Women's FlyweightJessica-Rose Clark (7-4) vs. Bec Rawlings (7-6)
ODDS: Rawlings (-135), Clark (+115)
ANALYSIS: Fellow Australian Clark is a more manageable opponent for Rawlings, who was scheduled to take on Joanne Calderwood until the Scottish striker pulled out due to injury. Nonetheless, it speaks volumes that Rawlings is barely a -135 favorite against a late replacement who took the fight with just over a week’s notice and has no history of making 125 pounds.
Rawlings has lost consecutive bouts to Tecia Torres and Paige VanZant, and frankly, she should have dropped her prior bout to Seo Hee Ham, too. She has her best success when she puts sharp punching combinations together and uses them to set up takedowns, then pound and scramble to dominant positions. Unfortunately, during her 2-3 UFC run, she has not done nearly enough of this, typically abandoning her boxing technique, swinging away and having defensive lapses like the one that got her booted in the head by VanZant. She absorbs an ugly 4.79 significant strikes per minute, often while bobbing and feinting aimlessly inside the pocket or loading up too heavily on wild punches.
Part of the close betting line is the fact that Rawlings is so hittable and Clark is a striker first and foremost, excelling when she has a charging target she can counter with punch flurries punctuated with kicks. Knowing that “Rowdy Bec” is going to get in her face and force the action plays into Clark’s hands, and while “Jessy Jess” is at her weakest off of her back, her takedown defense has improved and made her a more serviceable, balanced clinch fighter.
The contracted weight of this bout should be informative. Although Rawlings was originally set to face Calderwood at strawweight, she weighed in at 117.5 pounds for her Torres loss in February and looked terrible on the scales; the 125-pound division should help her physically, though she will not have the same bullying size she had at strawweight. Clark is by and large a bantamweight. Yes, she was training for a December flyweight bout with Vanessa Porto at Invicta Fighting Championships 26, but the only time she has ever attempted to make the weight, she came in at 131 pounds for her September 2015 encounter with Emiko Raika. Even if Clark makes the weight, it still comes three weeks sooner than she originally anticipated and could have deleterious effects.
Rawlings will inevitably eat some punches and kicks as she closes the distance, even more of them if she starts to swing blindly. However, the weight and notice issues are too much to overlook, especially if Rawlings can force Clark into the clinch early and successfully implement takedowns and top pressure. The “Rowdy” one may not stay on task enough for a one-sided decision, but Rawlings should still win a competitive verdict after 15 minutes.
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