When the UFC 199 broadcast begins on Fight Pass on Saturday night, we will be settling down as fans to enjoy a card that is everything we have come to expect from the UFC’s marquee pay-per-view events. Some hot prospects, many recognised names, and a number of enthralling stories ready to be played out in front of our eyes. Sat in the middle of the FOX Sports 1 prelims is a bout that signifies something a little different.
Jessica Penne and Jennifer Andrade will butt heads in an 115-pound contest that serves as the most conclusive indicator yet that women’s MMA desperately needs the UFC to introduce additional weight classes for their female fighters. Just as convincingly it makes it clear that the company has no need to create new divisions at flyweight and atomweight anytime soon.
If every female mixed martial artist on the planet was fighting at their optimal weight, former Invicta FC atomweight champion Jessica Penne would be a top-three talent at 105 pounds. And what a mouthwatering prospect that would be, the likes of Ayaka Hamasaki, Michelle Waterson, and Penne herself vying to be number one on the grandest stage of all, inside the UFC’s octagon. Instead, with only two developing women’s divisions to pick from in the UFC, Penne has been forced to fight at strawweight with no real time for adjustment.
It is a problem faced by many women in the sport, but the chance to fight in the UFC is an opportunity barely anyone can afford to turn down. As Invicta FC has grown, so has the amount paid to their fighters. At Invicta FC 17 Tonya Evinger made a disclosed $10k+$10k for her headlining bantamweight title defense against Colleen Schneider. While that figure equals the base pay for a debuting fighter in the UFC, Evinger remains the exception. Schneider made only $4k for her efforts, and most fighters on the card fell well short of the $5k mark.
By opting to give up Invicta to compete on season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter, Penne eventually earned an opportunity to fight for the UFC strawweight title. In doing so she scooped a $50k fight of the night bonus for her main event against Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Add to that her actual fight pay, and any sponsorship payments, and it’s easy to see why fighters are so keen to move up or down a weight class to compete in the UFC.
Jessica Andrade faced a similar situation when she signed with the UFC in 2013. Carrying the frame of a natural flyweight, Andrade had only one option if she wanted to fight in the UFC. To move up to bantamweight. It is to her credit that she was able to do so with such success, boasting a 4-3 record in the division, but when the UFC introduced an 115-pound weight class at the back end of 2014 Andrade faced another conundrum. What’s better, fighting as an undersized bantamweight, or as an oversized strawweight? Andrade opted for the latter, leading to her booking against Penne at UFC 199.
While women are constantly forced to make these compromises compete at the highest level, we rarely get to accurately know who the best fighters in the world are. Ayaka Hamasaki might be the reigning Invicta atomweight champion, but many of the world’s top atomweights compete in the UFC at strawweight. Similarly, Jennifer Maia holds interim flyweight gold in Invicta, but should the UFC opt to develop a 125-pound weight class themselves we could see the likes of Valerie Letourneau, Cat Zingano, and Liz Carmouche all entering the mix. How would Maia fare against that level of competition?
With the ranking system in women’s MMA a mess as a result, and so many questions going unanswered, now might seem like the perfect time for the UFC to add additional divisions for women. We are even on the verge of seeing the first women’s flyweight contest in the UFC on June 18 when Joanne Calderwood faces Valerie Letourneau. Yet the difference in what would be good for women in the sport, and what is good for the UFC, remains vast.
With an active women’s bantamweight roster of little more than 20 fighters, adding a flyweight division would make a serious dent. As fighters opted to jump weight classes, at least another 20 would need to be signed to fill the gaps and pad out the new divisions. In truth, even that wouldn’t really be enough.
And what exactly are the UFC losing in not having that division, or an atomweight one, as part of its roster? They still have access to all of the best fighters in the world, able to cherry pick from Invicta and other organisations as they please. Many of the best atomweights and flyweights are already in the UFC. Those who aren’t, most likely would be if the UFC came calling.
When we are far too often witnessing women’s bouts in the UFC where one fighter is hindered by fighting outside of their natural weight class, Jessica Andrade vs Jessica Penne makes for an exciting change of pace. Now we get to answer new questions, of what happens when a blown up, atomweight meets a drained flyweight somewhere in the middle. For now at least, where fighters who don’t fit quite so neatly into the UFC’s divisional structure are concerned, that’s about as good as it gets.
Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223
UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.
Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.
After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.
A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.
Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.
Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.
A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.
Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet
Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.
“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”
Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.
“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”
Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.
“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”
Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April
MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.
The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.
Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.
An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.
His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).
Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.
PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.
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