Predicting The Future: UFC Strawweight Division

The self-proclaimed “Queen of the Strawweight Division”, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, dominated Michelle Waterson this past weekend at UFC Tampa. 

With Rose Namajunas taking time off, who should challenge the champion, Zhang Weili next?

Before we jump into the next title fight, something strange happened in the rankings this week. Normally after a big fight within a division, there is some movement, but there was hardly any within the division. Joanna and Nina Ansaroff switched spots for #4.  Carla Esparza and Waterson traded spots to claim #7.  

With Rose Namajunas not on the radar for a title shot, and Jessica Andrade’s recent loss, UFC will most likely pit Joanna against Zhang Weili for the belt. This fight makes sense being that both ladies are finishers and put on exciting fights. When UFC fans look at championship fights, they want a quality matchup, but more importantly a matchup that they feel will be worthy of a title fight. 

Zhang vs. Jedrzejczyk gives us all this, and more.

For the rest of the division, Tatianna Suarez is ranked ahead of Joanna, but I think a fight with Jessica Andrade will be up next for her.  This fight will be a title eliminator and a great matchup. Suarez is on a 6-fight winning streak and Andrade is coming off losing the belt to Zhang. However, she is 7-2 in her last 9 fights, losing to Zhang and Joanna.  

An often overlooked fighter in the division just happens to be the first strawweight champion, Carla Esparza. She has maintained a position in the top 10 since the formation of the division. Esparza, who shocked many with her win over Alexa Grasso (#11), should push for a fight against Waterson next. 

Esparza coming off a fight of the night performance, fighting “The Karate Hottie” who was dominated in her last fight, should be a quality fight. I don’t see this fight being a standup war, but more of a grappling contest as both ladies don’t possess KO power. However, both are very technical and fight smart.

Next, I wouldn’t mind seeing newcomer Cynthia Calvillo take on Claudia Gadelha. Calvillo has an exciting fighting style and her aggressiveness makes for good fights. Gadelha is a veteran in the octagon who has improved even though she has alternated wins and losses in her last 5 fights. Stylistically, this fight doesn’t favor either competitor, so the winner will have to impose their will and work their game plan to get the W.  

As fans of the UFC, we cannot forget about the former champion, Rose Namajunas. I think she may return in 2020, and immediately jump into the title picture. A rematch with Andrade would be a great welcome back fight. Also, her return would put the rest of the division on notice. Whoever is the holding the belt should be worried.  

The strawweight division is still competitive with a nice mix of vets and newcomers. 

2020 could be the year of the strawweights.

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The Scrap’s Lee Brown is a 22-year Air Force Vet, fan of all sports – especially UFC, NFL & NBA, and cohost of Lee N Keys Real Talk Podcast. You can follow Lee on Twitter (@Levanstian757) and Instagram (@Va121Lee).