Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) strawweights Joanne Calderwood and Maryna Moroz will battle this Saturday (April 11, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 64, live on UFC Fight Pass from inside the Krakow Arena in Krakow, Poland.
After getting upset by eventual finalist Rose Namajunas on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Calderwood made a successful debut by taking out Seoham Ham at the season finale. With Carla Esparza recently dethroned, the top of the division has been blown wide open, meaning that Calderwood could announce herself as a top contender with a win in Krakow.
This is Moroz's UFC debut, as the Ukrainian fighter is just five fights into her combat sports career. Despite her inexperience, Moroz will be looking to make a name for herself against the experienced kickboxer.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both women.
Key Wins: Seoham Ham (TUF 20 Finale), Emily Kagan (TUF 20)*
Key Losses: Rose Namajunas (TUF 20)*
Keys to Victory: Calderwood is one of the strawweight division's finest strikers, as the Scottish scrapper found success in Muay Thai prior to her mixed martial arts (MMA) career. Additionally, her grappling game is coming along quite well.
Calderwood excels from the outside, the prime range for long kicks to do damage, and inside the clinch, where she can live up to her "Dr. Kneevil" moniker. In this fight, it's important for her to attempt to keep Moroz on the outside while still punishing her for any successful attempts to close distance.
In this bout, Calderwood's teep kick will be very effective. Judging by Moroz's inexperience on her feet, she's not likely to use angles as she closes the distance. Since she'll be coming straight in, Calderwood should be able to land the teep without issue.
Similarly, Calderwood's straight punches should work well, even though her opponent is slightly taller. To further punish her opponent, I'd like to see Calderwood repel Moroz with a punching combination and punctuate it with a kick.
Finally, it's important for Calderwood to be ready to unleash knees and elbows whenever Moroz manages to get close. If the only results of Moroz closing the distance is her eating some painful strikes, she'll stop trying before long.
At that point, Calderwood is in complete control.
Key Wins: Karine Silva (XFCI 7), Jin Tang (Kunlun Fight 8)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Moroz is a very aggressive fighter, as she's finished each of her opponents. Similar to bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, Moroz is an armbar specialist, although she's rarely as dominant with her setups as the "Rowdy" one.
This will undoubtedly be a tough challenge for "The Iron Woman," who's a pretty raw fighter overall. Still, she's an undefeated finisher, so she has to be doing something right.
In her past, Moroz has shown a willingness to do whatever it takes to drag the fight to the mat, including pulling guard. That type of mentality is absolutely necessary here, as Moroz has not shown the skill needed to hang with Calderwood on the feet.
Instead, Moroz needs to rush her opponent and get into the clinch immediately. If she can't land a takedown with normal set ups, she could look to catch a knee or execute a trip as Calderwood strikes. Should that fail as well, pulling guard is definitely Moroz's best chance at victory.
She needs this fight on the mat, one way or another.
Bottom Line: Calderwood is very likely a future contender, while Moroz has some of the marks of a promising up-and-comer.
With about a dozen UFC strawweight fights in the book, the division is far from established. Calderwood is currently ranked near the top five and could leave this fight with two UFC victories, while holding an officially undefeated record.
At this point, that might be enough for a title shot.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, a loss would be majorly devastating. Until the division shakes itself out a bit, it won't be uncommon for fighters to jump up the rankings or drop low due to a single fight. If Calderwood loses to the unproven Moroz, she may even find herself outside of the top 10.
The odds may be stacked against her, but the situation definitely favors Moroz. With a win, Moroz steals all of Calderwood's acclaim and earns herself a top 10 ranking just six fights into her career. That's definitely worth the risk of losing her undefeated status, as very few fight fans had even heard of Moroz before this fight.
That's an attractive reward-to-risk ratio.
At UFC Fight Night 64, Joanne Calderwood and Maryna Moroz will look to build momentum in the wide open strawweight division. Which fighter will leave the Octagon with her hand raised?