Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Bantamweight bruisers Ketlen Vieira and Sijara Eubanks will duel this Saturday (Sept. 26, 2020) at UFC 253 from inside Flash Forum on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
If we flash back to 2018, Vieira was seemingly next in line for a title shot opposite Amanda Nunes. Instead, injuries kept her out of the Octagon for 18 months, and her return bout saw her knocked out in the very first round. Eubanks may be able to relate to an extent, as she was a likely contender at 125-pounds not long ago, but weight issues ultimately forced her out of the division.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Sara McMann (UFC 215), Cat Zingano (UFC 222), Ashlee Evans-Smith (UFC on FOX 24), Kelly Fasholz (UFC Fight Night 96)
Key Losses: Irene Aldana (UFC 245)
Keys to Victory: Vieira fights ugly, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Strong and well-conditioned, “Fenômeno” pushes a hard pace, walking her opponent down with punches until she can score the clinch, where the punching does not stop, but the wrestling does begin.
She exhausts opponents, scoring lots of top control time in the process.
Eubanks is not a weak Bantamweight nor is she particularly small at 135 lbs., yet she does appear quite vulnerable to Vieira’s grinding style. Eubanks has faded in the past, particularly in grappling-heavy fights where she is unable to easily control her opponents.
In short, Vieira may not have the jiu-jitsu credentials of “Sarj,” but she definitely wants a wrestling match here. If she backs Eubanks up and forces her into the clinch, it’s going to be quite difficult for Eubanks to escape, trapping her in precisely the type of grueling war of attrition that Vieira typically dominates.
Key Wins: Julia Avila (UFC Vegas 10), Roxeanne Modafferi (UFC 230), Lauren Murphy (UFC Fight Night 131)
Key Losses: Aspen Ladd (UFC Fight Night 152, Invicta FC 21), Bethe Correia (UFC Fight Night 159)
Keys to Victory: Eubanks has the skills to be a potential contender. Her boxing is pretty tight and fairly powerful, her wrestling is strong, and she holds a black belt in both jiu-jitsu and Judo. Really, slowing down has proven her biggest issue, as she’s plenty strong regardless of division.
Eubanks and Irene Aldana may be rather different fighters in terms of build and style, but that doesn’t mean Eubanks cannot learn from Aldana’s performance opposite Vieira. In that fight, Aldana very wisely manipulated Aldana’s forward pressure against her, using the body jab to keep her foe back and set up the left hook knockout.
Eubanks may not have the range of “Robles,” but establishing the body jab would still be invaluable. If Eubanks can stick her jab into the chest and face alike, it will go a long way in nullifying her opponent’s forward pressure, denying the clinch, and even allowing Eubanks to score a blast double on her own terms.
Jabs and movement will be key here, even if that’s not Eubanks’ typical game.
Is this a potential title eliminator? At women’s Bantamweight, maybe!
Look, the division is something of a mess, but Amanda Nunes needs fresh contenders to destroy (and perhaps someday be upset by!). Literally no one wants to see Holly Holm fight for the title again, so if she defeats Aldana in a few weeks, there’s a real chance the victor of this match up could leapfrog her to a title shot.
UFC could go with Julianna Pena instead, but ... those are really the only options. Should Aldana handle Holm, she’s undoubtedly next in line, but the winner here still isn’t far off.
Alternatively, defeat will produce different circumstances. For Vieira, she would drop down the ranks significantly, but at least there’s still potential for the 29 year old to rebuild momentum in the future. For Eubanks, however, a loss to a higher ranked foe may not hurt the number alongside her name much, but nor is the 35-year-old veteran likely to receive many more chances like this.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 253 fight card this weekend, starting with the early ESPN 2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance (also on ESPN 2/ESPN+) at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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At UFC 253, Ketlen Vieira and Sijara Eubanks will face off. Which athlete will have her hand raised?