The first ever UFC women's flyweight champion will be crowned on Friday, with the second half of this historic title fight about to be revealed on the season finale of The Ultimate Fighter: A New World Champion.
This week will feature a fight between No. 1 seed Roxanne Modafferi and No. 12 seed Sijara Eubanks to determine who will move on to the live finale in Las Vegas on Dec. 1 to face Nicco Montano, who punched her ticket last week with an impressive win against former Invicta FC champion Barb Honchak.
Modafferi making it this far in the competition shouldn't be much of a surprise.
As the top seed, Modafferi earned her way into this tournament with not only a career’s worth of hard work, but a recent streak of performances that convinced UFC matchmakers that she was deserving of the number one slot among the 16 flyweight contenders. Modafferi has faced a laundry list of top opponents throughout her career, but in recent years she's really started to come into her prime.
Training alongside the coaches and fighters at Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, Modafferi has adapted her grappling-heavy style with an infusion of striking skills that she never had before. Now Modafferi is dangerous on the feet and on the ground, and she's shown that off during her first two performances on the show with a pair of TKO victories against Shana Dobson and Emily Whitmire.
Competing on this season of The Ultimate Fighter was more than just a chance to become a champion for Modafferi, as she's also approached this opportunity with a glimmer of redemption in her eyes. Modafferi has talked at length about her experience as part of The Ultimate Fighter season 18 cast, where she came up short during the show and then lost in her lone fight inside the Octagon.
She came back with a renewed sense of purpose and dedication to not only prove that she belonged in the UFC, but Modafferi wants to become the first ever women's flyweight champion to show that she's truly one of the best in the world.
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Considering her experience on the show, as well as a wealth of fights in organizations all around the world, Modafferi will certainly be the odds on favorite to earn a spot in the finale this week, but if this season has taught us anything, it's that you can almost expect the unexpected.
That was already proven with Nicco Montano's run through the tournament, and now Sijara Eubanks will look to follow with her own victory this week as she faces Modafferi with a chance to then fight for the women's flyweight title.
Eubanks didn't have a ton of professional experience coming into the show, although she had faced some tough competition, including fights against current UFC competitors Aspen Ladd and Katlyn Chookagian. While Eubanks was ranked No. 12 when the tournament started, she's taken that as an insult and used it as motivation with every fight she's had and every victory she's tacked on to her resume.
In fact, Eubanks shouted at UFC President Dana White following her first round victory against Maia Stevenson that she was none too pleased with her ranking in the tournament. Eubanks then pulled off arguably the best finish of the entire season with a stunning head kick knockout to finish multi-time Invicta FC veteran DeAnna Bennett in the quarterfinals.
Of course, Eubanks' road to the semifinals hasn't been easy, especially when considering the difficulty she's faced with her weight cuts to get down to 125 pounds.
Previously fighting at bantamweight, Eubanks is now making her move to flyweight, where she's forced to maintain a much lower weight during the season and then shed those last few pounds before each fight. The first time around for her bout against Stevenson, Eubanks was over the limit and she decided to cut off her hair to ensure that she was able to step on to the scale under the 126-pound allowance.
For her second fight against Bennett, Eubanks actually came in over the limit the first time and the Nevada State Athletic Commission allowed her an extra hour to cut the additional weight or the UFC would likely have to call in a replacement. Eubanks refused to give up as she crawled back into the sauna to sweat off those last few ounces before stepping back on the scale and hitting the mark exactly where she needed to be.
Considering this is the third time Eubanks is cutting weight, she could have things down to a science or her body might be ready to shut down if she's attempting one more drop to 126 pounds. Eubanks has been struggling all season long and a third tough weight cut could make a dramatic moment for the weigh-ins this week ahead of the last semifinal fight.
It's also worth considering that even if Eubanks makes the weight, will she be drained by the time the second or third rounds get underway if she can't put Modafferi away early?
Those will all be interesting factors to watch as the episode unfolds, all leading to the matchup between Modafferi and Eubanks.
On paper, these two fighters are very evenly matched, although Modafferi definitely maintains a huge experience edge over Eubanks. At the same time, Eubanks is a huge fighter for the flyweight division and while she will be giving up a little bit of height and reach, she will pack a serious punch and Modafferi would be well advised to avoid any big exchanges with her on the feet.
On the ground, Modafferi is a wizard, but Eubanks is no slouch.
Eubanks put away her first opponent with a second-round submission and she considers herself an elite grappler. Plus, Eubanks will undoubtedly have a strength advantage against Modafferi and that could bode well for her finishing a submission or possibly defending one from the top seed in the tournament.
Who will ultimately join Montano in the championship fight on Friday night? Will Modafferi continue her run for redemption or can Eubanks prove that rankings are nothing but numbers? Find out during the season finale of The Ultimate Fighter tonight at 10 pm ET on FS1.