Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight standouts Rose Namajunas and Manon Fiorot this weekend (Sat., Sept. 2, 2023) at UFC Paris inside Accor Arena in Paris, France.
This co-main event slot is a reset button for Namajunas. Even despite her horrifically bad title loss to Carla Esparza, “Thug Rose” could have stuck around 115 pounds and challenged for the title sooner than later — she does have two wins over Zhang Weili, after all. Instead, Namajunas chose to pursue “greener pastures,” diving immediately into the deep end at 125 pounds.
Fiorot is a serious introduction to the Flyweight division. Perfect (5-0) inside the Octagon, Fiorot has quickly climbed the ladder into title contention, making her mark as a kickboxing specialist and overall physical talent.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 223, UFC 217), Zhang Weili (UFC 268, UFC 261), Jessica Andrade (UFC 251), Tecia Torres (UFC on FOX 19), Michelle Waterson (UFC on FOX 24)
Key Losses: Jessica Andrade (UFC 237), Carla Esparza (UFC 274, TUF 20 Finale), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC 201), Tecia Torres (Invicta FC 4)
Keys to Victory: Namajunas is one of the most skilled fighters in the history of women’s mixed martial arts (MMA). She moves gracefully on her feet and punches with real power, a testament to her boxing mechanics. On the floor, Namajunas is an excellent submission fighter, and her wrestling has held up well at the elite level against the likes of Esparza and Weili.
This bout serves as a perfect test of Namajunas’ Flyweight potential. On paper, I favor her everywhere. She’s the slicker striker with a much more varied output, and her wrestling/grappling is considerably more proven. However, Fiorot is a great athlete who’s strong for the division ... and that changes everything.
To win, Namajunas has to capitalize on her speed. I’d like to see Namajunas showing a lot of in-and-out movement, looking to draw Fiorot forward. When the French athlete bites on her feints, that’s when Namajunas can quickly counter or dart forward with quick combinations before scampering away.
Hand speed is the great equalizer for fighters coming up a weight class, and Namajunas cracks hard enough to make her shots count.
Key Wins: Katlyn Chookagian (UFC 280), Jennifer Maia (UFC Columbus), Mayra Beuno Silva (UFC Vegas 40), Tabatha Ricci (UFC Vegas 28)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Fiorot has a background in Karate and amateur Muay Thai, but it’s really her athletic gifts that shine through when she fights. She’s routinely stronger, faster and better conditioned than her opposition, and those advantages are incalculably helpful in winning MMA fights.
Imposing her physicality on Namajunas should be the goal here. It’s simply harder to fight bigger opposition. Wrestling becomes exhausting, and striking gets more intimidating. Namajunas has struggled with physical opponents like Andrade before, losing a bit of her speed as fatigue sets in.
Fiorot should be pressuring and ripping kicks whenever possible. Let the left leg fly to the body when Namajunas stand still, and chop at her trailing leg whenever she circles. Combination punching into clinch work is a good idea as well. Fiorot is a pretty decent wrestler, but more important, ugly exchanges from in close will sap her opponent’s energy.
This bout has huge implications for the Flyweight division.
Namajunas has options here. If she goes out and is muscled around by Fiorot, well, a title fight versus Zhang Weili is still an attainable goal back at 115 pounds. If instead she performs well at her new weight class and debuts into title contention, Namajunas has a real shot at becoming a two-division champion. Her skill has never been in question, so this is really all about proving that Flyweight is a good fit for her, as well as that her mental game is in a good spot.
Fiorot is also trying to earn a title shot, and she doesn’t have a belt on her resume to help get her there. Really, this is about trying to outshine Erin Blanchfield, who just picked up another impressive win a few days ago at UFC Singapore. If Fiorot can really dominate “Thug Rose” and get her home crowd going wild, maybe she can upstage “Cold Blooded” and set herself up for the winner of Valentina Shevchenko vs. Alexa Grasso 2.
At UFC Paris, Rose Namajunas and Manon Fiorot will go to war in the co-main event. Which woman earns the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Paris fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 3 p.m. ET.
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