For the first time, the UFC is touching down in Idaho! Many would say there is no reason to be enthusiastic about that. I get it. I’ve driven through Idaho. Don’t tell that to the people in Boise though….
Given the lack of fervor in general for the debut in Idaho, it isn’t surprising there appears to be a lack of depth in the card. Despite that, there is one fight on the Fight Pass prelims that offers promise as Jennifer Maia makes her UFC debut. A champion in Invicta, many are expecting the Brazilian to make an immediate impact, perhaps even prove herself to be a title contender.
The Fight Pass prelims begin at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT on Saturday.
Liz Carmouche (11-6) vs. Jennifer Maia (15-4-1), Women’s Flyweight
It seems like another lifetime when Carmouche was competing against Ronda Rousey in the inaugural women’s contest in the UFC. Then again, much can change in the landscape of the sport in five years. Carmouche is still here, still using the same physical style she used back then, though doing so in a new division now. Though her physical strength does appear to be accentuated, she still tends to have a questionable fight IQ, insisting on going to the ground with Alexis Davis when she had so much success with her improved standup. Granted, Davis is a tricky vet and Carmouche’s GnP is amongst the best in the division… but why move on from what’s working for you?
Maia will probably provide Carmouche with further reason to take the fight to the mat as the newcomer became one of the better strikers in the division the moment she signed with the UFC. With professional experience in both boxing and Muay Thai, Maia offers a diverse skill set that most of her opponents haven’t been able to stifle on the feet. Maia’s ground game isn’t anything special, but it is skilled enough that she can hold her own should the fight hit the mat.
Carmouche’s improvement on the feet doesn’t make this a sure thing as many are predicting for the newcomer. Then again, that’s dependent upon Carmouche fighting intelligently. Maia isn’t the ground fighter Davis is, but she should be able to avoid major damage from there and should have her way on the feet. I expect Maia to walk away the victor, though there shouldn’t be surprise if Carmouche finds a way to pull down the W. Maia via decision
Mark De La Rosa (9-1) vs. Elias Garcia (6-0), Flyweight
The competitors at bantamweight aren’t large men. However, De La Rosa looked small in comparison to Tim Elliott, who used to compete at flyweight. It wasn’t hard to guess de la Rosa would then be dropping to flyweight himself after being bullied by Elliott over the course of their contest. A volume striker with a technical boxing game, De La Rosa’s cardio allows him to push a pace opponents have a tough time matching. His wrestling and grappling doesn’t look particularly impressive at this point, but there is a good chance he’ll find more success against smaller opposition.
The road to the UFC for Garcia has been a drawn out one, beginning as an amateur back in 2011. A product of Roufusport and a cousin of the Pettis brothers, he was brought into the UFC after an impressive showing on Lookin’ for a Fight. I know, I was shocked they haven’t quit producing that either. But hey, this is the same organization that refuses to let go of TUF. Garcia has some creativity in his kicks and surprising pop in his fists, not surprising given his familial ties. He’s more reckless than either Anthony or Sergio, but that isn’t a surprise given the lower level competition he has been facing.
De La Rosa is going to be at an athletic disadvantage against Garcia, but Garcia will also leave openings de la Rosa is better equipped to expose than anything Elliott left open. However, Garcia’s quickness and speed will likely be too much for half of the first husband-wife duo in the UFC, tacking a second loss in as many appearances on De La Rosa. Garcia via decision
Jessica Aguilar (19-6) vs. Jodie Esquibel (6-3), Women’s Strawweight
Originally scheduled to take place last month in New York, the NYSAC wouldn’t allow Aguilar to compete after deciding she had a “potentially contagious medical condition.” Many would say New York was being overly cautious, but it is what it is and we’re still getting the fight within a reasonable amount of time after it was supposed to go down in the first place.
In many ways, this is a simple fight to break down. Aguilar is a relentless wrestler who has lost a step after years of being amongst the top female strawweights in the sport and Esquibel is a Jackson-Wink striker who’s a bit undersized. Three years ago, Aguilar would have been the easy pick, but that lost step has been very noticeable in her two UFC contests. She was still able to get a much larger Cortney Casey to the mat without much problem, though keeping her down was another issue. However, Esquibel isn’t the physical specimen Casey is.
Esquibel may be the better rounded fighter at this point, improving her takedown abilities to compliment her striking honed from a previous career in boxing. Aguilar’s declining physical abilities have left her relying so heavily on low kicks for volume that I fear she won’t be able to keep up with Esquibel’s barrage of punches. Aguilar will get some takedowns for sure, but Esquibel is a bit more elusive than Casey and judges have been emphasizing striking over grappling more and more. Thus… Esquibel via decision