Sometimes greatness isn’t appreciated as much as it should be. This seems to be evident in Mixed Martial Arts perhaps more than any other sport. In a sport where epic knockouts and quick submissions make headlines, being dominant isn’t always enough. Georges “Rush” St. Pierre is widely regarded as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time, but by the end of his career, many fans had grown tired of GSP’s dominance. Today, UFC Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (I totally spelled that right the first time, why do you ask?) could face a similar problem. In MMA there comes a time when being too good could potentially be bad for business.
St. Pierre burst onto the UFC scene in January 2004, and only needed two wins before challenging the then Welterweight champion, Matt Hughes. At UFC 50, Hughes submitted GSP with an armbar with one second remaining in the first round. It was only a minor setback, however. St. Pierre would win the Welterweight title from Hughes a little over two years later, and other than a shocking upset loss to Matt Serra at UFC 69 in April 2007, St. Pierre would hold on to that belt until the day he hung up the gloves, in November 2013 (In case you weren’t interested in the math, that’s zero losses in a little over six years, which is, um, good).
Only suffering two losses in a nearly ten-year UFC career is pretty damn good. However, as St. Pierre’s run as Welterweight grew, so did the detractors. Nobody disputed that GSP was a great, transcendent champion, but his efforts to control opponents while taking minimal damage (which, by the way, seems like it should be the point) did not produce the type of crowd-pleasing results that appease many UFC fans. From his UFC 100 victory over Thiago Alves in July 2009 to his final fight at UFC 167 in November 2013 against Johny Hendricks, St. Pierre reeled off seven consecutive decision victories. Whispers of “Is GSP Actually a Boring Fighter”, echoed even as St. Pierre rode off into the sunset.
Fast forward to July 2014. A 26-year-old Joanna Jedrzejczyk made her octagon debut, defeating Juliana Lima by unanimous decision. Eight months later, she stopped Carla Esparza in the second round to become the UFC Strawweight champion. She followed up that performance with a TKO of Jessica Penne in the third round as the main even of UFC Fight Night in June 2015. Since those two stoppages in a row, Jedrzejczyk (I’m seriously thinking about just referring to her as “The Champ” from here on out) has defended her title on three more occasions, most recently last night at UFC 205. Three title defenses, three unanimous decisions. Her most recent fight, coming against fellow Polish fighter Katrina Kowalkiewicz, was notable only in that Jedrzejczyk took some damage and *gasp* may have lost a round.
That’s not to belittle any of these competitors, as the Kowalkiewicz fight was wildly entertaining, and a rematch between the two could be a very welcome endeavor down the line. The point is, I guess, that we need to appreciate and celebrate greatness and dominance. While Jedrzejczyk’s brand of dominance of picking her opponents apart with kickboxing and muy thai is different and perhaps a little more aesthetically pleasing than that of St. Pierre’s wrestling, it is dominance none the less. I sincerely hope we don’t get to the point where another Jedrzejczyk (JJ, I should’ve just called her JJ this whole time! Dammit!) performance of systematically destroying an opponent with her elite stand up skills becomes boring and passé. It’s not JJ’s (ahh, much easier) fault that she is so much better than everyone she fights (well, I guess it is, but whatever). Dominance is dominance. Joanna Jedrzejcyk is dominant. Let’s all just sit back and enjoy her greatness.