No straightforward path: Why Manon Fiorot will probably be Erin Blanchfield’s hardest check but


The ladies’s flyweight division could have a brand new No. 1 contender this weekend. MMA’s greatest younger prospect, Erin Blanchfield, will face fellow title contender Manon Fiorot in the principle occasion at UFC Battle Evening on Saturday (10 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+).

Blanchfield, No. 1 on ESPN’s 2023 25 below 25 listing, may earn a title alternative towards champion Alexa Grasso and turn into the youngest champion in UFC historical past if she will be able to get previous Fiorot. Blanchfield is ESPN’s No. 4-ranked flyweight.

Fiorot, who’s 5-foot-7, usually has a peak and attain benefit over her opponents, and she or he is a superb striker nonetheless on the lookout for her first shot at UFC gold. Like Blanchfield, Fiorot can be undefeated contained in the Octagon. Fiorot is No. 3 in ESPN’s flyweight rankings.

Whereas this combat has monumental implications for the division, the winner could have to attend for his or her title shot, as Grasso is predicted to face Valentina Shevchenko in a trilogy bout after teaching on the upcoming season of “The Final Fighter.”

What makes each fighters particular? What are their potential weaknesses? Let’s check out how this high-stakes combat may play out.

Do not rule out the underdog

Although Blanchfield (-190 per ESPN BET) has confronted powerful competitors in former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade and former flyweight title challenger Taila Santos, this would be the actual litmus check for her. Blanchfield bulldozed her method via opponents till she confronted Santos final yr. Whereas Blanchfield received that combat, she needed to work via adversity. And Fiorot is a a lot more durable matchup for Blanchfield.

Fiorot (+160 per ESPN BET) is a southpaw whose vary management and systematic strategy may resolve this combat. She’s a sound fighter who at all times is available in with a recreation plan that she sticks to. An enormous a part of that plan is Fiorot’s greatest weapon: the jab. If Blanchfield cannot shut down her jab, it might be an extended night time for her.

Along with her quick arms and in-and-out motion, Fiorot throws the jab in quantity whereas nonetheless touchdown at a excessive share. However how she makes use of it makes it so tough to regulate to.

And even when opponents keep away from the jab and enter vary to throw their strikes, they need to get previous Fiorot’s kicking vary. Doing so is tough as a result of she throws a novel mixture of aspect and indirect kicks that opponents should combat via. After which they must get previous the vary of her punches earlier than closing the space sufficient to grapple or shoot for a takedown. Fiorot’s opponents should account for her bodily energy and distinctive takedown protection. Fiorot does effectively avoiding getting caught in open mat takedown makes an attempt. She at all times will get again to the fence after which makes use of that place to assist her defend the takedown.

In the course of the uncommon events that Fiorot has to combat on the mat, she’s good at leveraging her weight. When taken down, she by no means settles for that backside place.

Fiorot is a protected, technical fighter. She’s well-rounded, with energy in her arms however would not take many dangers. She has often been the aggressor, whereas not placing herself in lots of unhealthy positions.

Whereas she would not have many finishes contained in the Octagon, Fiorot has principally been dominant in every of her bouts, even when taking over top-level opponents. Her previous 4 wins got here towards fighters who’ve held or challenged for a UFC title.

Whereas Fiorot does lots effectively, there are nonetheless some weaknesses in her recreation that an opponent may capitalize on.

One is her head motion. When she throws punches, Fiorot leaves her head on the middle line. She additionally generally seems to lean again when she throws, like she’s making an attempt to keep away from getting hit when she throws strikes.

There’s additionally the query about her submission offense. We have established that she does effectively defensively when a combat goes to the mat, however realizing that she’s taking over anyone who will look to take the combat to the bottom. How will Fiorot fare if she must be a risk there?

How can Blanchfield maintain rolling?

Blanchfield has earned the entire hype that she has generated. She improves each time we see her within the cage, however we nonetheless have not seen her attain her full potential.

She is widely known as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu prodigy, so when her fights hit the bottom, she has but to face a lot adversity. We do not often see many jiu-jitsu specialists develop a robust hanging recreation, however Blanchfield has, doing so in simply a few years.

Towards Santos, a confirmed high-level striker, Blanchfield was prepared to face and bang along with her. Blanchfield would not shrink back from her hanging and is prepared to develop and be taught. She’s an actual pupil of the sport.

To beat a fighter as expert as Fiorot, Blanchfield should present that she is best at combining hanging and grappling. Very like the Santos combat, it is laborious to think about that Blanchfield will simply get Fiorot to the mat. To seize ahold of Fiorot, she has to aggressively shut vary.

Blanchfield should perceive that she must get hit at instances, however she shouldn’t let that deter her from throwing strikes at a excessive quantity. Generally, she ought to double, even triple up, on the jab to arrange takedowns along with her hanging. She additionally has to make use of feints in order that Fiorot cannot get a beat on when the takedown makes an attempt are coming.

When dealing with expert wrestlers and grapplers, opponents are sometimes so involved about the specter of a takedown that it opens alternatives for hanging. Blanchfield must capitalize on that.

There will even be openings for leg kicks towards Fiorot. When shifting out and in, Fiorot usually places loads of weight on her lead (proper) leg. If Blanchfield can time her kicks proper, it may sluggish Fiorot’s motion. If Blanchfield can try this, getting the takedowns she’s on the lookout for will probably be a lot simpler.

We have additionally seen Fiorot take physique kicks that appeared to have an effect on her. She’s an enormous fighter for the division, so she could not have the simplest time chopping weight. Attacking the physique early may put on her down all through the combat and repay later.

And when Blanchfield will get within the pocket, she has to make it a brawl. Do not enable Fiorot to set the tempo and maintain the combat fairly. If Blanchfield can power Fiorot to combat at a tempo that she is uncomfortable with, we have seen Fiorot wrestle.

How will it play out

It is a powerful combat to name. Each fighters are proficient, however I feel Fiorot’s hanging would be the distinction on this combat. It will not be straightforward; Fiorot must aggressively defend takedowns for 25 minutes, however I see her pulling it off to win by resolution.

Fiorot is a fighter who prefers being at vary and excels at preserving fights there. I am simply undecided Blanchfield will have the ability to shut the vary, and even when she does, I am undecided she’ll have the ability to get Fiorot down. Fiorot’s takedown protection is simply that good.

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