UFC Fight Night 87 Breakdown: Heather Jo Clark vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz

karolina_kowalkiewiczPrior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at a women’s strawweight clash between American Heather Jo Clark and Poland’s Karolina Kowalkiewicz.   Heather Jo Clark (Record: 7-4, +210 Underdog, Fighter Grade: C-) The Los Angeles-born, Las Vegas-based fighter has been competing professionally since 2010. She appeared on the inaugural strawweight season of The Ultimate Fighter, losing to Felice Herrig in the opening round. Clark last fought in December 2014 when she beat Bec Rawlings by decision. This will be Clark’s first fight since having surgery to repair her torn ACL. Clark spent the majority of her career training at Jackson’s MMA prior to making the move to Las Vegas full time to train with Xtreme Couture. Clark has good size for the weight class at 5’6”, but only holds a reach of 64 inches. While she works at a decent pace, the biggest issue for Clark is her striking defense. She’s very hittable and takes a significant amount of damage in her bouts. Her movement has been hindered by multiple injuries and she tends to be one of the slower fighters in the division. With that said, her grappling game is rather sneaky and she has good technique on the ground. The key for Clark is being aggressive and securing takedowns so she can go to work on the ground.   Karolina Kowalkiewicz (Record: 8-0, -250 Favorite, Fighter Grade: B-) The 10th ranked strawweight in the world, the Polish fighter enters this matchup on a eight fight winning streak having yet to lose in her professional career. Kowalkiewicz had previously been the KSW flyweight champion prior to making the jump to the UFC. In her last outing, she earned a unanimous decision over fellow ranked strawweight Randa Markos. The Polish strawweight is very much a movement striker. She fights at a really quick pace and excels with a pick and pop strategy. She does very well to land with combinations and then move out of range. In the octagon, she’s constantly moving working for an angle that gives her an advantage. In her fight with Randa Markos, she landed 4.4 significant strikes a minute while absorbing just 2.30 strikes a minute; a difference over two strikes. In short, she lands with volume and is tough to hit. Kowalkiewicz ground game is not too advanced, but she defends takedowns very well and when taken down she does well to stall her opponents’ advances.   Match-up A difficult fight for Clark’s return to the octagon as the UFC makes its first trip to Rotterdam.  The key to this fight is speed. Kowalkiewicz is a fighter who excels with movement, foot work, and getting into position to land strikes with combinations. Clark’s movement has been limited with significant injuries. This is her first fight back from returning from ACL surgery. Given she’s been out of action for roughly 18 months, it’s to be expected that Clark will get off to a slow start as she regains her feel inside the cage. In the early exchanges, the Polish strawweight should have great success peppering her opponents with combinations. Kowalkiewicz doesn’t have much power in her hands, but she’s accurate and capable of scoring in bunches. The key for Clark will be to score a takedown in the early part of this fight. If she can do that and advance position, she has a chance to steal a win against her Polish opposition. However, I expect it will be difficult for Clark to work in takedowns in this bout. Kowalkiewicz’s is difficult to take down and furthermore difficult to keep up with. Look for Kowalkiewicz to easily outstrike Clark on the feet for 15 minutes en route to a dominant decision win.

Written by Jay Primetown

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