A seventh bout has been revealed for the UFC Auckland event in February, with a former title challenger set to take on a rising star. Christopher Reive reports.
At the end of 2016, the UFC strawweight title was up for grabs for Polish UFC star Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Heading into a title challenge on the back of 10 straight wins, she suffered her first loss inside the octagon against then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Since then, she's won just two of her past six bouts.
Looking to return to winning ways, Kowalkiewicz will travel to Auckland to kick off her 2020 campaign.
The Herald can confirm the 34-year-old will fight against rising Chinese star Yan Xiaonan at UFC Auckland on February 23, joining what is shaping up to be an exciting night of fights.
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On the back of three straight losses against highly touted opponents, Kowalkiewicz has found herself as the gatekeeper of the strawweight division. Currently ranked at No 14, Kowalkiewicz will put her ranking on the line against Xiaonan.
The 30-year-old Chinese fighter has been a force in the UFC since making her debut in late 2017, winning all four of her bouts inside the octagon by unanimous decision.
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With an 11-1 record and one no-contest to her name, a win over Kowalkiewicz would lift Xiaonan into the top 15 of the strawweight division for the first time and put her on track to work towards a title shot in late 2020 or 2021.
Both fighters have shown they have to skills to stop fights before the final bell throughout their careers, though have been able to rely on their ability to out-point their opponents. Of Kowalkiewicz's 12 wins, nine have come by way of the judges' scorecards, with two submissions and a lone knockout. Xiaonan has shown more of an ability to utilise her power with five of her 11 victories by knockout and the other six by decision.
The bout is the first confirmed fight on the card not to feature a fighter from either Australia or New Zealand, with at least one Anzac fighter in each of the other six bouts already announced for the event.
UFC Auckland confirmed bouts
Lightweight: Dan Hooker (NZ) v Paul Felder (five-round main event)
Strawweight: Karolina Kowalkiewicz v Yan Xiaonan
Light heavyweight: Tyson Pedro (Aus) v Vinicius Moreira
Lightweight: Brad Riddell (NZ) v Magomed Mustafaev
Welterweight: Jake Matthews (Aus) v Emil Meek
Light heavyweight: Jimmy Crute (Aus) v Michal Oleksiejczuk
Heavyweight: Ben Sosoli (NZ) v Marcos Rogério de Lima