UFC FIGHT NIGHT 65: The Women from Down Under
Next up for our Aussie WMMA Week is a fight breakdown of the two strawweight matchups this weekend.
Two strawweight bouts highlight the “UFC Fight Night: Miocic vs. Hunt” prelim card this weekend in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. Alex Chambers (4-2) meets Kailin Curran (3-1) in the Octagon, and Bec Rawlings (5-4) takes on Lisa Ellis (15-9). Curran is the only non-TUF 20 alum.
Alex Chambers is a dynamic, well-rounded fighter known for first-round finishes, whose only pre-TUF loss was to Mizuki Inoue (8-4). But these accomplishments were at atomweight, and her size is a definite disability at strawweight. Her loss to Aisling Daly (15-6) in the TUF 20 Finale highlighted this. To Chambers’ credit, she recognizes this, and has developed a fast, elusive style of fighting, keeping herself well out of the pocket, attacking with well-timed strikes and damaging kicks.
There is a 12-year age difference between Chambers and Curran that many people think will be a factor. But I don’t. Chambers is fit, and as long as she’s tapered properly it won’t be an issue against Curran.
Kailin Curran was a real force during her time with Pacific Xtreme Combat, and the matchmaking with world-ranked Paige VanZant (5-1) shows the UFC brass definitely see her as a hot prospect. Curran is tough, and really hung in there with VanZant until VanZant just blitzed her standup defense. Her performance with VanZant was sloppy, but was solid enough to win FOTN.
Curran isn’t a one-trick pony, but she isn’t as well-rounded a fighter as Chambers, and heavily relies on clinch takedowns and laying and praying to fatten her scorecard. Her five takedown attempts against VanZant were all successful, but neither finished nor slowed VanZant. This style of fighting gets her those points but not finishes, and an opponent who takes advantage of this, like VanZant did, will win.
We should see Chambers come out fast and try to immediately score some damaging shots against Curran before retreating, and then coming in again, picking apart Curran’s defense with a thousand tiny cuts. If Chambers’ strategy works, she’ll disorient Curran enough to attack and finish her. But she needs to stay out of the clinch, or Curran will rack up points while neutralizing what Chambers does best. Chambers needs to get a first or second-round finish to win. Chambers is a better fighter and athlete than Curran, but that may not be enough in Adelaide.
Curran’s defense against Chambers’ guerilla-style offense is key. I predict we’ll see her do everything she can to get Chambers against the cage for takedowns. If she keeps Chambers against the cage and on the mat, she wins.
Bec Rawlings was slated to meet Seo Hee Ham (15-6) in Adelaide until injury forced Ham to pull out. Hopefully Rawlings said a little prayer to St. Pugnacious, because the fight prediction for that matchup would have been Ham by unanimous decision. Instead, Rawlings and TUF 20 roommate Lisa Ellis will mix it up.
The Rawlings-Ellis fight should be exciting, but unfortunately not because of three rounds of non-stop first-class fighting, but because of drama. Bad blood that started in the TUF house between Rawlings, Angela Magana (11-7), and Ellis has splattered all over social media in the last few months, before culminating in Twittergate. The saga of Twittergate will not be told on these pages, but it was the final insult making this bout a bona fide grudge match.
Rawlings is a nearly .500 fighter who has never beaten an elite opponent. That’s not to say she’s a bad fighter (Ed. note: yes, it is), she’s just not a terribly good one. She’s durable enough to not get finished even against solid competition, but she’s got little to offer outside of that. She’s a good brawler, and that’s meant as a compliment. Her “bunches of punches” are often effective and her chin is almost as good as Captain America’s. She isn’t a grappler, unless she’s learned a few tricks since the TUF 20 Finale, but her takedown defense is decent. She’s hungrier and more aggressive than Ellis, and craves this win.
Ellis has her own string of losses, although most of them have been to high-caliber fighters. She’s often her toughest opponent, finding a way to lose a fight she’s about to win, like during her matchup with the great Megumi Fujii (26-3). Her behavior in the TUF house proved the fire in her belly has been extinguished, and she’s mentally not in the game anymore. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that mindset makes you lose.
Having said that, Ellis deserves respect. For stepping into the breach and taking the fight. For being a pioneer in WMMA. For her string of submission finishes that include Jessica Aguilar (19-4), Miku Matsumoto (23-4), and Ayumi Saito (8-6). But respect also doesn’t win fights.
Expect this fight to be sloppy but exciting because of the bitterness between the two women. Rawlings isn’t a finisher, so unless Ellis decides she just wants it over with, it’ll go the entire three rounds and will be fought mainly toe to toe unless Rawlings loses control.
Ellis is the better fighter. Ellis should win. It’s doubtful she will.
Prediction: Rawlings by decision.
Preliminaries start on Fight Pass at 7:40 EDT/4:40 PDT on Saturday, May 9.
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