This is a great week coming up for female fight’s, the UFC on ESPN+ card has three and that’s just for starters. But along with having so many solid bouts scheduled, that makes it even harder to come up with my selection for the three that I think will stand-out. I was able to select three, but this week it’s more a case of “opinion” than any other week because there are some good ones.
3. Malin Hermansson vs Victoria Leonardo Bellator 218
Sometimes you just have to go based on feel and I have a feeling about this fight, a feeling we are going to see fifteen minutes of action. Malin Hermansson is the unknown one coming into this bout. She is 2-0 as a pro and has fought no one of name, adding to that is that this will be her first bout in the U.S. But she doesn’t lack for confidence, saying she has been unable to find an opponent, calling out Heather Hardy and Valerie Letourneau and topping it off talking smack to Brooke Mayo on social media. She does seem though to have the skills to back up the confidence. While she hasn’t gotten a finish yet and hasn’t fought anyone of name she has shown flashes of potential. Her two pro wins were split decisions leaving one to wonder why her fights have been so close, which means while she has shown those flashes, she could also be a product of hype. Her best path to victory in this one will likely be to keep it standing, avoid letting it become a grappling match and maybe use her strength to work off the cage. She is also fighting someone with a lot of amateur experience and much more pro experience than her, so if it does end up on the ground or even in areas where Hermansson is more comfortable, she won’t want to be inactive, Leonardo is good at adapting and coming up with something out of nowhere. So she will want to be unpredictable. She won’t be worried about going the distance, she has every time she’s been in the cage, but she’s gonna want to be more aggressive in this one so it will be interesting to see if the cardio holds up.
Victoria Leonardo is signed to Invicta FC, but is getting this bout outside that promotion bringing a 4-1 record. Her only loss being to highly touted prospect Miranda Maverick in September. Since that fight she has scored two victories, most recently a first round submission of Jamie Milanowski in Invicta in February. Three of Leonardo’s four wins have been submissions, all via rear naked choke, and she has shown an ability to both set it up and snatch it out of nowhere. She has the more experience in big fights, the more fight experience in general and obviously, with her opponent fighting in the U.S. for the first time, Leonardo will have less adjusting to do. Her path to victory will likely be to get it to the ground where she will be the far superior fighter. But by no means does that mean Leonardo will be in danger if she can’t get it there. Leonardo is a very good striker, as evidenced by her competing in the Queen of Sparta tournament where she defeated Ariel Beck in boxing and lost a decision that most thought she won against Shannon Sinn in kickboxing. So there will be no need to rush or force anything on the ground, she can take her time and set it up if need be. Leonardo is also a very smart fighter so her ability to adapt could play a role here. She may find her initial game-plan not working and will not panic, she will be able to feel things out and look for her advantage or best path to victory. With her fights usually ending early, there could be questions about cardio, but not in the case of Leonardo, as she is always in great shape and fully capable of going the distance and may let Hermansson use her aggression and tire her out where she can really take control.
This bout can be seen as part of the Bellator 218 prelims on both the Bellator and Paramount TV websites.
2. Valerie Soto vs Vanessa Demopoulos LFA 62
This is an example of a fight that is really flying under the radar on a busy weekend for women’s MMA. Valerie Soto brings a 2-1 record into this one and will be her second fight in just over two months. In her last bout, Soto rebounded nicely from her first ever defeat with a win over Katherine Roy at XKO 44 and will be fighting for LFA for the second time in her pro career after making her pro debut for them in a win over Cristina Crist in August of last year. Soto herself has flown under the radar but has built up a nice resume quickly including a win in 2018 as an amateur over Cara Greenwell, one of, if not the best amateur in the sport right now. While her amateur career was short, she has shown herself to be someone who didn’t need to have the long amateur career. A very well-rounded fighter, she is going to be comfortable wherever the fight goes, but likely will prefer to keep it on the feet. The biggest obstacle Soto may need to overcome, is the fight is in her hometown of Dallas, and with that comes the usual fight week distractions and also avoiding falling into the trap of trying to do something special in front of her family and friends and opening herself up to a mistake. While this fight features two fighters who you can expect to be in great shape and capable of going three rounds, Soto’s odds of victory will likely increase the longer the fight goes.
Vanessa Demopoulos is coming off just the second defeated of her MMA career, a loss in her LFA debut via decision to Itzel Esquivel, evening her pro record at 1-1. The only other defeat was a 2013 loss as an amateur to UFC contender Katlyn Chookagian. Demopoulos just recently relocated from Ohio to California, so it will be interesting to see how she might have improved with her new team. While she is a perfectly capable striker, Demopoulos is known for her great work on the ground, either from top position or off her back. Two of her amateur wins were via armbar as well as her pro debut win. Demopoulos’s biggest strength though may be her determination and heart. There is absolutely nothing that is going to make her quit or stop coming forward. As a point of reference, the previously mentioned bout with Chookagian, I was there cage side and she took a beating that most pro’s would have quit during, and even as an amateur, her face a bloody mess, she kept fighting and trying and only stopped when the ref decided to stop it. Her game-plan here might be to stand a bit with Soto, feel her out and look for her opportunity to get it to the ground. Once there, she will be in great shape and using either ground and pound or looking for a body part to grab, get a submission. Fighting in her opponents hometown will not likely affect her much as she has the mindset to block that out and look to put on an entertaining fight.
This bout can be seen as part of the LFA 62 Main Card on AXS TV.
1. Maycee Barber vs JJ Aldrich UFC on ESPN+ 6
UFC on ESPN+ 6 features three female bouts but this one is the standout to me. Maycee Barber is hands down one of the most exciting fighters to watch these days and has yet to taste defeat. Before her most recent bout, a win over Hannah Cifers at UFC Fight Night 139, Barber has not only been winning, but beating and usually finishing very solid opponents, names like Itzel Esquivel, Mallory Martin and Jamie Colleen. All but one of her six pro wins and have been finishes and she clearly looks to keep the judges out of her fights. On top of that, there is a variety of ways she can achieve that. Maycee Barber doesn’t look to just beat you, she looks to beat you up. Once she gets the fight to the ground, you know you’re in trouble and probably not getting back up. If the submission is there she will go for it, but if not, she is just as happy to keep landing punches and elbows. Barber definitely wants to get into that top contender spot for a title and will be looking to make a statement with this fight. She likely will come out fast and aggressive and try and draw Aldrich into a fast paced fight. Aldrich will likely be the toughest test of her career and she will probably treat it as such, so there is a chance she could change something up, but likely we will see the same Maycee Barber we always see, aggressive, non-stop action.
JJ Aldrich brings a 7-2 record into this bout, most recently an August victory at UFC 227 over Polyana Viana and like her opponent has fought very tough competition in her pro career. Aldrich comes in to this fight as the underdog, but in her career, the more she’s overlooked, the better she seems to do. Aldrich’s last five have gone the distance and her best bet here is probably to make it a long fight. While her opponent will be looking to be aggressive and come forward, Aldrich may want to try and slow that down and not let Barber get into a good flow. While Aldrich is more methodical with her striking, she is also quite accurate and if she can keep it on the feet, not get into wild exchanges she could possibly slow the fight down to her pace and drag it out. Aldrich excels in later rounds and with her opponent being such an aggressive fighter and not having as much late experience- to be fair, Barber does have two third round stoppages- perhaps frustrate her opponent and really take control. The longer it goes, the better her chances, so she can be expected to drag this one out a bit. Aldrich is the underdog, but she has won every time she’s been the underdog, and is very capable of pulling this one out as well.
This bout can be seen as part of the UFC on ESPN+ 6 Main Card on ESPN+