Combat Sports

UFC 286: Casey O’Neill Returns To a Tough Call In Jennifer Maia

Image for UFC 286: Casey O’Neill Returns To a Tough Call In Jennifer Maia

Bloody Elbow announced that Casey “King” O’Neill (9-0) would be making her return to MMA, after a torn ACL against 125-pound mainstay Jennifer Maia (20-9). Maia is coming off a big win over the Iron lady Maryana Moroz, showcasing that she is still relevant within the 125-pound division. O’Neill is undefeated, looking to live up to her potential, especially considering the new champion and new opportunity. 

UFC 286: Well-Balanced Maia Shows No Easy Way Out. 

Jennifer Maia has stayed sharp in the game putting down the sneaky rise of Moroz. The bout saw Maia get ahead and stay there. Reflecting on the bout, it looked like Moroz just never found her shots, and was made to look flat by Maia. That speaks to what Maia can do to fighters with dull teeth. Beating Maia requires putting her on the back foot, and not letting off the gas. Maia is good everywhere, and once she gets ahead, it’s hard to catch up. Despite being on the short side of the division, her natural strength makes up for much of the deficit a high disadvantage may bring. It probably won’t be an easy night for “King.”

UFC 286: O’Neill Returns With a Vengeance. 

O’Neill’s undefeated record is not the only thing that makes her stand out. O’Neill won her first three fights in the UFC with a finish. A hard thing to do in any division, but especially 125, having less power. O’Neill is a true boxer, though she put up insane volume in her last bout with Modafferi. A bout that saw O’Neill happy to play the bad guy. Just another good sign that O’Neill understands promotion, something most MMA fighters in general doesn’t understand.  There’s no doubt the Australian is going to keep that same energy as she continues to rise the ranks of the UFC, but before that, she needs to pass a tough test in Maia. 

UFC 286: Match Up and Implications 

In many ways, this match-up is not too far off from what these women dealt with during their last time out. The Brazilian battled a hard-nosed striker, looking to finish. The Scottish-born fighter, O’Neill dealt with a tested grappler, who put down hype trains before. The difference for both women is that this bout has much more teeth on it. There is more risk, in terms of the level of practice.

Maia just came out of the top five, with fighters who are very close to gold. The fact is “King” has not battled someone like that in her career. For Maia, her opponent is on the cusp of getting red hot and is willing to do whatever to win. The matchup will come down to who pulls the trigger and sets the pace. 

Maia is in a tougher spot, not winning two fights in a row since 2019, there is a question mark, as to her role in the UFC. A loss here would leave her 1-3 in her last 4. O’Neill on the other hand has a lot to prove. She has a heelish mindset, but that puts extra weight on each fight. A loss here could see her getting lost in the shuffle and a muddy path to a title shot. “King” has gone all in with this fight, considering she just came back from a torn ACL, who knows how she will look in there? This fight presents interesting questions, that demand a watch this Saturday. 

Featured Image Credit

Share this article

Gonzalo Magana has been a causal MMA fan for a decade, but started following the sport more diligently in 2020. He wrestled for eight years, and has done BJJ for 2 years. These insights into combat sports motivated him to write about MMA, the greatest sport in the world.