(Editor’s note: This article was written before the TUF 26 Finale weigh-ins, after which Barb Honchak-Roxanne Modafferi was scrapped in order for Modafferi to replace Sijara Eubanks in the main event)
So thanks to the UFC’s idiotic decision not to release the entirety of the card for TUF 26 Finale until the day before the weigh-ins, I’m left scrambling to put together some sort of preview for the contests that were just barely announced. For whatever it is worth, I realize that these aren’t up to my usual standard as days full of school work and a full-time job limit my ability to prep for these fights on such a short winner. Basically, take whatever I’m throwing out with a grain of salt.
Given I’ve already thrown out previews for the previously announced contests, I’m merely filling in the cracks the UFC left open. I know there isn’t a rhyme or reason to the placement of where these fights are, but I wasn’t waiting until the day before to organize all ten contests I’m covering. However, I will let you know what time the portions of the card take place this Friday:
The Fight Pass prelim begins at 7:30 PM ET/4:30 PM PT.
The FS1 prelims begin at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT.
Finally, the main card kicks off at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT.
Roxanne Modafferi (21-14, 1 NC) vs. Barb Honchak (10-3), Women’s Flyweight
Not the first time these battle-tested veterans have met, though a lot has changed in the six years since their first meeting. Women’s MMA has risen to a place of prominence, crossing into the UFC after Dana White had stated they never would step foot in the Octagon. Honchak became the flyweight champion in the preeminent women’s-only MMA organization, Invicta. She also relinquished the belt due to inactivity as this is her first contest in three years. Did I mention Modafferi had already been through a season of TUF before? She has experienced a career resurgence as well, going 6-2 since the UFC cut her loose. Yes, much has changed since they first met.
Modafferi’s base has always been her grappling. That may come as a surprise to those who only recently became acquainted with Modafferi as she has greatly shored up her standup. Yes, she is still janky and awkward. Yes, she still isn’t much of a power threat. But her awkwardness works in her favor as opponents aren’t sure what to expect. It has helped to make her ground game far more effective as well as she disguises her shots better than ever. On the ground, Modafferi relies very heavily on positioning and technique to implement her control based game, though no one can sleep on her maturing ground-and-pound.
Honchak doesn’t have the funky style possessed by her opponent. In fact, she very well may have been the most technically sound striker in the tournament. She relies heavily on a jab to set up her punching combinations, but she is also not opposed to tying up her opponent and grinding away in the clinch with her surprising strength. Honchak isn’t known for her ground game, but she has proven over the years that she can do more than just hold her own down there. It is worth noting she subbed Modafferi in their first contest.
Honchak looked pretty good in the house. She wasn’t peak Honchak, but she was still good. On the flip side, Modafferi continues to improve, soaking in all the coaching she can get. Honchak’s fundamentals and experience will ensure that Modafferi doesn’t catch her off-guard. Honchack via decision
Christina Marks (8-8) vs. Montana de la Rosa (7-4), Women’s Flyweight
Marks is a standup specialist with a fair chunk of power in her arsenal. A good-sized flyweight and a Muay Thai specialist, Marks makes good use of her arms and legs to attack from the distance. He ground game is still very underdeveloped as her six submission losses would indicate that they would be. Often times, fighters find a way to shore up a longtime weakness as they get further into their career. Not the case with Marks. If you count her fight in the tournament, Marks’ last six losses all came via submission.
That’s music to the ears of De la Rosa, formerly known as Montana Stewart. An experienced amateur wrestler, De la Rosa made a nice transition to MMA while successfully incorporating her background. Now a skilled BJJ practitioner, she has become a very methodical grappler with plus abilities in scrambling situations. Her standup is still developing, but she showed some nice countering skills in the house against Ariel Beck.
De la Rosa’s striking defense could end up costing her badly, particularly since she can be prone to slow starts. Regardless, fight ending power is rare in this division, making submissions a more likely way for a contest to end. Thus, I’ll trust De la Rosa to shake off a slow start, eventually get Marks to the ground, and find a sub. De la Rosa via submission, RD2
Gillian Robertson (3-2) vs. Emily Whitmire (2-1), Women’s Flyweight
Don’t let the lack of professional fights on their record confuse you. Robertson and Whitmire have plenty of experience under their belts.
Whitmire surprised many when she was able to overcome a rib injury to get into the quarterfinals. She relies mostly on her wrestling, using her strikes to disguise her shots. From there, Whitmire prefers to throw heavy ground strikes, though she has shown the ability to fall back on her submission ability if the opening is provided. Though her striking is a bit clunky, it’s functional and can hurt an opponent who doesn’t show her proper respect.
Robertson was completely overmatched by the more experienced Honchak in her lone fight in the house. Nonetheless, she also showed a lot of spirit, showing a willingness to throwdown with Honchak. Robertson does a solid job mixing her punches and kicks, but that has never been the worry for the Canadian. Wrestling has been the bane of her MMA existence thus far, struggling to stuff opponent’s takedowns.
Not difficult to see where I’m going with this one. Whitmire is a solid wrestler whereas Robertson struggles with them. Robertson probably does have the advantage in the standup, but it won’t matter if Whitmire keeps her on her back. Whitmire via decision
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