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TUF 20 Finale: Prelim Preview

Felice Herrig

History will be made when the first ever all-female Ultimate Fighter comes to an explosive end tomorrow night at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. Despite a lot of critical points of view towards women’s MMA, their first season of The Ultimate Fighter proved to be one of the best seasons yet. We saw a lot of talent in the house, and furthermore we saw the future of the new women’s strawweight division in the UFC. The fight card is bound for fireworks as it contains lots of entertaining match-ups, so let’s take a look at the prelims that is chalked full promising women’s strawweight fighters.

Emily Kagan vs. Angela Hill

Starting things off is a bout between two bottom picks of the show – Emily Kagan and Angela Hill. Both of these women dropped their first bouts of the show via decision where Kagan was taken out by Joanne Calderwood, while Hill got out-grappled by finalist Carla Esparza. You’re going to notice that inexperience is going to be a repeating burden a lot of these women are dealing with, but that’s also what makes this night so exciting. These fighters are finally able to get the spotlight and attention that they deserve, but because of how green women’s MMA is (let alone the strawweight division), a lot of these fighters don’t have much in terms of miles.

With that said, talent is talent, and there is no doubt in my mind that both Kagan and Hill have talent. They had a great learning experience on the show; sometimes when a fighter is taken out early, it’s actually better for them because then they get to relax and focus on getting the most out of the experience rather than worrying about who they’re fighting next.

Hill is a physical beast at 115 pounds. She showed a lot of technical flaws against Esparza and was ultimately out-classed by the more experience and sound fighter, but Hill’s strength and power has the potential to lead her places if it is coupled with skill and technique. Kagan on the hand is a tough fighter who likes to lock up with her opponents and do damage from there. Because Hill is so strong and is going to have the strength edge, I see Kagan being overpowered early on. Expect lots of take downs from Hill and control. Kagan should definitely have some moments where she can do damage, but it’ll be Hill taking a decision.

Aisling Daly vs. Alex Chambers

 Looking to be the new Conor McGregor perhaps is the Irish native quarter-finalist Aisling Daly as she takes on Alex Chambers, who got tapped out by finalist Rose Namajunas. Daly was one of the most experienced fighters on the show, and that shows through her fluid punching combinations. Much like McGregor, Daly has a very unorthodox stance and switches it frequently. Even though this can throw a lot of inexperienced fighters off, it isn’t the most effective in all situations. Daly has often times had to resort to his offensive takdowns and submission skills when her stand up fails her. Chambers on the other hand is much greener, but has shown some surprisingly good hands as well. I think this is going to be a fight where we see some good striking exchanges, but ultimately it’s going to come down to how the fighters do on the ground. Daly, like I said, has some good wrestling skills, but Chambers is crafty on the mat and deceptively quick.

Look for these two women to exchange early and often on the feet, both landing good shots. I’m expecting Daly to put the pressure on and try to get Chambers on the defensive so Aisling can throw without caution. If she can do this, then look for a stand-out performance from Daly as she picks her opponent part and finishes her. If she can’t get her opponent bottled up, then it’ll be a hard fought fight all the way until the end. Look for Daly to be the one landing takedowns, but Chambers to fight them off and potentially look for submissions and/or sweeps off her back. It should be a fast-paced fight, but I’ll take Daly in a split decision.

Tecia Torres vs. Angela Magana

 Even though Tecia was taken out of the show early on by Randa Markos, she got another chance when she stepped in for Justine Kish and fought Bec Rawlings en route to a UD victory. Even though Torres would later get defeated Carla Esparza, she showed everyone how much potential she has. Her opponent, Magana, has the benefit of having 17 professional bouts, but was TKO’d by Aisling Daly in her preliminary match up. Both women have very different styles, so this fight could get really interesting.

On the feet, both fighters tend to get a little sloppy. Torres likes to bully her way into her range, and often does this with spinning attacks; hence her nickname “The Tiny Tornado”. But just like a tornado, Torres is a whirlwind of attacks, offense, and never stops coming forward. Magana will have the tools to capitalize on this however as she will be the longer fighter stepping into the Octagon. Expect Magana to use her reach and try to beat Torres up on the feet, but Torres is a physical beast and will look to get the fight on the ground, or the clinch at least. Torres has shown suffocating top control, but she’ll again be fighting against the longer frame of Magana, who has some really solid submission skills.

I’m predicting this fight to be a wrestler vs. grappler type of match-up. Both will score on the feet with Magana landing hard counter shots while Torres moves forward behind her punches and kicks, but expect most of the fight to take place on the mat. I think Magana should be able to defend herself well off her back, but I just don’t know if she’ll be able to mount much offense. Torres on the other hand will look to batter her opponent from the guard and will most likely pick up a decision win.

Joanne Calderwood vs. Seo Hee Ham

 This is probably one of the most intriguing match-ups on the card right here. Joanne Calderwood was highly touted on the show for her extremely solid Muay Thai skills, but that fell short against Rose Namajunas in the quarter finals when she was submitted in the second round. She won’t have problem with her opponent this time however as she is taking on Seo Hee Ham, a very experienced fighter with 20 professional bouts in her resume; Ham is replacing Justine Kish on this card, who is out due to injury.

I’m fully expecting a war between these two, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how their styles compare. Calderwood has a technical Muay Thai game where she uses lots of kicks on the outside, and then elbows and knees in the clinch. Her opponent, Ham, is a strong power puncher who isn’t afraid to step into the pocket and let her hands go.

There are two really big x factors in this fight; the first of which is who is aggression. Calderwood is at her best when she backs her opponents against the cage via her rangy kicks, and then can tee off with his Thai attack. Ham on the other hand could have lots of success if she can push her way pass Calderwood’s range, and tee off with his heavy hands. The other x factor in this bout is the ground game. Calderwood has some slick trips and takedowns from the clinch, but isn’t really known for being the most offense-oriented grappler. Ham however has some tight submission and grappling skills, but getting Calderwood down is going to be the real issue.

In the end, I’m expecting a barn burner. Both women have really good striking that they will most certainly try to put on display. When it comes to getting the victory though, it’s hard not to side with Calderwood who just holds too many advantages. Even though Ham has lots of experience, power, and is probably more well-rounded, Calderwood has a massive size advantage that is going to make Ham’s plan-B grappling skills very difficult to pull off.

Bec Rawlings vs. Heather Jo Clark

Both of these women were taken out of the competition early on, but will look to make a statement tomorrow night. I think this could be another very fun fight as both fighters are known for their likelihood to throw down. I’m anticipating a hard-fought bout between two women who will be looking to make a statement that they couldn’t make on the show.

Experience doesn’t favor one girl either way as Rawlings has 8 professional bouts, while Clark only has two more than that. Both fighters are also very skilled punchers; Rawlings has rangy frame where she can put her kicking game on display, but isn’t afraid to stay in the pocket and bang it out. Clark on the other hand brings a large volume of punches on the feet. The thing that makes this fight so interesting is that neither of them are known for their wrestling skills. Both look for submissions during transitions and have great scrambling instincts. If this fight goes to the ground I’d expect a lot of back-and-forth grappling exchanges. On the feet though, it’s hard to expect Clark will get the better of Rawlings because of how much more diverse Rawlings’ strikes are. This should be a fun fight, a fast paced fight, but ultimately a fight will be marginally decided by Rawlings’ varied attack.

Felice Herrig vs. Lisa Ellis

Tipping off the TUF 20 Finale prelims is a match-up between one of the most-talked about female strawweights, Felice Herrig, and the 23-fight veteran, Lisa Ellis. Even though Ellis is easily the more experienced fighter, she was submitted in her first bout inside the house whereas Herrig made it until the quarter finals where she fell victim to Randa Markos in the first round. Herrig is coming into this fight as a massive favorite, but how does her style fair against Ellis’s?

Herrig, like Joanne Calderwood, boasts a very technical Muay Thai striking style. Expect lots of kicks to the legs and body, and quick combinations as she enters the pocket. Her best work though is when she gets into the clinch. She likes to turn fights into brawls with savage knees to the body and head. Even though her offense is really dangerous, defense is what really lacks. Herrig is prone to getting caught being too aggressive, and not worrying about what her opponent can do to her. Most of the time this materializes itself with takedowns against the forward momentum of Herrig.

That is a bad mind set to have against much more experienced fighter in Lisa Ellis, who is going to be expecting an aggressive striking game from Herrig. While Ellis is a pretty well-rounded fighter, she has several submission victories to her credit. Expect Ellis to try and take this fight to the ground and work for submissions from top control, but she can also work off her back too if Herrig finds herself on top.

On the feet, this fight should be pretty one-sided as Herrig is an absolute slaughter house. This fight could get interesting however if Herrig lands something big, and becomes too overly aggressive. I can easily see her landing a knee, trying to finish, and getting caught in a submission. However, I’m giving my benefit to Felice Herrig as she is just too dangerous. Ellis has the tools to pull off the upset, but it’ll be hard when she’s getting kneed in the face.

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