MMA Odds and Ends for Friday: VanZant/Calderwood Headlines UFC Fight Night 80

UFC Fight Night 80The UFC has designs on making the weekend surrounding the Jose Aldo/Conor McGregor featherweight title fight their biggest and busiest ever. Recently they announced that there would be UFC cards held on three consecutive days leading up to UFC 194. Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes are already slated to fill the main event spot of the Friday card, with Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov (tentatively) in the co-main event slot. There hadn’t been much news on the third card that week however, until today. UFC Fight Night 80, which will air exclusively on Fight Pass, will be headlined by strawweights Paige VanZant and Joanne Calderwood, currently the 6th and 8th ranked 115-pounders respectively. VanZant has been dominant in her three UFC fights, scoring two stoppages and a wide decision, all while emerging as one of the faces of women’s MMA. Calderwood has had a rougher go, first getting submitted by Rose Namajunas on TUF, then sandwiching a loss with two wins against mostly unheralded competition. VanZant will likely open a moderate favorite in this bout, and I expect her to employ the exact same gameplan she always uses, getting in Calderwood’s face and outworking her opponent. The main event wasn’t the only addition to UFC Fight Night 80 however, as the organization announced six other bouts for the card, to quickly bring it up to an 11-fight slate. Here’s a rundown of the fights that were announced:

Welterweight: Tim Means vs. John Howard Featherweight: Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Phillipe Nover Welterweight: Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Andreas Stahl Welterweight: Michael Graves vs. Danny Roberts Strawweight: Kailin Curran vs. Emily Kagan Welterweight: Sheldon Westcott vs. Edgar Garcia

Means/Howard is obviously the most notable of these fights, and it seems like a good opportunity for Means to recover from his defeat to Matt Brown. Howard is good in all areas, but likely won’t be able to hang with Means on the feet, and Means has shown improved takedown defense which should hold up (if Howard decides to try to wrestle). Tukhugov is the next most interesting name on the list, as he has shown some dangerous striking in his young UFC career. Nover will be his biggest challenge thus far, but it is a smart booking decision, as a win over Nover gives Tukhugov a recognizable name on his resume without the danger that usually goes along with acquiring such a scalp. Ponzinibbio had his two-fight UFC winning streak snapped at the hands of Lorenz Larkin, but takes a massive step down in competition to face Stahl here. I’m not really sure where Stahl can win this fight, as Ponzinibbio will be the more dangerous striker and should be capable of shutting down the Swede’s wrestling. The fight should prove fun however, as most Ponzinibbio fights are. Roberts is a prospect with some potential, but Graves is a terrible matchup for him. Why, you ask? Well, Roberts is British, and Graves is almost exclusively a wrestler at this point in his career. Roberts has shown some good submission skills, but has also shown that he can be sloppy with position, which could put Graves in store for a fight where he finds himself in advantageous positions regularly. I think Curran does her best to erase the memory of her collapse against Alex Chambers in this one. Kagan just doesn’t seem to have any skills which make you think she belongs in the UFC at this point. Her official debut was proof positive of that, and while Curran won’t rack up as many style points as Angela Hill, she will get the job done. Westcott/Garcia is the truest of pink slip derbies. I’m actually surprised this bout found its way onto any UFC card at this point, but when you’re running somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 fights in three days, you need warm bodies. While UFC Fight Night 80 was getting most of the attention, there was a sneaky entertaining fight added to UFC Fight Night 78 in Mexico. Andre Fili will be looking to continue alternating wins and losses in his UFC career, as he comes off a loss to Godofredo Pepey in his last outing. He’ll have to get through Mexico native Gabriel Benitez in order to do so, and Benitez surprised many with his performance in Mexico City in his UFC debut. Should the Mexican continue to show that kind of improvement, he’ll make like difficult for Fili, but it’s hard not to side with a man who has such an elite nickname.

Written by Brad Taschuk

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