The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale served as a fantastic second appetizer to UFC 200 on Friday night. Headlined by a women's strawweight title fight, the card surpassed expectations, despite a handful of lackluster prelim fights in between several devastating finishes and back-and-forth brawls. The action was capped off by an unbelievable rematch between rivals Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha, in which Jedrzejczyk successfully defended her women's strawweight championship for the third time by unanimous decision. But it wasn't an easy task by any means, as Gadelha had her way with the Pole in the early rounds, scoring a handful of takedowns and even having success on the feet. Jedrzejczyk pulled away in the later rounds, however, and was awarded the decision.
What was the highlight of the fight?
The highlight of the fight was the transition from the second to the third round for both fighters. Gadelha looked great in the first and second rounds, but slowed down tremendously in the third round, and was outright gassed by the final bell. Jedrzejczyk was able to take advantage of the Brazilian's cardio issues, and took over in the later rounds, especially the pair of championship rounds. She dominated Gadelha, who was too tired to land anymore takedowns, on the feet with her crisp and powerful striking, and was given at least one 10-8 round by all three judges.
Where do these two go from here?
Even though Jedrzejczyk already owns two victories over the challenger, you have to imagine a trilogy fight is in store for the future. Not right away -- matchmakers can allow Gadelha to get back into the winning column, plus there are several contenders at the top of the 115-pound division waiting for a crack at Jedrzejczyk's title. Jedrzejczyk and Gadelha are arguably the two best women strawweights out there right now, so don't be surprised if we see a third fight between the two in the next year or so. Having a heated rivalry helps, too.
Watch now, later or never?
I'm not going to call this a Fight of the Year candidate -- we've already had quite a number of those this year -- but it was darn close. Gadelha looked fantastic early on and Jedrzejczyk looked fantastic in the later rounds. The two fighters scrapped for 25 minutes and put on a very, very memorable title fight. Watch it now.