on in­side. The ex­pe­ri­ence I got from those fights, will help me win this fight.”

When Je­drze­jczyk was rul­ing the strawweight divi­sion for al­most three years, she de­fended her ti­tle five times be­fore be­ing KO'd by Rose Na­ma­ju­nas in Novem­ber 2017 at UFC 217 and then bat­tling all the way to a five-round unan­i­mous de­ci­sion loss to Na­ma­ju­nas, once again, at UFC 223 in April.

Now Je­drze­jczyk is try­ing to climb her way back to the top. But things are a bit dif­fer­ent this time around. In Shevchenko, she'll be fac­ing a fighter who is used to tak­ing on larger op­po­nents.

“The fact that I was com­pet­ing suc­cess­fully in ban­tamweight (135 pounds), I was com­pet­ing for the belt, was the top con­tender, gives me some ad­van­tage over her,” Shevchenko said.

While Shevchenko does have that ex­pe­ri­ence go­ing for her, Je­drze­jczyk fig­ures she is more pow­er­ful now than when she was rul­ing the 115-pound divi­sion.

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