The first ever UFC women's flyweight title fight is official following the season finale of The Ultimate Fighter: A New World Champion.
The last episode of the season featured the matchup between No. 1 seed Roxanne Modafferi from Team Gaethje and No. 12 seed Sijara Eubanks from Team Alvarez.
In the hours leading up to the fight, Modafferi stayed calm and composed as she worked with her coach Justin Gaethje on a plan to tire Eubanks out round after round, betting on a tough weight cut draining her opponent. It was a smart strategy considering Eubanks has struggled all season long with the scale, and with this fight scheduled for three rounds, Gaethje believed that dragging her into deep waters was a guaranteed path to victory for Modafferi.
As for Eubanks, she prepared for the fight by going over some striking combinations with coach Mark Henry, who is the same man responsible for teaching Frankie Edgar, Edson Barboza and coach Eddie Alvarez. Henry likes to employ a code-based system where he will yell out specific words to his fighters and they will react. It's a method that many coaches employ to prevent the other fighter or the other team from hearing and then reacting during a fight.
Henry was shocked at how quickly Eubanks picked up his system as he worked to get her ready for Modafferi.
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From there, it was time for Eubanks to begin cutting weight to get down to the 126-pound limit for her fight with Modafferi. Earlier this season, Eubanks was forced to cut her hair just to make weight, so it was expected that she would have a tough weight cut this time around.
Thankfully, Eubanks decided to seek out some help from the trainers at the UFC Performance Institute, who tested her and then plotted out a specific course for the weight cut to get her down to 126 pounds safely and effectively. When it was all over, Eubanks was on weight before going to bed that night and she was still able to have a drink and eat some food, which was a welcome change from the brutal cuts she suffered through earlier in the season.
Eubanks was all smiles as she stepped on the scale this time and then faced off with Modafferi to prepare for the battle to see who would face Nicco Montano to crown the first ever UFC women's flyweight champion.
ROXANNE MODAFFERI VS. SIJARA EUBANKS
The fighters were winging big punches in exchanges early, with Eubanks looking to land the knockout while Modafferi counters with straight shots down the middle. Modafferi lands a nice combination that tags Eubanks in the head. Eubanks fires back with a stinging combination of her own, including a couple stiff shots to the body. Eubanks is throwing a lot of volume early, including several kicks aimed at the head, although Modafferi defends very well. Modafferi is still finding a home for her straight punches as Eubanks rushes forward looking to grab on to the clinch, but the fighters eventually work their way free after a brief stall against the fence. With just over a minute to go in the round, Eubanks is able to slip down and grab on to a double leg takedown and put Modafferi on the mat. Eubanks begins firing away with punches and elbows to the head and body, blasting away trying to do maximum damage with every shot. Modafferi looks for an armbar from the bottom but Eubanks defends before firing a few more hard shots. Modafferi makes one more attempt at the armbar before the end of the round, but Eubanks does a good job defending the submission before firing a couple more punches until the horn sounds.
Eubanks rips a big shot to the body to start the second round while Modafferi comes back with a quick combination of her own. Eubanks drops down for another double leg attempt, but this time Modafferi is able to defend before the fighters quickly scramble for position on the feet. Eubanks clubs Modafferi with a huge overhand right that seems to have her wobbled just a bit on the feet. Eubanks takes advantage of the opening to drop down for another big takedown, planting Modafferi on the mat and landing in her guard. Eubanks is looking to advance her position but Modafferi is able to slip free and she ends up reversing the position to get a takedown of her own after the scramble against the cage. Modafferi methodically tries to pass Eubanks' guard as she attempts to maintain top control. Eubanks begins looking for a kimura from the bottom and she's able to use the submission attempt to reverse positions, moving to mount and then taking Modafferi's back. Eubanks starts looking for the rear naked choke with Modafferi trying to defend as time ticks away at the end of the round. Modafferi survives until the round ends.
Modafferi fires off a head kick to start the final round after her coach Justin Gaethje instructed her to avoid takedown attempts. Eubanks is throwing with a ton of heat behind her punches, winging huge overhand rights at Modafferi's head. Eubanks continues to pursue Modafferi around the Octagon, chasing her with powerful combinations. Modafferi avoids taking too much damage while returning fire with straight punches. Eubanks finally rushes forward looking for another takedown, and while Modafferi is able to resist, she gets locked with the Team Alvarez fighter on her back, blasting away with knees to the legs and body. Modafferi attempts a hip throw but Eubanks is able to resist and ends up landing a takedown of her own. Working from Modafferi's half guard on the mat, Eubanks tries to trap an arm while throwing punches from the top. Eubanks eventually postures up from the top, presses down with her hips and begins throwing big, heavy punches. For the third time in the fight, Modafferi looks for an armbar, but Eubanks defends, slips free and just blasts away with punches. Modafferi goes for one more armbar attempt, Eubanks gets free and begins launching missiles as they both get back to the feet after a brief scramble on the mat. The final 10 seconds see Eubanks and Modafferi just dropping bombs on each other until the horn sounds to signify the end of the fight.
Sijara Eubanks def. Roxanne Modafferi by unanimous decision (30-27 on all scorecards)
"I feel like a million bucks," Eubanks said following the win.
Eubanks' victory now sets up the final fight on Friday night, Dec. 1, from Las Vegas as she will battle Nicco Montano to determine the first ever UFC women's flyweight champion. Considering Eubanks was the No. 12 seed and Montano was No. 14, this probably wasn't the matchup most predicted but these two women fought their way into this final fight and now one of them will wear UFC gold when the card is finished on Friday night, airing live on FS1 starting at 10pm ET.
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