The first Invicta and UFC events of the year have been and gone. Bellator is coming up this weekend too. The MMA pace of 2017 is increasing.
Over the next 12 months new stars will emerge. They always do. Look at where we were as 2016 began. Angela Lee was 4-0 and the combined records of her opponents to that point were 8-8. Angela Hill was 2-2 and hadn’t won a fight in over a year. Megan Anderson had lost badly in her Invicta debut and was about to meet an opponent with a 1-0 record.
If you’re wondering who to look out for in 2017, we have you covered. From China to the Ukraine, Louisiana to Brazil, here are five women you can expect big things from before 2017 comes to a close.
Andrea “KGB” Lee (5-2)
Lee had a disappointing 2016. The fighter was submitted by Sarah d’Alelio in March before being suspended for the rest of the year as a result of a positive test for a pair of diuretics. That only makes Lee’s reach for the top in 2017 more compelling.
“KGB” remains the most creative and versatile striker in the flyweight division, finding angles and openings that others can only dream of. Given her credentials as a striker that is unsurprising. Lee has won amateur world Muay Thai championships and a national Golden Gloves boxing championship in the United States.
The upside to that 2016 suspension is that it gave Lee the opportunity to compete in a number of grappling events. We might not always see it, because Lee is so good on her feet, but the fighter’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills were underrated even before the extra focus in 2016.
That all makes Lee a certain inclusion on this list. When you then combine her already having one win in the bag, defeating Jenny Liou impressively at Invicta FC 21, and a second fight booked for February for the Legacy Fighting Alliance title, 2017 could be the year that Andrea Lee becomes the number one flyweight in the world.
Helena Kolesnyk (3-0)
12 months ago Ukrainian featherweight Helena Kolesnyk had not yet made her professional MMA debut. Three wins later, Kolesnyk is set for a big year in 2017.
Kolesnik’s pro MMA career has so far consisted of working her way into the clinch, womanhandling her opponents, and then pounding on them after taking them to the mat. Mostly anyway. Don’t be fooled into thinking she is primarily a grappler, as her striking credentials are impressive.
Xiaomin Wang offered a little resistance back in June before being submitted in the second round. What that fight showed, is that Kolesnyk has the ability to overcome in-cage adversity, and threaten with submissions off her back.
Being an emerging prospect in a division that has so few gives Kolesnyk a head start. She has already snuck into the unified rankings, currently sitting 10th at featherweight. With the UFC entering the featherweight market, and Bellator and Invicta looking to pad out their own divisions, don’t be surprised to see Kolesnyk take a big step up in competition over the next year.
Janaisa Morandin (10-0)
At the top of the atomweight pile sits Ayaka Hamasaki. The Japanese fighter has lost only once in 15 career fights. Hamasaki has set herself apart at 105 pounds, but 2017 could be the year that she faces her greatest atomweight challenge yet.
Undefeated Brazilian Janaisa Morandin is signed to an Invicta contract and has announced that she expects to have a fight booked with the promotion soon. With 10 wins picked up in less than four years as a pro, Morandin poses a significant threat to the rest of the division.
The diminutive prospect is a master at making her opponents feel uncomfortable on their backs. Morandin’s ground and pound is best described as vicious. There is plenty more to her game beyond that though, the Brazilian is a threat everywhere.
The only question mark remaining against Morandin is how she will fare against more experienced competition. That is something we should find out in 2017.
Ariane Lipski (8-3)
The surging Brazilian has now won her last six, including two wins inside the KSW cage in Poland. Lipski had an impressive 2016, facing notable names Juliana Werner and Sheila Gaff, and defeating both spectacularly.
A warrior in every sense, Lipski is an aggressive puncher with legitimate power in her hands. The right hand that felled Werner like a tree landed perfectly. It looked pretty tasty against Sheila Gaff too, dropping the German to one knee and leading to the finish.
Approaching her 23rd birthday, the Brazilian is starting to come into her own. Lipski has already carried her power beyond the Brazilian regional scene, and made a splash in the flyweight top ten.
If Lipski chooses to remain a force in Europe there is plenty of solid competition for her to plough through. Alternatively, Bellator adding the fighter into a mix that already includes Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, Emily Ducote and Colleen Schneider would be an exciting prospect.
Weili Zhang (10-1)
Chinese strawweight Weili Zhang has not lost since her professional MMA debut in 2013. In 2016, Zhang went a perfect 6-0 defeating notable opponents such as Emi Fujino and Karla Benitez. Her impressive record only tells part of the story.
Kunlun Fight, where Zhang has primarily competed, is a hotbed of impressive female talent. With Jingnan Xiong, Bo Meng and Yanan Wu all making waves, Zhang might be the best of the bunch.
Zhang is happy to go to war with anyone on the feet and has strikes within her offensive arsenal that are capable of finishing fights quickly. The headkick that Zhang knocked out Lilya Kazak with last year was spectacular. The relentless barrage of punches and elbows she unleased on Karla Benitez showed a special kind of killer instinct. Benitez was left out cold. The Venezuelan had never been stopped by strikes in her 25 fight professional career.
China’s outstanding strawweight is a submission threat too. Four of her ten wins have come via that method. In short, Zhang has a chance to beat fighters wherever the action goes. That’s a scary prospect for any opponent.
Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou Official for UFC 220
UFC 220 in Boston, Massachusetts has its main event. Stipe Miocic (17-2) will put his belt on the line for the third time against rising heavyweight star, Francis Ngannou (11-1)
Rumors surrounded the match-up for UFC 220 after Ngannou’s first round knockout over Alistair Overeem, at UFC 218. The Cameroonian heavyweight called for the fight himself. In his octagon interview proceeding his most recent victory, Ngannou stated:
“I’m feeling good… I’m on my way to a title shot”.
— UFC (@ufc) December 10, 2017
The heavy handed Ngannou has finished all of his opponents in all of his six UFC bouts. A streak which includes a kimura submission over Anthony Hamilton and a TKO victory against former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski. Overall, he holds a ten fight win streak. His only defeat came by way of unanimous decision to Zoumana Cisse, in his second professional MMA fight.
If victorious, Ngannou would become the first African-born champion in UFC history.
Not to be diminished, Stipe Miocic rides his a streak of his own into the beantown match-up. Five consecutive wins, five knockouts and the past four of which, ended in the first round. A victory in Boston for the champ would make him the longest reigning heavyweight champion in UFC history. Currently, Miocic is one of three heavyweights, in the promotions entirety, whom has successfully defended the belt twice.
UFC 220 will be held at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on January 20th, 2018. The pay-per-view (PPV) card will also feature light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, as he faces challenger Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir.
Ladies Fight Night 7: “Double Trouble” Preview
Polish women’s federation Ladies Fight Night is going to celebrate their second birthday this year on the 15th to 17th of December. Two days, two events with a lot of great bouts.
LFN in Poland is being titled the new Invicta FC. The Polish owners created this federation to give European women a chance to fight on a big platform.
Hosting their first ever event in December 2015, LFN will hold two great cards next week, that will feature women who have fought under many prestigious promotions, such as the UFC, Invicta, Bellator, Glory, and Kunlun.
Two days of fantastic fights, intensified by a double dose of sports impressions. The name is not accidental, LFN 7 / LFN 8 combines two events, during which the best Polish fighters will be shown, as well as the best fighters from Europe (including France, Sweden, Italy, the Czech Republic and Romania)
The stakes are high, and we are electrified by the clashes between warriors such as Żaneta Cieśla vs Silvia La Notte and Patricia Axling vs. Cindy Silvestri. Mainly due to their vastness of their experience in the cage.
In the fight of the evening, the talented Romanian Cristina Stanciu will face Magdaléna Šormovádo. Stanciu fought twice in the UFC, but she was unfortunately cut from the promotion after suffering consecutive losses to Cortney Casey and Maryna Moroz.
Judyta Rymarzak vs Marta Waliczek is an amazing fight between two experienced kickboxers. Both making their pro MMA debuts on the night, we will witness a one-of-a-kind duel between two kickboxing perfectionists, as they look to transcend their skills into the MMA world.
Mackenzie Dern victorious in Invicta debut
Late Friday night, Mackenzie Dern (5-0, 1-0 Invicta FC) won her co-main event booking, defeating Kaline Medieros (8-6, 2-2 Invicta FC), at Invicta FC 26: Maia vs. Niedzwiedz, via submission (armbar) with only fifteen seconds remaining in the fight.
Much of the fight was controlled by Dern. The heralded prospect displayed her power, visibly damaging her opponent with multiple overhand rights. Striking is an under-developed aspect of her attack, only when compared to the twenty-four-year-olds black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Above all, she showed a progression of her striking skills. Dern looked to be bigger and physically stronger than her veteran opponent. She utilized forward pressure and found the proper timing for her overhand right throughout.
— UFC Fight Pass (@UFCFightPass) December 9, 2017
The veteran Medeiros showed her toughness throughout the fight. She defended and scrambled out of some bad positions during the grappling exchanges. Ultimately, she tapped when caught in a deeply planted armbar. While Medeiros did earn a few hard trip takedowns, it factored minimally in the result as she refused to follow Dern to the mat. The Boston native suffered her second straight loss, Friday night. Her first was to, former Invicta strawweight champion, Angela Hill.
Dern made her professional debut in July of 2016 with Legacy Fighting Alliance (previously: Legacy Fighting Championship). In her debut, she defeated Kenia Rosas by unanimous decision. The Phoenix-born fighter won her next three bouts. Before her MMA career began, Dern won the ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) championship at 60 kg. She was the first American born female to become champion at the weight. Her grappling resume boasts many more incredible accomplishments. Justifiably, a growing spotlight now hangs over her, her skills, and potential in the sport of MMA.
Elsewhere on the Invicta 26 card, Jennifer Maia defeated Agnieszka Niedzweidz by unanimous decision. Maia retained her Invicta flyweight belt, defending it for the second time. Invicta FC 26: Maia vs. Niedzweidz, took place at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri.
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