UFC Fight Night on Yas Island sees Holly Holm against Irena Aldana headline the card, we have tips for the big fight and the other standout main card and preliminary fights.
By Kieran Cobley
The second event of this second spell of Fight Island cards is definitely one for the believers of “styles make fights” with the card having very little star power.
Former champions Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie are both on the card, as well as future Hall of Fame entry, Carlos Condit.
Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie might both be former champions, but I don’t foresee either woman coming away from Fight Island with a win.
Holm will go down in history as one of the best counter strikers in women’s MMA, but at almost 39-years-old, her reaction speed and ability to slip shots isn’t what it once was.
On top of this, Holm’s ground game has always been one of her biggest weaknesses.
This is where Irene Aldana’s strong suit comes into play. Aldana holds three submission wins and holds a takedown accuracy rate of 50%.
If Aldana can get this fight to the ground she should be able to soften Holm up with strikes to set up a submission victory, or failing that, do enough damage for the judges to score her as the winner.
Like Holm, de Randamie is more known for her striking, given her kickboxing background and her previous displays, including a 16 second KO in her fight against the highly touted Aspen Ladd.
The Iron Lady is also feared because of her clinch striking game, but I don’t believe this will be something she can use against Julianna Pena.
Pena is the true definition of a mixed martial artist, with nine wins split evenly across knockouts, submissions and decisions. Pena also holds a takedown success rate of 52%, and given de Randamie often struggles off her back.
If Pena can avoid de Randamie’s kickboxing game and stop herself being caught in a clinch exchange when going for a takedown, this is her fight to win and will bring her one step closer to a title shot.
Preliminary fight card
By Willian Dean
Kyler Phillips returns to the Octagon off the back of a near perfect debut where he dominated the ever competitive Gabriel Silva. Matrix displayed some unorthodox striking and intelligent grappling in a unanimous decision victory that night, thoroughly impressing many UFC fans.
Cameron Else is a recent signing who has been waiting in the wings as a short notice replacement for the Fight Island cards. Having plied his trade on the UK regional scene since 2012, he is known for fast paced and exciting fights, with 12 of his 14 fights ending in round one.
Camchida comes into this fight on a six-fight win streak, but the calibre of competition amidst this run certainly raises some eyebrows. Three of these opponents were without a professional win at the time, and all but one had more wins than losses.
This is a huge step up in competition for Else and I am not sure the Englishman has what it takes to cause the upset. He throws caution to the wind in all of his fights, opting to close the distance and swing for the fences in the opening round. Whilst this has had mixed results for the 10-4 fighter, I think Phillips will be composed enough to withstand the early onslaught.
Given the intense pace he fights at, Else certainly does not have the cardio to fight competitively for 15 minutes. In his most recent loss, he looked tired and laboured at the start of the second round, and was finished just 49 seconds later.
Phillips has an almost inhuman gas tank and will really pour the pressure on Else if this fight gets out of round one. Phillips also has some devastating body kicks, which will only make matters worse.
The gaps in both skill and durability in this fight are too great for me to ignore, so I fancy Phillips to have another dominant showing in this bout. Matrix has finished five of his seven victories and I expect him to claim another victim inside the distance on Saturday night.
Lookboonmee looking good
Fans of Women’s MMA will be grateful that this bout between Loma Lookboonmee and Jinh Yu Frey was scheduled. Despite the fight taking place at Strawweight (115lbs), both fighters naturally belong in the 105lbs division, which currently does not exist in the UFC.
As a result, both fighters are significantly hindered in the size and reach department when facing other fighters at Strawweight, but here they will be given the opportunity to show off their skills on an equal playing field.
Making history as the first UFC competitor from Thailand, Lookboonmee’s striking is as much a spectacle as you would imagine. Pure Muay Thai strikers do not cross over to MMA very often so it is exciting to see how the individual art form fairs against a modern MMA striker.
As you would expect, Lookboonmee has some devastating kicks and elbows, and fires all of her strikes with pinpoint accuracy and technique. Her grappling is still a work in progress, but she is a dangerous opponent to enter the clinch with.
After a lacklustre debut, Frey will be hoping to bounce back from her third round submission loss to Kay Hansen. She looked good in the opening round, keeping the fight on the feet and landing accurate punches against a submission-based opponent.
Ultimately, her takedown defence was unable to last, and she was confidently out-grappled in the latter half of the fight.
Whilst Frey had success with her striking, her offence is almost entirely boxing based. She may throw the occasional leg kick, but mostly she likes to get in close and trade hands. She may have better boxing than Lookboonmee, but fighting at this range increases the amount of time spent in the clinch, which the Thai fighter will thrive in.
At range, the diversity in Lookboonmee’s striking should give her the advantage. She fires off kicks from all angles to the legs, body and head of her opponents, and has good head movement to avoid incoming strikes.
Finishes are statistically less likely in the lower weight classes, so I am expecting this fight to go to a decision.
Lookboonmee’s victories across various combat sports have predominantly been by decision, and Frey has seen the scorecards in eight of her 14 bouts.
Overall, I think this is a great opportunity for the Muay Thai specialist to show off her striking prowess, before picking up a decision victory on the judges’ scorecards.
Posted at 1610 BST on 30/09/20
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