Saturday’s Battle of Poland went as most expected, but Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s fourth successful title defense at Madison Square Garden didn’t come without a fight, and Karolina Kowalkiewicz brought one for five rounds before losing a unanimous decision in an intense bout that saw both women do their nation proud.
“Polish girls are the toughest in the world,” said Olsztyn’s Jedrzejczyk.
Scores were 49-46 across the board.
A fast pace was set by both at the start, and neither let up throughout the first round, with both fighters staying busy both at range and in the clinch. Jedrzejczyk was the more effective striker of the two, but Lodz’ Kowalkiewicz was not intimidated by the champion in the slightest, and she appeared to land more shots on her compatriot than anyone in recent fights.
Jedrzejczyk (13-0) settled down in round two, putting more heat behind her kicks and punches while also working elbows into the mix, raising a knot over Kowalkiewicz’ eye. In response, Kowalkiewicz tried to slow her foe down with her grappling game, but it was still a round for the champion.
Continuing to pile up the points, Jedrzejczyk had another good round in the third, but Kowalkiewicz (10-1) wasn’t going away. The only issue for the challenger is that she wasn’t showing the firepower that would get her opponent’s respect. Then again, Jedrzejczyk was finding her foe a tough nut to crack, even though she was landing hard shots.
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Must watch: Dana White event recap
Backstage interviews: Conor McGregor | Eddie Alvarez Tyron Woodley | Karolina Kowalkiewicz | Frankie Edgar | Khabib Nurmagomedov | Tim Boetsch | Vicente Luque
Octagon interviews: Conor McGregor | Tyron Woodley & Stephen Thompson | Joanna Jedrzejczyk & Karolina Kowalkiewicz | Miesha Tate | Khabib Nurmagomedov | Jim Miller | Liz Carmouche
FIGHT PASS customers: Watch the first two fights of the night here
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In round four though, Kowalkiewicz hit her mark, rocking Jedrzejczyk with a hard right hand. Kowalkiewicz went on the attack, but Jedrzejczyk weathered the storm and came on strong late in the frame. If one thing was certain though, the fight had a new layer of drama heading into the final stanza.
The two rivals hugged as the fifth round began, something only 20 previous minutes of fighting can produce, and in the final five, there was no let up in the intensity shown by both fighters, as they battled through fatigue in an effort to pull out the win. Kowalkiewicz raised a knot on the side of Jedrzejczyk’s head during an exchange, yet the champion had her answers for the challenger, including some hard elbows at close range in the final minute.