At UFC on FOX 28 in February Marion Reneau (9-3-1) picked up one of her most impressive victories to date, when she submitted Olympian and former title challenger Sara McMann. This weekend ‘The Belizean Bruiser’ is back in the cage, opposite another former title challenger; ‘Alpha’ Cat Zingano (9-3).
Reneau weathered an early storm against McMann. In the first round she found herself taken down and trapped in a crucifix position where she endured dozens of strikes. The round may well have been scored 10-8 against her, had the fight gone to the judges’ scorecards.
In the second round Reneau dropped McMann with a right hand, which turned the fight into a wild brawl. In the melee McMann was able to get another takedown. However, after the pair hit the ground, Reneau sunk in a triangle choke for the win.
According to Reneau, the wild back and forth wasn’t a surprise. “It went exactly how we thought it was going to go,” she told Bloody Elbow. “We knew she was going to try and take us down and smother us. Our worst case scenario was her ending up in side control, just because of the wrestling pressure she has.”
“During the first round that was our worst scenario. That was our red light. We didn’t want to be there,” continued Reneau. “So after the first round I go back to my corner and I look at them and I go, ‘Well that round sucked.’ But they looked at me and said, ‘But we have two more rounds’, and that was the start of the beginning, because I knew that I could not let that happen again and if she were to take me down — I would be able to finish her.”
Reneau said she was confident that if McMann got into her guard, she could finish her there and not just because of her corner’s pep talk; she seen it happen 24 hours earlier. “The funny thing is, the night before, I had a dream about her doing the takedown and me shooting the triangle immediately after and that’s exactly what ended up happening in this one.”
The finish over McMann marked Reneau’s second triangle finish in the UFC. Her first came against Jessica Andrade in 2015. Reneau said her track record for having an active and dangerous guard gives her confidence going into fights; that she can find a way to win when she is put on her back.
However, the 41-year-old stated that she needs to perform a ‘balancing act’ since she believes that most MMA judges will score a round against her if she has her back on the canvas, even if she is being active in searching for submissions.
“So there’s a fine line and I’ve learned that fine line,” she said. “It’s not a jiu-jitsu match, it’s an MMA match. So we pretty much practiced [what to do] if this guard is not working … I need to get up and get out or make a sweep happen. So I’m very confident if somebody’s in my guard. However, I’m very confident that if it’s not working I need to get out.”
The win over McMann gave Reneau her a third win in her last four fights (she drew against Bethe Correia in 2017). All three of those victories came via stoppage (two via TKO). When asked what that recent record said about her, and her candidacy for title contention at women’s bantamweight, Reneau made it clear that she feels it’s proof she should never be counted out of a fight.
“Right now what it should say is that, ‘Hey, she might be 41, but she’s a force to be reckoned with no matter where you take her. No matter if you pull her down into deep water, she’ll find a way to gasp for air.’ I’m not talked about as much, probably because I’m more quiet. I’m not as boisterous as my other bantamweights. I know I need to speak out a little bit more, I need to demand stuff a little bit more, but it’s just not my style. But my performances should say that I’m a force to be reckoned with for sure.”
Reneau’s reward for this fine form is a date with Zingano, who faced Ronda Rousey for the 135 lb crown back in 2015. After losing to the champ, Zingano took loses to Julianna Peña and Ketlen Vieira. Despite losing three in a row, Zingano is ranked sixth in the division, one spot higher than Reneau.
Given that the UFC generally matches together fighters who are either both coming off of wins or both coming off of losses, Reneau admitted she was “kind of taken aback” to learn that the promotion had their sights set on her versus Zingano.
Still, Reneau said she understands where the matchmakers were coming from. “They didn’t have anyone else for me to fight in the top ten and I was adamant about fighting in the top ten.”
Reneau added that she did not want to be given a fight with a lower ranked or unranked opponent “just to stay active”, so she was happy to take on the well-known, but sliding, Zingano.
“She is ranked one above me and she is a big name,” said Reneau. “And she’s a gamer. She’s well-rounded. So we thought, let’s do it! So I took the fight. I think it’s a good fight and it’s a good fight for us. I think it’s a perfect match-up between two moms in the division, ranked in the top ten. I think it’s a battle of the moms!”
When asked whether a victory over yet another bantamweight title challenger will be enough to catapult her into title contention, Reneau sighed. It’s a question she’s been asked a lot in recent years.
“I got asked that question with Sara,” she said. “I got asked that question with Bethe. And I’m at a point where ideally that’s probably what could happen, but I have no idea what’s going to happen in the UFC. After all the fights that I’m given, and after all the hoops that I’ve gone through, I don’t know. So what I do is, I just try to focus on who is in front of me right now and not what happens after that fight. I need to finish this fight. I need to come out victorious on this fight before I can even think about my next fight.”
You can see if Reneau is able to defeat another former contender on Satuday night. Cat Zingano vs. Marion Reneau takes place on the FS1 Main Card of UFC Fight Night: Dos Santos vs. Ivanov. The action begins at 10PM ET.