Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s starwweight-title-clinching victory over Carla Esparza at UFC 185 was an undeniably impressive clinic in which the challenger consistently stuffed her opponent’s desperate takedown attempts with seemingly effortless sprawls and picked her apart with a continuous onslaught of crisp, textbook kickboxing. It was also, according to Jedrzejczyk’s post-fight analysis, largely a formality, as the Polish superstar in the making suspects that she defeated Esparza long before the pair stepped into the cage together on March 14.
On the Monday, March 16 edition of The MMA Hour, the winner and new strawweight champion told Ariel Helwani that she believed that the mind games she played against Esparza may have significantly contributed to her win. “I think I break her,” she said. “She didn’t know what to expect. Maybe she thought that I am crazy. I am really nice. But not in the cage.”
The Cookie Monster certainly looked shaken when she walked into the arena at UFC 185. Esparza’s never been the most visibly excited fighter before a match, but this went beyond her usual sombre demeanor. Her expression was, arguably, the most miserable and defeated we’ve seen on a defending champion since a barely recognizable Georges St. Pierre stepped into the Octagon to face Johny Hendricks at UFC 167.
If Esparza really was broken by Jedrzejczyk’s pre-fight behavior, it’s hard to fault her for it. At pre-fight events, Jedrzejczyk consistently got into Esparza’s face and under her skin, seemingly imitating Gollum in their bizarre weigh-in staredown, and promising to wipe the smile off of her face among other things. But perhaps the strangest and most perplexing touch of all was the gift that the challenger gave the champ the day before the fight: a cookie. A cookie that, it turned out, had just expired. Was it just a cute play or Esparza’s fight name? Or a subtle suggestion that she was past her prime? No one knows, and far too many people have spent far too much time debating it.
Jedrzejczyk has since insisted—with what may or may not be a velveteen touch of Eastern European sarcasm—that the cookie was just fine when she purchased it at 7-11. But the viability of the cookie at the time of purchase is really beside the point now. The Cookie has already become part of Jedrzejczyk’s growing mythology. She is a stone-cold killer in the cage and a baffling frenemy outside of it who gives people confusing gifts that require just a little too much mental energy to understand and/or ignore. If she keeps this up, her mind games could easily become the most elusive factor in MMA since Lyoto Machida’s pre-Shogun style.
With that in mind, we took a moment to weigh her trolling options against the top women in the UFC’s strawweight division.
Claudia “Claudinha” Gadelha
Gadelha threw an illegal post-fight punch at Jedrzejczyk when the two women faced off at UFC on Fox 13 in December of 2014, but immediately apologized, insisting that she hadn’t heard the bell. Jedrzejczyk won the fight by split decision, and Gadelha avoided punishment as everyone involved accepted her apology as sincere. Perhaps this situation could be avoided in the inevitable rematch, though, if Jedrzejczyk gave Gadelha a hearing aid at the weigh-in.
There are no obvious or brilliant trolling gifts when it comes to former Invicta FC atomweight champion and TUF 20 contender Jessica Penne. But maybe some sort of merch from UFC 185 could remind Penne of the night that both her TUF coach Anthony Pettis and Esparza, who defeated her on the show, lost their titles and throw her off her game just a tiny bit.
Rose “Thug” Namajunas
A rose, obviously. Either slightly wilted, de-thorned, or both.
Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres
One of those children’s science kits that makes a tornado. Missing a key component.
Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood
An enhanced CD single of JoJo’s 2004 hit “Leave (Get Out).” A forgotten pop star’s only hit on an outdated format.
Randa “Quiet Storm” Markos
A copy of 2000’s X-Men. At a pre-fight press conference, Jedrzejczyk will mutter the film’s most infamously bad line, care of Halle Berry’s Storm (“Do you know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightening? The same thing that happens to everything else.”) And Markos will be left pondering what the hell that was about, just like every X-Men fan has been wondering for the past fifteen years.
Felice “Lil’ Bulldog” Herrig
In what would surely be a trash talk battle of the ages, Jedrzejczyk would give the infamously outspoken Herrig a lil’ plush barking bulldog at weigh-ins. But she’d “forget” to put batteries in it, rendering the bulldog silent and essentially useless when squeezed.
Aisling “Ais The Bash” Daly
If she wants to be nice-ish, Jedrzejczyk could give Ais The Bash a ticket to some event with “Bash” in the title that has already happened. If she wanted to go darker, she could give the Irish fighter an undersized potato at weigh-ins and suggest that she must be famished after the weight cut.
Heather “Hurricane” Clark
A FEMA Emergency Supply List with all of the items checked off.
Paige “12 Gauge” VanZant
A toy shotgun. Broken, obviously.
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