UFC 212: Who is next for Joanna Champion?

UFC 212’s lineup is far from great and to make matters worse, the co-main event is one with little upside for the winner between #1 ranked strawweight Claudia Gadelha and #2 ranked Karolina Kowalkiewicz.  Gadelha is 0-2 against the current UFC Strawweight champ while Kowalkiewicz is coming off a defeat against the champ at UFC 205.  Their fight will likely make for a good scrap, but the winner won’t get that much closer to a title shot unfortunately, barring some kind of exception the rule.

Ranked behind the two co-headliners is Rose Namajunas who lost to Kowalkiewicz last July at UFC 201 and has never faced Gadelha.  While Galdelha fought for the title after a mere one fight one fight win streak, she fought to a split decision loss against the champion prior to the win over former World Series of Fighting Strawweight champion, Jessica Aguilar in a title eliminator bout.  The division is in a bit of an awkward stage, but seeing as the champ is due for a title defense later on this year, she can sit back and await some key match ups including Saturday night’s co-main event.

Namajunas is sitting in a comfortable spot seeing as she is next according to the rankings and has been doing her best to stir up some drama between her and the champ and with her submission win over the “Karate Hottie” Michelle Waterson who was on a two fight winning streak, she might get the UFC push.  While Namajunas’ did lose against Kowalkiewicz, the fight was a split decision, which was named fight of the night and came following a nice 3 fight win streak.  The match up between Namajunas and Joanna Champion is also an intriguing one considering Namajunas’ flashy kickboxing and submission skills, but the next shot could also go to a relatively newcomer who is receiving her highest ranked fight in the coming months.

That fighter is Cynthia Calvillo who made her UFC debut on 10 days noticed at UFC 209 against Amanda Cooper and quickly submitted her in the first round.  Calvillo then had a quick turnaround and fought one month later at UFC 210 and submitted UFC newcomer Pearl Gonzalez in the third round of their affair.  She is due for a big step up in competition next month at UFC Fight Night 113 at Glasgow, Scotland against #7 ranked Joanne Calderwood.  Dana White has admitted he’s a big fan of the rising strawweight after her win at UFC 210.  White compared the newcomer to Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey upon first sitting down and meeting with them prior to their UFC debuts.  Calvillo may be a newcomer, but it’s clear she is getting the UFC push considering her first two fights were included in the main card of both PPVs and it doesn’t hurt that she hails from the highly regarded Team Alpha Male.  Calderwood would be a nice test for Calvillo since she is a muay thai champion, but unfortunately it’d be hard to see her get a title shot should she defeat Calvillo next month.

The heavy favorite for the next shot would likely be Namajunas, but a strong case can be made for Kowalkiewicz should she win in impressive fashion.  After all she is the only fighter to stun the champion as we saw in the fourth round of their fight when she landed a flush right hand to the nose followed by a brief storm of punches against the cage.  Kowalkiewicz is very marketable in terms of her looks and we already have a built in storyline in both Polish fighters taking part in an entertaining bout.

Whatever the next step is, it’s been made clear that the addition of a 125 lb division has caught the attention of the champ among other strawweights, which could mean the throne will be up for grab sooner than later, but until then the queen sits at her throne awaiting her next challenger.

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