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UFC buries title contender match on super early Singapore card, gritty Erin Blanchfield shines regardless

UFC Fight Night: Blanchfield v Santos Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Erin Blanchfield fought her ass off this morning (Sat., Aug. 26, 2023), scoring one of the best wins of her professional career by outlasting Talia Santos early on the main card of UFC Singapore, which took place inside Singapore Indoor Arena in Kallang, Singapore.

The bout was Santos’ first back since she very nearly dethroned Valentina Shevchenko. For those who don’t remember, the Muay Thai expert was soundly controlling Shevchenko on the canvas prior to a clash of heads that shattered her orbital. Understandably, she struggled on the feet afterward, leading to a split-decision loss.

Meanwhile, Blanchfield is Flyweight’s hottest prospect. The New Jersey-native is just 24 years old, but she’s already sprinted into the Top Five on the strength of her masterful jiu-jitsu and surprisingly strong wrestling attack. Prior to this fight, she submitted former champion Jessica Andrade quickly.

This fight did not start easily for Blanchfield. Santos is strong and faster, and her extensive Muay Thai background equated to crisper combinations punctuated by punishing kicks. She really beat up Blanchfield, forcing her into the role of nail rather than hammer — an unusual situation for a young phenom.

To her credit, Blanchfield didn’t bat an eye. She more than proved her grit, continually walking forward and throwing to set up her takedown attempts. When the shot failed, she’d at least come up punching. The damage Santos landed in the first didn’t deter her.

The tide began to turn in the second. Blanchfield’s excellent chain wrestling combined with Santos’ fatigue — and one big lateral drop error — to finally score her some top control. More importantly, Blanchfield’s pace and relentlessness took a ton of steam off Santos’ strikes. She dominated the third, mostly via strikes and dirty boxing rather than actual takedowns.

A gutsy and entertaining win over the most recent title challenger should be a huge moment for Blanchfield, one that locks down a title shot and lets her focus solely on training for the champion until Shevchenko and Alexa Grasso settle their rematch. The question becomes: does winning a title eliminator matter if no one is around to see it?

Blanchfield’s fight — and thus her performance — was not highlighted as it deserved. This was a clear-cut title eliminator between the obvious No. 3 and No. 4 at 125-pounds, a division that needs help developing to the standard that Strawweight has set. It should have been the co-main event, at a minimum. At the very least, it shouldn’t have aired earlier in the morning than the average fight fan wakes up!

Given her age and obvious talent, Blanchfield is going to be a fixture at Flyweight for the next decade barring some unfortunate injury. She’s active and a finisher. Why not build her up as much as possible, given the likelihood of a long and promising UFC career? She sure looks like a future champion.

Instead, an Anthony Smith fight was decided the more important and deserving co-main event — insanity in the year 2023. As a result of the inattention, the title shot is less guaranteed. Blanchfield may have to face Manon Fiorot instead, meaning she would have to clear out three members of the Top Five before earning a title shot.

That’s an absolutely unreasonable ask in a division as desperate for title contenders as women’s Flyweight.

For complete UFC Singapore: “Holloway vs. Korean Zombie” results and play-by-play, click HERE.

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