Undeterred by her July loss to Taila Santos, Liverpool’s Molly McCann has her sights set on a win over Lara Procópio at this weekend’s UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Volkov show to put her back on track.
Before her UFC career, though, McCann evolved as a mixed martial artist with Europe’s Shock ‘n’ Awe and Cage Warriors organizations. After winning the Shock ‘n’ Awe flyweight title and defending it once, McCann took her 4-1 record to Cage Warriors, where she debuted against Lacey Schuckman.
Schuckman was the more experienced fighter, but she spent most of the first two rounds with her back against the fence while McCann controlled the range with her striking and landed combinations. In a turn of events, Schuckman was able to take down McCann with a double leg. She was unable to progress past McCann’s half guard, though. McCann was happy to wait out the round. In the final frame, McCann struggled on the ground again and even allowed Schuckman to easily pass to mount. However, as soon as the fight went back to the feet, McCann was clearly in her element again. The Brit landed multiple clean strikes on her opponent in the final minute to secure the unanimous decision.
Another unanimous nod, this time over Priscila de Souza, paved the way to a flyweight title shot for McCann against Bryony Tyrell. The title scrap took place at Cage Warriors 90 in early 2018.
McCann came out strong. She looked calm as she bounced on the balls of her feet whilst controlling the center of the cage. “Meatball” was clearly winning the exchanges. She darted in and out of range with a certain explosive power that Tyrell didn’t have an answer for until she was able to clinch McCann against the fence late in the round. McCann was able to quickly escape, though. She looked more relaxed coming into the second round. She was having fun pretending to wind up her right hand, too. She continued to dance around her opponent and picked her shots until a flurry of powerful strikes ended the fight. With the victory, McCann claimed the Cage Warriors crown.
Following a loss to Gillian Robertson in her UFC debut, the 30-year-old gave an emotional interview. It was only the second loss of her professional career, and she promised to come back as a better fighter.
It’s not too difficult to recognize that McCann’s ground game was a weakness. Robertson was a tough match-up from this perspective. Three of Robertson’s four previous wins had come by way of submission, so it should be no surprise that her foundation is jiu-jitsu. Her finish of McCann came in the form of a rear-naked choke at just over two minutes of the second round. McCann refused to tap after spending much of the fight up to that point simply defending on the ground.
After that night, McCann went on a three-fight winning streak in the UFC that consisted of victories over Priscila Cachoeira, Ariane Lipski and Diana Belbiţă. Each of these wins came via a unanimous decision.
McCann’s ground game has come along in strides. She threatened with multiple submissions in the first round of the Cachoeira fight after shooting her own takedown. McCann is clearly putting hours into her ground game since her loss, and she has the confidence now there to show for it. She’s described her style on the ground as being more that of an aggressive wrestler.
”Meatball’s” cheeky personality still shines through, too. She took a second to play to the crowd after wrapping Lipski’s legs up and slamming her to the ground in their fight. McCann then resumed with her ground-and-pound attack.
McCann’s punching is still the best part of her game. The incredible volume she puts out is just one of the reasons why she’s one of most entertaining fighters in the women’s flyweight division right now. Before MMA, she had an amateur boxing record of 17-0 and had won the U.K. National Amateur Boxing Association championship. You can see the power and the hurt behind every one of her strikes.
McCann aims to regain her momentum this weekend against Procópio, who is in a similar situation to the one McCann was once in after having lost her UFC debut. Procópio will no doubt be eager to make a statement. While it could be concerning for fans of the Liverpool lass to see that her opponent has a grappling background and multiple submissions on her record, McCann has been constantly improving after every one of her fights. She has reached the point in her career where her ground game is no longer the fatal flaw it perhaps used to be.