WMMA Fights to Keep an Eye on This Weekend: Aussies Look to Make Immediate Impact in New Division
This week, four Australian sheilas take center stage down under! The originally booked Scot, Joanne Calderwood was supposed to participate as one half of the women’s Flyweight co-main event at UFC Fight Night 121 in Sydney, Australia. Unfortunately, Calderwood was forced out due to undisclosed reasons.
In steps the newcomer and Invicta FC veteran, Jessica “Jessy Jess” Rose-Clark to complete the hometown quartet.
Keeping the action spread out through the world, Bellator 188 will take place in Tel Aviv, Israel where one of their Kickboxing champions makes their organizational debut inside of the cage rather than the ring.
Bellator 188 – Fri, Nov 17
Flyweight – 125 lbs: Denise Kielholtz (0-1, 18-2 KB) vs. Jessica Middleton (2-2)
“Miss Dynamite” Denise Kielholtz is the current Bellator Flyweight Kickboxing champion and hasn’t competed in MMA since October of 2015. Her upcoming bout with Jessica Middleton will be her first MMA fight with the promotion and her second fight overall this year (her last being a title defense against Martine Michieletto).
Middleton though is no slouch, especially as the opponent of someone who’s giving MMA another shot. She’s the only fighter to have defeated the hot prospect, Bruna Ellen and has only lost to the two fighters that were recently involved in the inaugural Flyweight title fight(Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and Emily Ducote).
Why You Should Watch
It’s always interesting to see a champion from a different combat sport try their hand at MMA. Specifically the striking sports because the question is always if they can keep the fight off the ground or not which is presumably where their opponent will want to take the fight. Assuming Kielholtz can get an impressive win here, who knows how quickly Bellator will want to attempt to put together a Flyweight champ vs Flyweight champ super fight between her and Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.
That’s clearly jumping the gun as Middleton could very well spoil Kielholtz’ MMA return, but one has got to think that’s something Bellator is at the very least thinking about.
UFC Fight Night 121 – Sat, Nov 18
Flyweight – 125 lbs: Bec Rawlings (7-6) vs. Jessica Rose-Clark (7-4)
Australia’s own, “Rowdy” Bec Rawlings (7-6 MMA, 2-3 UFC) has had an okay start to her UFC career. Going 2-3 in her time with the organization, she currently finds herself on a two-fight losing streak and was starting to struggle to consistently and comfortably make the cut down to 115lbs. Fortunately for Rawlings, the UFC has created their own 125lb. Flyweight division and she will get the honor of being the highest-billed UFC Flyweight bout to date.
For what it’s worth, Rawlings is 4-1 when facing fellow countrywomen. But short notice newcomer, Rose-Clark isn’t coming in to be anyone’s rebound.
The two-time Invicta FC vet, Rose-Clark (7-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) was initially expected to take on top Flyweight, Vanessa Porto at Invicta 26. Of course, until Calderwood was pulled from this bout. Beginning her career at Featherweight to then fighting primarily at Bantamweight, Rose-Clark now plans on making a statement early into the UFC Flyweight division’s inception.
Why You Should Watch
Two entertaining fighters being booked to throw down is always good reason enough to watch a fight. Short notice adds somewhat of a fun element as well.
Many people might not know who Rose-Clark is, which could be good for her in this situation. Coming in on short-notice and fighting at home could eliminate the UFC jitters for her…or amplify them. She’s one that seems comfortable in many situations and might not let the moment get to her. It is a co-main-event though so it will be hard to predict how she responds to it.
Each fighter is happy to stand and trade bombs and with Rawlings going up a weight class and Rose-Clark going down one on short notice, this fight provides many interesting factors and each fighters want to get off to a good start in the new division; and for Rose-Clark, in the UFC.
Strawweight – 115 lbs: Alex Chambers (5-3) vs. Nadia Kassem (4-0)
Chambers was a contestant on season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter and is 1-2 in the UFC with her lone win coming over Kailin Curran. Many have suggested that Chambers may be too small for the Strawweight division. Having competed at Atomweight before and having good success, they might not be wrong. But the UFC doesn’t have a 105lb. Atomweight division so she has to make the best of her situation.
Nadia Kassem (4-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) like fellow Aussie, Rose-Clark, is making her UFC debut. In terms of hype though, Kassem may be the hottest prospect at Strawweight. Hard to argue when all four of her victories have been by way of KO/TKO with her longest fight only lasting 1:27 and her second longest being 26-seconds long. That’s all kinds of crazy, especially for a Strawweight. Being that consistently quick with your finishing abilities is completely worthy of the hype. Kassem has won a championship at Strawweight and at Flyweight on the Australian regional scene.
Why You Should Watch
This fight feels tailor-made for Kassem to have a monster performance. Kassem is the bigger woman, standing at 5’8″ to Chambers’ 5’3″ and also having fought half of her pro fights at Flyweight. She’s also eighteen years younger than Chambers and not coming off a two-year layoff.
Experience clearly favors Chambers but boy does the momentum favor Kassem. This will be one of those fights that will either be too much too soon for the young prospect or one that further raises the stock of the prospect and really helps build the hype for the potential future star.
Top Pick: Chambers vs. Kassem
This really was a hard three fights to pick between for top pick. All have plenty of intrigue to them, but Chambers vs. Kassem stands out for one particular reason. Remember when Conor McGregor debuted and dismantled Marcus Brimage? Or what about Todd Duffee‘s debut when he knocked out Tim Hague in a mere seven seconds? Just true highlights of performances.
Now Todd Duffee obviously didn’t pan out like McGregor did (nor has anyone, really). The point is that this could be one of those memorable “star grooming” debut performances. Especially since history shows with Paige VanZant, that the UFC definitely isn’t opposed to trying to set these kinds of things up for clearly talented young fighters.
Chambers absolutely has a chance here and shouldn’t be underestimated, but it’s quite clear how this fight looks on paper and it will be the most interesting one to watch play out while it lasts.
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