After a weekend with not a lot to offer for women’s MMA, this weekend we have a good number of pro and amateur bouts scheduled, highlighted by DEEP Jewels running another all-female card on Friday. Also, while not related to this coming weekend, we had Invicta FC announce their Rising Phoenix series, which will be eight women, one night tournaments, starting with the strawweights in May. But let’s take a look at my picks for the top three female bouts of the coming weekend.
3. Yana Kunitskaya vs Marion Reneau UFC On ESPN+ 4
Yana Kunitskaya comes into this one after getting her first UFC victory, taking a decision from Lina Lansberg in October of last year. The former Invicta FC title holder will be looking to end a recent trend of win one, lose one, keeping in mind that those losses are to fighters with names like Evinger and Cyborg. Kunitskaya doesn’t necessarily excel at any one thing but she has proven herself to be well-rounded and capable wherever a fight goes. That will serve her well in this one as in her last two bouts she’s been in with fighters who like to stand and bang in Cyborg and Lansberg where as in this one she will be facing someone who gets her wins mainly by submission or ground and pound. Kunitskaya brings a confidence with her that also can serve her well, she has never backed away from a challenge and is willing to face anyone as evidenced by making her UFC debut against Cyborg.
Marion Reneau was on a roll before running into Cat Zingano in July, going 3-0-1 in her four previous with the last win being a submission of former title challenger Sara McMann. Before that she had dropped her previous two, so we know she is capable of rebounding from defeat and doing so in a big way, so surely she has been able to put the Zingano loss behind her and focus on this one. Much like her opponent, Reneau is capable wherever the fight goes but one might expect her to want to get it to the ground and use her grappling skills to try and control the fight. Another thing Reneau brings is a high fight IQ, so if things are not going her way, if she isn’t able to get the fight where she wants it, she is very capable of moving to plan B.
This fight really is intriguing in that there are a multitude of ways it can play out. We can see a three round grappling match, we can see a three round kickboxing match, we could see a nice mix, we could really see anything.
What’s at stake?
The close betting odds show that this one is hard to predict and also shows that these two are closely matched. While neither is at the top of the contenders list, both are a win or two away from possibly sneaking in there. The winner of this bout could possibly move into a fight where the winner is next in line for a title shot after while the loser slides down into the middle of the pack with a much more up-hill battle to get there. The lack of depth currently at bantamweight works very well for the winner of this bout.
This fight can be seen as part of the UFC on ESPN+ prelims on ESPN+
2. Heqin Lin vs Jomary Torres ONE Championship: Reign of Valor
Lin comes in on a five fight winning streak with all but the most recent- a win over Thatiane Aruajo- in the Kunlun Fight promotion. Her 8-2-1 record is impressive at first site, but what her record is missing is a win over a quality opponent. Her record is littered with fighters with zero wins or losing records. Her toughest opponent to date, a December 2016 bout with Invicta FC’s Mallory Martin, resulted in a decision loss. So her bout with Torres is a major step up in competition for her. What she does have in those wins though is a lot of dominant first round finishes. So while her competition has not been super impressive, she is doing what she is supposed to do, win and win decisively. Lin’s gameplan will be simple, she will want to make it a slugfest and try and get Torres to willingly come into a brawl. Of Lin’s eight wins, not one has come via a submission. While this is a step up in competition and a bigger stage for her, one thing she will have is confidence.
As for Torres, she started out much like Lin, not fighting the most elite level competition but for her, that stopped as she progressed, she has been brought along well, continuing to face a tougher opponent on a fight by fight basis, will all but her first fight being in ONE. After starting out her career with four wins, she has since dropped two straight, but losing to Priscilla Gaol and former title challenger Mei Yamaguchi is nothing to be ashamed of, especially going the distance in both. Four of Torres’s six bouts have gone the distance and she will be the more technical and well-rounded fighter in this one. It wouldn’t be stretch to think her plan might be to keep it technical early, let Lin be aggressive and tire herself out and with Lin not used to later rounds, perhaps take over at that point. We’ve not really seen what Lin can do in later rounds so perhaps it would be underestimating her to think she’d be weaker in the later rounds, but it would be fair to expect Torres to have the gas tank and be favored as the fight goes on.
What’s at stake?
In this fight, each fighter has something different at stake. For Lin, she needs this fight to prove she is at this level and she’s as good as her record as opposed to as bad as her level of competition. A win here or at least a competitive fight can go a long way in showing that, but a bad performance will keep the questions alive of how good she actually is. For Torres, coming off the two losses, she badly needs a win, a third consecutive loss would bring her record closer to .500 and nowhere near the line behind current champ Angela Lee. ONE has some solid fighters in this weight class and a win to get back on track gets her back in the pack and a possible fight with a contender.
This fight can be seen as part of the ONE Championship: Reign of Valor prelims on the promotions official Facebook page and Twitter.
1. Tomo Maesawa vs Kanna Asakura DEEP Jewels 23
This fight is a perfect example of why I wanted to do this column. A fight only the most hardcore of women’s MMA fans know about and I hope this can make at least a few more people check it out. For those not familiar, DEEP Jewels runs all-female events and this will be the main event.
Maesawa the current atomweight champ comes in with a 12-8 record, but that is after starting her career with three losses, and her first two fights were against opponents who had 9-7 and 7-3 records. Maesawa is a staple of the DEEP Jewels promotion, as this will be her fifth fight on their last six events. Most recently she avenged an earlier loss to Mina Kurobe to claim the title. While a couple of them were two rounders, her last six bouts have gone the distance, scoring wins in five of them. While the names of her opponents and wins may not seem familiar to American fans, Maesawa has been beating very good competition. While her title is not on the line in this one, her fight with Asakura may be her toughest yet. Much like Asakura, it’s hard to pinpoint what a game-plan might be as far as where she’ll want the fight, but she’ll be capable wherever it goes.
Asakura returns to the promotion after having her last six being for Rizin. Five of those six were wins with the only loss being the most recent, an armbar loss to Ayaka Hamasaki on their New Year’s Eve event. Asakura brings in a 13-3 record and has been fighting very solid competition and beating them. The loss to Hamasaki aside, she has been not only winning, but winning exciting fights. Also included in there was handing Reina Kubota her first loss and then doubling down and beating her again eight months later. While Asakura will have to know that the finish will be hard to come by, one also has to know that the finish is something she’ll be looking for and will also be looking to entertain and make it an exciting fight. With ten fights in the last two years, her whoever/whenever attitude shows she’s going to be ready and confident as always.
What’s at stake?
The title is not on the line here but for Maesawa, it’s still like she’d defending her title. She doesn’t want to win the title and lose her next fight and still be a champion off of a loss. So for her she’s going to treat this like a title fight and in some ways the win/loss ramifications will be the same. For Asakura, a win likely leads to a rematch that will be a title fight so for her as well, it’s almost like a title fight. Win and probably fight for the title, lose and not fight for it. So for both fighters, its a title fight without a title on the line.
This fight can be seen as part of the Deep 23 card on the promotions Ustream channel.