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Preview: UFC on ESPN 54 ‘Blanchfield vs. Fiorot’

Blanchfield vs. Fiorot


The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday returns to Atlantic City, New Jersey, for the first time in some six years and it will do so with a decent card at Boardwalk Hall. Local flavor and some high stakes highlight the main event, as New Jersey native Erin Blanchfield faces Manon Fiorot in a battle that should give the winner next dibs on a women’s flyweight title shot once Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko complete their trilogy. Beyond that, two veterans aim to prove they still have something left in the tank: Vicente Luque looks to get back to his violent ways against Joaquin Buckley in a potentially action-packed welterweight affair, and former middleweight champion Chris Weidman seeks a much-needed win against Bruno Silva. Meanwhile, a featherweight clash between Bill Algeo and a suddenly improved Kyle Nelson does stand out as perhaps the most exciting of the bunch.

Now to the UFC on ESPN 54 “Blanchfield vs. Fiorot” preview:

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Women’s Flyweights

#2 WFLW | Erin Blanchfield (12-1, 6-0 UFC) vs. #3 WFLW | Manon Fiorot (11-1, 6-0 UFC)

ODDS: Blanchfield (-192), Fiorot (+160)

Grasso and Shevchenko going to a trilogy fight gums up the works a bit, but hopefully the winner of this crucial flyweight fight gets her deserved title shot sooner rather than later. Blanchfield came to the UFC in 2021 with a solid amount of hype, enough so that it probably outstripped what she showed on tape. “Cold Blooded” was impressive for someone who had just entered her 20s, but she got by with an aimless game that was not particularly imposing. That changed at some point during the year-plus layoff ahead of her UFC debut. Blanchfield’s body had filled out—not a surprise given her youth—and she had found her focus as an aggressive bruiser willing to march through offense in the hopes of outwrestling and outpacing her opponents. After dominating Sarah Alpar in her UFC debut, Blanchfield turned around three months later and handled Miranda Maverick in impressive fashion, entering 2022 as one of the top prospects in the sport. Blanchfield has done nothing to shake that reputation, and while she has hit some rough spots—J.J. Aldrich briefly stalled her out before getting tapped, and a win over Taila Santos was a bit of a grind—her performances have been impressive in their doggedness. Blanchfield simply stood toe to toe with Jessica Andrade before getting the former strawweight champion to the mat and scoring a submission, and she was never dissuaded in the Santos fight despite getting constantly neutralized, finally cracking the bout open in the third round. Still just 24, the scary part is that Blanchfield is a top contender while still having a lot of her game that she could clean up technically. For now, she looks to grit her way through another tough test in Fiorot.

In contrast to Blanchfield, Fiorot’s UFC debut was an afterthought, as she only got the call as a late-notice replacement early in 2021. Fiorot had dominated her regional opposition through physicality, but it was hard to glean exactly how much physicality the Frenchwoman brought to the table. Almost immediately upon her UFC debut, it became apparent that Fiorot would have no trouble living up to her “Beast” nickname. Fiorot even beat future bantamweight contender Mayra Bueno Silva without much of an issue to cap off 2021, after which she went upon her charge to a flyweight title shot in earnest, outmuscling and outworking Jennifer Maia, Katlyn Cerminara and Rose Namajunas. Fiorot’s approach might not be the most exciting at times, as she typically likes to center her game around single powerful strikes from range, but she can lock horns when the opportunity calls for it. Maia was able to get her hands on Fiorot and attempted to make things a grind, but the Frenchwoman was consistently able to overpower and take over against one of the division’s sturdiest veterans. Given that the wins over Cerminara and Namajunas were mostly Fiorot’s preferred range striking battle, the victory over Maia is probably the most instructive of the bunch. While Fiorot was able to consistently stay ahead of the Brazilian over three rounds, she did start to tire by the end of the fight, whereas Blanchfield is a fighter who clearly picks up steam. There figures to be a lot of frustration on Blanchfield’s end early on, as Fiorot’s combination of size and speed should be able to walk her onto some shots and outmaneuver her consistently. However, the bet is that the New Jersey native can track Fiorot down at times, start some wrestling exchanges and essentially play the long game while betting that her counterpart’s mobile approach will eventually tire her out. There is a worry that point might come too late for Blanchfield to win on the scorecards, but there is just as strong a chance that she can turn a late comeback into a submission finish if Fiorot gets tired enough. At any rate, the pick is Blanchfield via decision.

Jump To »
Blanchfield vs. Fiorot
Luque vs. Buckley
Silva vs. Weidman
Ruziboev vs. Dumas
Algeo vs. Nelson
Njokuani vs. McKee
The Prelims

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