Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Featherweight talents Felicia Spencer and Zarah Fairn dos Santos will throw down this Saturday (Feb. 29, 2020) at UFC Fight Night 169 from inside Chartway Arena in Norfolk, Virginia.
As I understand it, there are currently five full-time Featherweights vying for Amanda Nunes crown. Since four of them are competing in Norfolk, does that make at least one of those match ups a title eliminator? If that’s the case, this bout seems to have priority, as Spencer (by virtue of her submission win over Megan Anderson) is the most accomplished of the four. Dos Santos did come up short to Anderson in her Octagon debut though, so perhaps there’s cause to believe Anderson could jump her in line if dos Santos does score an upset here. Should all this title shot speculation be in the “Bottom Line” section? Probably. But hey, the division is a mess and these two have a combined three previous UFC fights, so that’s about all there is to review.
Welcome to your co-main event! Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Megan Anderson (UFC Fight Night 152), Pam Sorensen (Invicta FC 32)
Key Losses: Cris Cyborg (UFC 240)
Keys to Victory: Though she did not at all come close to winning, Spencer did fairly well opposite Cyborg compared to her peers. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Spencer does her best work from top position, where she has secured four victories via rear naked choke.
Let’s recap briefly: Spencer’s big win is a submission over Anderson, the kickboxer who is noted for not being great at grappling ... the same Anderson who submitted dos Santos in the first round just a few short months ago. I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to say that Spencer almost certainly holds an advantage on the mat, and that she would be wise to take advantage of it.
Why do anything else? Spencer has shown solid clinch wrestling and tricks to drag opponents to the mat. She wasn’t able to trip up Cyborg, but then, Cyborg ruled the division with an iron fist for a decade. Cyborg is a strong wrestler with a brown belt under Andre Galvao.
Dos santos is not.
Zarah Fairn dos Santos
Key Wins: Izabela Badurek (Ladies Fight Night 7), Suva Salmimies (Cage 40)
Key Losses: Megan Anderson (UFC 243)
Keys to Victory: I am trying not to be overly negative, but dos Santos does not have any one skill that really jumps off the page. She’s decent in the clinch and can throw a solid right hand, but her fairly straightforward style of kickboxing often leaves her open to takedowns.
Against an opponent looking to clinch, there are really two options. The first — and most standard — is to rely on lateral movement and rangy strikes to deter forward pressure, avoiding the fence and clinch entirely. Unfortunately, dos Santos has not yet shown those abilities, particularly against a foe as tricky as Spencer.
Alternatively, it’s sometimes better to initiate the clinch. Perhaps dos Santos can out-muscle Spencer and push her into the fence, where it’s not easy to level change or trip. If “Infinite” can change the flow of the clinch from takedowns to dirty boxing, it represents perhaps her best chance at victory.
There are only three other contenders, so each win is huge.
Of the five potential challengers, Spencer seemingly has the best chance vs. Nunes. That’s not to say it’s a great one given the striking differential, but Spencer is tough as nails, big, and has the grappling to keep up with Nunes. At the very least, it’s not a laughable title defense for Nunes, and a win here could make it a reality.
It’s not like women’s Bantamweight is really stacked with contenders, either.
As for dos Santos, the French athlete is admittedly a bit further off from the title given her debut loss. Even if she pulls off the upset, she probably needs at least one more win. That said, it would be a very legitimizing victory, one that would help keep her listed for the Featherweight roster for some time.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 169 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.
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At UFC Fight Night 169, Felicia Spencer and Zarah Fairn dos Santos will battle in the co-main event. Which woman will have her hand raised?