Roxanne Modafferi, Happy Warrior

The Happy Warrior smiles again

Roxanne Modafferi, the self-styled Happy Warrior, faced off against Maycee Barber this past weekend in the UFC’s first card of the new decade. While many expected Maycee Barber to emerge victorious, Modafferi would upset those expectations.

In a three-round-affair, the self proclaimed “Happy Warrior” would largely dominate the upcoming prospect for the entire fight. Roxanne certainly is a veteran of the fight game. Her bout against Barber was her 40th since her debut in Japan close to 17 years ago. To put that in perspective, BJ Penn has 32 fights. GSP a mere 28. Lyoto Machida has 35. This makes Modafferi one of the bigger veterans of the fight game. Maycee Barber on the other hand was entering her 9th bout.

With nearly four times the experience Modafferi was not the favourite going in to the fight, it may have surprised a few fans on why Roxanne was such an underdog.

One of the reasons was that Maycee Barber has been ambitious and vocal. The newcomer wants to claim the record for the youngest UFC champion in history. She certainly isn’t gun-shy and prior to the fight with Roxanne, was targeting Paige Van Zant. Unfortunately for Barber, she didn’t get the response from “12-Gauge” Paige.

Another reason why Barber’s stock was high was that in her eight fights, she won seven of them via finish. Barber has been known to strike extremely well, using an assortment of knees, elbows and punches. Add to that her wrestling coach is none other than Ben Askren, who remains one of the best MMA wrestlers in the world.

On the other hand Roxy, had a mixed past record. In her 39 fights, she had won 23 but had lost as many as 16. She had lost six fights in a row at one point in her career. Some Happy Warrior fans however were more optimistic about her chances. They knew that two of her last few losses had come against opponents who had failed to make weight. They viewed the six fight losing streak as a testament to Roxanne’s continuous improvement rather than an indication of a lack of talent. And they waited till UFC 246, where their hopes would be vindicated.

During the weigh-in, the Happy Warrior, used a heavy gimmick. She wore a bright yellow wig and let out a gutteral scream just before stepping on to the scale. She would later reveal that there was symbolism behind the choice of hair colour.  The M-shaped sticker was intended to be an indication of aggression. Roxanne looked more muscular than Barber during the face-off.

During the initial part of the fight, Maycee got caught early and was bleeding profusely.  Roxanne dominated the fight. Maycee managed a few strong reversals, but none of them were significant enough to truly bother the Happy Warrior. Roxanne also landed a few big shots, significantly a jab that dropped Barber at the beginning of the second round. As the fight progressed, it became evident that Maycee was struggling. The audience soon found out that there was a significant knee injury that was impeding Maycee. A doctor came and examined her just before the commencement of the final round. For her part, Maycee showed heart and commitment and continued on with the fight. It ended however with a Roxanne sailing through comfortably and taking a big unanimous decision victory.

After the fight, the Roxanne said that she was please with her striking. She said that she had reached a new level with it. The Happy Warrior credited her coaches for the improvement.  In doing so, Roxanne vindicated the constant improvement narrative embraced by her fans.

In a strange twist, a fan offered Roxanne a hundred dollars after the fight. Another one claimed that he bet a thousand dollars on her. The Happy Warrior certainly earned her vindication and gave her fans a reason to smile.


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