We get a return to the Women’s Bantamweight division this weekend at UFC 253 when we see highly touted prospect Ketlen Vieira (10-1) attempt to get back to winning ways as she takes on a surging Sijara Eubanks (6-4), who’s looking to make a quick turnaround and make it three wins in a row.
Ketlen Vieira was long thought of as a serious contender in the Women’s Bantamweight division. Prior to her last fight, the Brazilian had an undefeated 10-0 record with her resume boasting wins over former title challengers Cat Zingano and Sara McMann. In her last outing in December of last year, Ketlen lost an exciting stand-up battle against rising star Irene Aldana by knockout. After this, Vieira went through a series of bout cancellations – one against division mainstay Marion Reneau and two against Yana Kunitskaya. Viera was then scheduled to fight Reneau once again but an injury forced her out of the bout. Thankfully, Eubanks stepped in to take the fight this weekend.
It’s fair to say Sijara Eubanks had a rocky start to her UFC career. After being selected for The Ultimate Fighter in 2017, Eubanks made it all the way to the finale and was scheduled to fight Nicco Montano for the inaugural Women’s Flyweight title. Unfortunately, kidney issues caused by a rough weight cut forced her out of the bout. Her next appearances in the UFC saw her beat Lauren Murphy and veteran Roxanne Modafferi however in the latter fight Eubanks had issues with her weight cut again and caused her to come in heavy and have to forfeit some of her event earnings. It seems Eubanks realized making 125lbs was an issue as her next fights both took place at Bantamweight. Eubanks came up short against both Aspen Ladd and Bethe Correia. Since these losses, Eubanks has managed to string together two wins against Sarah Moras and Julia Avila. On Saturday night she steps in on less than two weeks’ notice to try and really put an exclamation point on her victories with a win over Vieira.
In her last fight, Ketlen Vieira was willing to stand and trade with Mexican boxer Aldana. She’s clearly very confident in her striking ability as this fight saw both women really swing for the fences. In her fight with Zingano, she showed speed and real technicality with her striking and managed to outwork the very durable former contender. She also managed to use McMann’s wrestling skill against her and score a submission victory – something which she may be looking to do against Eubanks who loves to go to work on the ground. The short notice change in opponent and previous knockout loss might have an impact on Vieira’s confidence but in order to win she needs to keep the fight standing, use her larger frame to get the better of the exchanges, and exploit Eubanks’ known cardio issues.
Eubanks is really hoping to add a big name to her list of victories here and extend her current winning streak to three. In her last fight with Julia Avila, she managed to weather the storm after being hurt on the feet and defend against multiple submission attempts in the first round to use her aggressive ground and pound to edge out the decision victory in an extremely exciting fight. Eubanks has never been finished in her career so she will happily stand and trade with Vieira but should be looking to follow a similar gameplan to the Avila fight. Eubanks needs to close the distance against the bigger and longer woman in Vieira and take the fight to the ground where she can use her wrestling to control and impose her heavy ground and pound and grind out a victory.
A win for Vieira this weekend sees her title aspirations become more of a reality once again. A good fight for her would be the winner of Germaine De Randamie vs Julianna Pena, a fight which would no doubt determine who is next in line to face Amanda Nunes. If Vieira loses, maybe third time’s a charm for the fight with Reneau or Kunitskaya. Eubanks has had very mixed results at Bantamweight, if she were to win this weekend, her next step up in competition would be huge. Outside of the title picture, this division is very open so this is the perfect moment for Eubanks to seize her opportunity. If Eubanks loses, she should reconsider the Flyweight division and look at sorting out her weight cutting issues as it’s obvious she is capable of making the 125lb limit. Her success on The Ultimate Fighter shows she would be a force in the division due to her strength and power which oftentimes is overshadowed at Bantamweight. No matter the outcome, both these women’s last fights were thrilling so hopefully, they have an equally lively performance.
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