Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Flyweight talents Jennifer Maia and Casey O’Neill will duel this weekend (Sat., March 18, 2023) at UFC 286 inside The 02 in London, England.
Immediately after Maia’s title shot against Valentina Shevchenko, there was actually some interest in a rematch because the Brazilian was able to challenge “Bullet” more than most at the time. Unfortunately, she’s been unable to produce consistent results since then, splitting four bouts evenly against top-ranked Flyweights. O’Neill, meanwhile, is one of her division’s top prospects. An undefeated finisher, the 25-year-old prospect has already won four straight inside the Octagon, but this will be her first fight back from a 2022 knee injury (details here).
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Joanne Wood (UFC Vegas 5), Maryna Moroz (UFC Vegas 65), Roxanne Modafferi (UFC on ESPN 4, Invicta FC 19), Alexis Davis (UFC Fight Night 148), Jessica Eye (UFC 264)
Key Losses: Valentina Shevchenko (UFC 255), Manon Fiorot (UFC Columbus), Katlyn Chookagian (UFC Vegas 46, UFC 244), Liz Carmouche (UFC Fight Night 133)
Keys To Victory: A black belt in both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai, Maia is well-rounded and strong for the division. She does a lot of her work in close distance, from the clinch or top position where that physicality is most effective.
Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: low kicks. A Muay Thai black belt — and yes, I’m aware that most Muay Thai lineages don’t do a belt system — against an opponent who shredded her knee less than a year ago? Kicking the legs early and often should be obvious.
Otherwise, O’Neill likes high-volume, scramble-filled fights. She’s young, confident, and aggressive. Those are all good traits, but Maia can flip the script by slowing the fight down. If she’s able to wear on O’Neill and shut down those scrambles with heavy top pressure, she can really use O’Neill’s style and inexperience against her by racking up control time.
Key Wins: Roxanne Modafferi (UFC 271), Antonina Shevchenko (UFC Vegas 38), Lara Procopio (UFC Vegas 29)
Key Losses: None
Keys To Victory: O’Neill is a strong prospect for the 125-pound division. A jiu-jitsu brown belt, O’Neill has actually proven herself pretty skilled in all areas. She can put up major numbers on the feet, chain wrestle well, and tends to stay ahead in scrambles on the canvas.
“King Casey” probably wants to get on top here. That’s historically the easiest way to overcome Maia, who likes to swing big hooks in the pocket. If O’Neill keeps her volume high early on and gets in her face, Maia’s response is almost certainly going to be to fire back, which really opens up the shot.
O’Neill’s ability to safely advance position will be tested here. She’s not the type of fighter to just sit in guard endlessly, but O’Neill also has to make it a priority to keep Maia down. Balancing aggression and control will be key, as she doesn’t want to give up an easy reversal or stand up when a more patient approach could still land her a submission.
One woman leaves the cage ranked as a Top 10 Flyweight.
Maia is the underdog here, the more established veteran expected to make room for the up-and-comer. She won a similar match up last time out, but O’Neill is more highly touted than Moroz. If the Brazilian talent can turn away a second prospect, perhaps it sets her up for a fight up the ladder next time out. After all, now that “Bullet” has been dethroned, the division is much more open for forward progression.
As for O’Neill, she may be the favorite, but this is still a step up in competition following a disastrous injury. Given the circumstances, victory would be really impressive and prove that O’Neill’s hype is justified. She’d break into the Top 10 undefeated, an accomplishment that would surely generate more momentum and set her up for another high-profile match next.
At UFC 286, Jennifer Maia and Casey O’Neill will throw down. Which woman earns the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 286 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN2/ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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