One of Poland’s most popular UFC athletes steps back into the octagon on Saturday. Strawweight contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz returns to action on home soil this weekend against UFC debutant Jodie Esquibel in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 118 in Gdansk.

Kowalkiewicz fast became a fan favorite in the UFC due to her exciting fighting style and remarkably laid-back attitude.

Just watch her when she steps into the octagon on fight night and leans back against the cage, waiting for the bout to begin. It looks more like she’s waiting to be picked up for a date than the start of a fist fight.

 

But don’t be fooled by her girl-next-door demeanor. When the fight begins, she’s one of the most dangerous strikers in the UFC’s strawweight division.

Kowalkiewicz went the distance with reigning world champion – and fellow Pole – Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden last November in a bout considered by many to be one of the greatest women’s title fights in UFC history.

But despite pushing the champion all the way, Kowalkiewicz faltered badly in her last outing, as she fell via a first-round submission to Brazil’s Claudia Gadelha at UFC 212 in June.

Now Kowalkiewicz is back and raring to go on home soil as he bids to fight her way back to the No. 1 contender spot in the UFC’s 115lb strawweight division.

 

She’ll take on UFC newcomer Jodie Esquibel, who has been a regular face in the all-female Invicta Fighting Championships promotion. The former pro boxer has a mixed martial arts record of 6-2, with her only two losses coming to current UFC athletes Alex Chambers and Alexa Grasso.

In her last outing, Esquibel picked up a notable win, as she claimed a split-decision victory over a current competitor in The Ultimate Fighter, Deanna Bennett, at Invicta FC 22 in March.

That win earned her a call-up to the big show, and she’ll make her debut on enemy territory against Kowalkiewicz on Saturday in Gdansk.

Pre-fight thoughts

Both fighters love to stand and trade, and both are notably durable. Prior to her submission loss to Gadelha, Kowalkiewicz’s last six contests went to the judges, while Esquibel’s last four fights also went the distance.

Given both fighters’ penchant for battles that go the distance, the likely outcome here will be determined by the three judges sat at octagonside. Kowalkiewicz’s experience at the top level, home advantage and urgent need to halt a two-fight skid should give her the edge on Saturday in Gdansk.

PICK: Kowalkiewicz by decision

[Image credit: © Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports]


Follow Simon Head on Twitter @simonhead.


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