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UFC Fight Night 124 card: Paige VanZant vs Jessica-Rose Clark full fight preview

MMA: UFC Fight Night-VanZant vs Waterson Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight scrappers Paige VanZant and Jessica Rose-Clark will duel this Sunday (Jan. 14, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 124 inside Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

After a fiery start to her UFC career, things have slowed down quite a bit for VanZant. It’s been more than one year since her last defeat, but VanZant is hoping a change in weight classes produces a better result. On the other hand, Clark debuted on short-notice just a couple months ago. I was among the large number watching who previously knew very little about the Australian, but Clark impressed by dominating a veteran opponent and showing a well-rounded set of skills.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each woman:

Paige VanZant
Record: 7-3
Key Wins: Bec Rawlings (UFC on FOX 21), Felice Herrig (UFC on FOX 15), Kailan Curran (UFC Fight Night 57), Alex Chambers (UFC 191)
Key Losses: Rose Namajunas (UFC Fight Night 80), Michelle Waterson (UFC on FOX 22), Tecia Torres (Invicta FC 4)
Keys to Victory: One of her sport’s best natural athletes, VanZant has an endless gas tank and physical advantage over most of her opponents. At her best, VanZant uses those edges to maul her opponents in the clinch and on the mat, putting on a brutal pace and wearing them down quickly. Other times, she tries to kickbox from the outside. Outside kickboxing is far less taxing for her opponent, and it’s also an area where VanZant is still very much in development, meaning this strategy has been less successful.

Opposite Clark, it’s especially important that VanZant returns to her clinch bruiser style. Clark’s movement and angles were the most impressive thing about her game last time, and the best way to shut all that down is to jam her foe into the fence. Additionally, VanZant should be feeling stronger without the harsh weight cut, whereas her opponent is still learning how to drop to Flyweight. Forcing her way into the clinch and making this ugly gives VanZant a real chance to suck the life from Clark and score the impressive win she very much needs.


Jessy-Rose Clark
Record: 7-4 (1)
Key Wins: Bec Rawlings (UFC Fight Night 121), Carina Damm (Titan FC 45), Kate da Silva (XFC: Australia 45)
Key Losses: Sarah Kaufman (Battlefield Fighting Championships), Pam Sorenson (Invicta FC 20), Pannie Kianzad (Invicta FC 13)
Keys to Victory: A professional since 2012, Clark fought some very stiff talent prior to her Octagon debut. It all paid off, as Clark was able to deftly slip around Rawlings’ punches while landing her own cracking shots, and she even showed some good wrestling in the final round.

Keeping the distance will be the biggest key to victory for Clark in this bout. As mentioned above, if VanZant chooses to play her outside kickboxing game, the Aussie’s life will be made far easier.

Just watch out for that pesky flying switch kick.

Assuming VanZant comes in with the clinch in mind, lateral movement should be a focus. Opposite a pressuring bruiser in Rawlings, Clark did a great job of countering with a cross before immediately exiting to her right and getting out of harm’s way. Against “PVZ,” that could be an important technique. Additionally, Clark should be looking to jab whenever VanZant moves forward. If she can get VanZant to hesitate from moving forward, all of her other kickboxing techniques will only grow more effective.

Bottom Line: The Flyweight division is completely empty ... and these two are already in the title mix.

VanZant awarded herself a title shot on twitter prior to this match up, and it probably almost happened! UFC would love to see her as the 125-pound champion, or even just competing for the strap. If she wins here, it’s a slim-but-distinct possibility that she’s next in line. A loss, however, ends the hope for VanZant to contend in the near future, and she’ll receive a step back in competition next time out.

Clark enters this bout as the No. 10-ranked Flyweight, and she could become the first to earn a 2-0 record inside the division. UFC is not quite as motivated to make that happen compared to “12 Gauge,” but it would be a fair call if they decide not to award Valentina Shevchenko an instant title shot.

At the same time, Clark is still rather unproven. I am lenient toward her weight miss last time because of the short-notice nature of the bout, but that cannot be an issue again. Plus, her great performance opposite Rawlings could have been a result of the style match up, so she has to show she can perform that well consistently.

At UFC Fight Night 124, Paige VanZant and Bec Rawlings will square off which. Which woman will take a step towards the Flyweight title?

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