For the fifth time in UFC history, the Octagon arrives in Sydney, Australia for a massive 13-fight event at Qudos Bank Arena.
The last time the company swung through the state capitol of New South Wales was three years ago and that night, the 11 pairs of combatants that stepped into the cage combined to make history as every contest ended inside the distance. Only one fight reached the third round and, even then, Louis Smolka only needed 18 seconds of it to put away Richie Vaculik.
While there is no telling if history will repeat itself this weekend, there are a few emerging talents you should pay special attention to on Saturday evening.
This is On the Rise: Sydney Edition.
Clark was scheduled to step into the Invicta FC cage in early December, but when Joanne Calderwood was forced to pull out of her fight with Bec Rawlings at the 11th hour, the Cairns, Australia native was happy to step up and make her promotional debut in her home country as part of the penultimate bout of the evening.
The 29-year-old flyweight has traversed the globe in search of tough challenges and opportunities to compete since making her Invicta FC debut two years ago in Las Vegas. After going the distance in losing efforts against Pam Sorenson and Sarah Kaufman, Clark rebounded with a split decision win over Carina Damm under the Titan FC banner in August and while this opportunity to step into the Octagon comes on short notice, the gritty Australian was already getting ready for a fight, so she should be in top form when she steps into the famed UFC cage for the first time.
This is a tremendous opportunity for Clark to not only collect her initial UFC victory, but also get a leg up on the competition in the women’s flyweight division by capturing a victory over a proven, durable competitor like Rawlings. With things not really kicking off in earnest for a couple more weeks in the women’s 125-pound ranks, a strong showing here would make Clark the second fighter to collect a victory in the UFC’s newest division and set her up for another prime opportunity next time out.
First impressions aren’t always valid in the fight game and Camacho is out to prove that what fans saw in his initial foray into the UFC cage was only a slice of what he’s capable of doing when he’s got a full camp behind him.
Tabbed to replace Jonathan Meunier on 10 days’ notice opposite Li Jingliang in June, “Frank the Crank” came out on the wrong side of a unanimous decision result where he showed a ton of poise and toughness, taking the first round off “The Leach” before the lack of prep time started to catch up with him. This time around, however, the man from Saipan, Mariana Islands has enjoyed a full training camp ahead of his sophomore appearance in the Octagon against Aussie veteran Damien “Beatdown” Brown.
Camacho had won five of six prior to his June debut and has earned the finish in all but two of his 20 career victories, so this weekend’s date with Brown should be a much better opportunity to showcase his full arsenal of skills than his maiden voyage into the Octagon back in June.
An unbeaten prospect, Kassem was scheduled to make her UFC debut in May opposite TUF alum and tough out JJ Aldrich in Auckland, but an injury late in training camp forced her out of the contest. Auckland’s loss is Sydney’s gain, however, as the 21-year-old upstart will now square off with Alex Chambers in an all-Australian affair.
Kassem has needed just over two minutes to collect four wins to start her professional career, but the showdown with Chambers is a significant step up in competition for the Wentworthville native. Despite a two-year layoff, TUF 20’s “Astro Girl” is by far the most seasoned foe Kassem has faced to date, having shared the cage with the likes of Mizuki Inoue, Jodie Esquibel, Kailin Curran and Paige VanZant, as well as having squared off with current strawweight champ Rose Namajunas during their time on The Ultimate Fighter.
That being said, it’s hard to overlook Kassem’s electric start to her career and if the talented 21-year-old can maintain her previous form as she matriculates to the biggest stage in the sport, she’ll establish herself as one of the most intriguing and exciting new faces on the female side of the roster heading into 2018.