Claire Guthrie (Jeff Vulgamore/Combat Press)

Women’s MMA Weekend Preview: UFC on ABC 1 and LFA 97

I’m baaaccckkkk!

After taking a hiatus for my own fight, I can now return to preview fights involving other people. Before I get into this weekend’s contests, I want to quickly give a thank you to everyone on social media who offered me a great deal of support. The decision didn’t go my way, and I’m never happy about that. However, I challenged myself, moved up a weight class, and felt that I represented myself well. I won’t go into details and bore you with a rehash of my fight when what you really want to read about is the upcoming fights, but I just wanted to say thanks. The support I received before the fight, on fight day, and after the bout was amazing. I always say that without fans, there are no fights. No one is paying us to get in there if there are no fans, so to receive such support meant more than I can express. This isn’t the last of me; I’m not going anywhere.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s get into the weekend’s fights. In the UFC, we have two bouts that I am really looking forward to for different reasons: Sarah Moras against Vanessa Melo and Joselyne Edwards versus Wu Yanan. In addition, I am also going to talk about the Legacy Fighting Alliance bout between Claire Guthrie and Nadine Mandiau.


Sarah Moras vs. Vanessa Melo (UFC on ABC 1)

Let’s call this what it is: a fight between two fighters who badly need a win.

Moras comes in having dropped four of her last five. I am a huge fan of Moras, and I think she’s better than her record and results indicate. She’s a very tough girl, and her fights are usually exciting. She is very creative on the ground. She can find submissions from the top or the bottom and often grabs them from out of nowhere.

Moras is not fighting someone with no ground game, though. Melo has a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt. She can get content on the ground and sort of relax, which is something you cannot do against a sneaky fighter like Moras. Melo isn’t known for her movement, so Moras won’t have to chase after her. This gives Moras a direct path to a takedown. There are two ways she can get there.

Option one is the basic shot. She can come in low, look for a double leg or a trip, and get the takedown. The con there, speaking as a short fighter myself, is that Melo’s elbows don’t have as far to travel to land to Moras’ head. Melo can potentially try to counter the takedown with those elbows. She has power, too.

This moves us to option two for Moras, which is the better choice. Melo keeps her head centered. When a fighter does that, it gives their opponent a stationary target, which is always easier than a moving target. Think of it as if you are going on a road trip. When you hear the GPS say, “Drive straight for 170 miles,” you know you don’t have to worry about missing a turn or moving over to the left lane. You just have to go straight. When that GPS says, “Stay in the left lane. In 2.5 miles, turn left, then go to the right lane,” you realize your route is a little more complicated. You have to move one way, then move to the other side, and you don’t want to miss a turn.

Here, Moras will have that straight line. She doesn’t have to worry about going left or right or missing. Moras can go right up the middle with punches to the face, double and triple that jab, and use that to get in close and get a clinch. If Moras can put Melo on the cage, then the takedowns will be there for her.

On the ground, Melo seems to like to have an open guard. She doesn’t always open up, but she will do it sometimes. This is when Moras can pounce. As soon as she feels that guard open, Moras can move into side control or at least half guard. This is where her submissions are going to open up. If she can only move to half guard, she can go to work on offense — punches and elbows. If she can get side control, then she can work things like knees to the body, distracting Melo and creating openings for things like an arm-triangle. Worst case, if she can’t get the finish, she can stay on top, grind out the round, and inch toward a decision.

Melo comes in at 0-3 in the UFC. Before her UFC run, she had some nice wins over the likes of Mariana Morais, Nubia Nascimento and even Molly McCann in 2015. She’s been that tough girl who can make a fight entertaining and doesn’t get finished, but she also doesn’t always get the win. In her last fight, a loss to Karol Rosa, she missed weight badly. This mistake, added to the 0-3 start, makes this fight extra important if she wants to stay in the UFC.

Melo’s route to victory here is most likely to try to make it a stand-up battle. She has very thick, big legs. This can make her leg kicks that much more painful. Granted, Moras might look to catch kicks to get a takedown, but Melo’s leg kicks can be big for her here. They are going to hurt and do damage, and they can be a weapon to keep Moras from shooting in for takedowns.

Melo isn’t at much of a height disadvantage in this contest, but she will give up two inches in reach, which means she will have to get inside to land her hands. She has struggled with this in the past. So, since she obviously has to throw things besides kicks, Melo will want to mix things up and not be predictable. She has the power advantage. If she mixes up the strikes and gets inside, then she can potentially hurt Moras with power shots. If she doesn’t hurt Moras, then she can get back out and reset.

Melo is not a finisher. She hasn’t scored a stoppage since 2015. Moras is not easy to finish. So, while fighters are always looking for a finish, the plan for Melo should be to batter and hurt Moras. She has to use those leg kicks to take away the explosiveness of Moras on takedown attempts. Melo also has to land hard shots to the face that could hurt Moras and put her on the defensive. If Melo finds herself against the cage, then she shouldn’t try to be overly creative. She must simply be technical, see if she can get underhooks, and switch to the outside or just get out of the position. Moras is so good at jumping on someone who takes a chance. If Melo gets taken down, she can’t be content. She must act like the brown belt that she is and look to be offensive. She must not let Moras get comfortable and dictate what is happening. Melo has to give Moras things to worry about.

Wu Yanan vs. Joselyne Edwards (UFC on ABC 1)

This one is really not hard to break down. In some ways, we know exactly what we are going to get here. It should result in a lot of fun, too.

Wu comes in off of a loss in her last fight, but that outing took place way back in August 2019. The things that cost her against Mizuki Inoue are things that could cost her in this one as well. She let her smaller opponent dictate the pace, land first, and land more effectively. In essence, she almost got bullied by the smaller fighter. Hopefully in that time off, she has worked on those things. Things won’t work out well for her if she has the same issues against someone like Edwards.

Wu has good movement. She’s not very stationary. I expect this fight to mostly be contested on the feet. Wu needs to be first. She has to keep Edwards on her heels. The more she enables Edwards to come forward, the worse it is going to be for her. In what ways can she do this? Don’t throw single punches. Throw combos — three or four punches — and end them with kicks. Wu can’t let Edwards just respond, and a good way to stop that is to end with a kick to the leg, body or head. She should change those up as well: don’t always end with the kick to the same body part. She has to make Edwards guess a little and therefore hesitate. Wu can utilize push kicks as well to make Edwards have to back up and reset before throwing anything of her own. If Wu can land those to the body, then she can maybe take away some of Edwards’ energy and slow down her aggression. If Edwards does come forward aggressively (spoiler alert: she will), then Wu must tie her up and put her back on the cage to slow her down.

Edwards comes into her UFC debut on short notice, but this is an opportunity she definitely deserves. She has a 9-2 record, but one of those losses came to Sarah Alpar. Edwards hasn’t been tested very much. She has had a lot of fights where she clearly outmatched her opponent. To some people, this could mean she’s been protected or taken easy fights. However, in some cases, an opponent might drop out. If no one wants to step in, then you have to take what you can get. Other times, the fighter is just hard to match. Edwards does not seem the type to seek out easy fights. She is a finisher, too. Five of her nine wins have ended via strikes. She’s snagged a couple of armbars as well. Some of those finishes are against decent opposition, such as Jessica Middleton and Brenda Gonzales.

You never know how someone is going to react to their UFC debut. Even the most aggressive of fighters have suddenly become a bit more cautious or hesitant once they step inside the Octagon. However, I don’t see Edwards having this issue. So, what’s the best way for Edwards to win? Simple: be Joselyne Edwards.

Wu allowed Inoue to land often. Edwards has to be first in exchanges and dictate the pace. If Edwards does this, then it’s going to be a good night for her. As a bonus, Edwards can do this without fear of being put on her back, because it’s not as if she is defenseless there. Edwards is very capable of handling herself in that scenario. So, this one is not rocket science. I don’t have to go overly in-depth to sound smart. Edwards should be aggressive, be first, not get lazy, and try to make it a fire fight. It’s simple and basic, but sometimes simple and basic wins fights.

Claire Guthrie vs. Nadine Mandiau (LFA 97)

As I watched the video on these two ladies, I became very excited for this fight. In many ways, these two women are very similar. In other ways, they are very different.

Guthrie comes in off a July loss to Caitlin Sammons in a very close fight under the Invicta FC banner. She has some very interesting striking techniques. She comes in at different angles, making it very hard to get a read on her. She gives an opponent things to think about. In this fight, that can really serve her well. In terms of the negative aspect to this, she mixes in so many feints and attempts to disguise her strikes that she gives her opponent time to get out of range.

Guthrie has exceptionally powerful low kicks. I expect to see her really use these weapons in this fight. She is fighting a great kicker in Mandiau, but Guthrie could use her own low kicks to beat up Mandiau’s legs. This could be a great way to maybe slow Mandiau’s kicks down, make them harder to throw, and even cause balance issues. Guthrie also has long arms that could serve her well. She did let Sammons get in closer, but that’s as much a credit to Sammons as anything.

Guthrie will have less than an inch height advantage here, but a shorter fighter is happy to have any kind of an advantage. I expect to see Guthrie again use those weird angles, throw some jabs, and then come in from different angles and try to follow up those jabs. She’s facing a headhunter, so she will want to be careful in dropping down and going to the body. Mandiau might jump on that opportunity to throw a head kick. Guthrie doesn’t want to get caught in clinches either. If she does end up in such a predicament, then she will want to try to push to put Mandiau’s back on the cage.

Guthrie is incredibly strong. If you don’t believe me, then go check out her social media. There are photos of when she was competing at bodybuilding shows — the girl was jacked! Now, muscle like that doesn’t necessarily translate to the kind of strength you want for fighting, but Guthrie has done a great job of turning it into functional strength. If she can get good positional control of a clinch, then she can move Mandiau to the cage.

Guthrie doesn’t have to fear the takedown from the clinch. I don’t expect Mandiau wants it down. In addition, Guthrie, in part due to her strength and in part due to good technique, is very good at defending takedowns. Guthrie throws nice knees in the clinch and will control her opponent’s wrist to open up space for the knees. However, Guthrie won’t want to engage in a clinch battle here. Takedowns aren’t a bad idea for her. She has some good grappling. You sometimes hear the phrase “position over submission.” What that means is, don’t rush to get a submission before you’re in a good position for it. You run the risk of losing the position, and Guthrie doesn’t want that, because Mandiau has great ground-and-pound.

Mandiau enters this affair after recording her first pro win, a decision over Melissa Cervantes in Combate Americas in November 2019. She had previously dropped her pro debut by submission to Vanessa Demopoulos.

Mandiau has a lot of power. She looks long and lanky, but don’t let that fool you. She hits hard and kicks hard. Her kicks are extra effective because of how well she mixes them up. She can go low, go to the body, or go to the head. It is often hard to see where these kicks are going until they’ve already arrived. Guthrie will want to utilize kicks, but so will Mandiau. They can be extra effective for her in this fight because of those weird angles at which Guthrie comes in. Guthrie can almost charge in, but not straightforward. This can confuse an opponent. Mandiau can utilize her kicks and slow down Guthrie to keep Guthrie more in front of her.

Mandiau does have a tendency to stand pretty straight. This is mostly to be able to snap off those kicks quicker, but she can get away with it due to her height and reach. She will have the height edge here, but she won’t have the reach. For this reason, I’d like to see her not stand so straight up. She has outstanding striking in the clinch and mixes it up well. Punches, knees and elbows are all weapons for her.

If Mandiau can get Guthrie trapped in a Thai clinch, then she can really do some serious damage. As much as I said Guthrie can push her to the cage in a clinch, she’ll be less able to do so if Mandiau can get the Thai clinch. Mandiau also won’t mind it going to the cage as long as she is on the outside. If this happens, I expect her to land, break off, tie back up, and land some more. Mandiau connects with some good strikes when breaking off the clinch. I don’t expect her to particularly care to get this on the ground, but she could surprise Guthrie with a takedown and try to steal the round if she feels that it’s close.

That’s it for this week. Since we have a midweek UFC card next week, when I review these I will also do a short breakdown of those fights in the same column. It probably won’t be quite as extensive as the normal previews, but I’ll at least make sure to get some info on them into the column. Enjoy the fights everyone!