UFC bantamweight Pannie Kianzad will look to secure her first official victory in the Octagon when the company makes its latest trip to Moscow on November 9.
The Iranian-born Swede has two victories on “The Ultimate Fighter,” which only count as exhibition wins. Since then, she has dropped both of her official UFC bouts. “Banzai” fought at featherweight on “The Ultimate Fighter,” losing to Macy Chiasson in the finale. Kianzad was not given a contract and returned to fighting in Sweden. However, she was brought back, this time at bantamweight, to fight Julia Avila at UFC 239. Avila defeated Kianzad who took the fight on two weeks’ notice, but ultimately only spent a week of that time preparing for the fight. Kianzad recalls the whirlwind experience:
“Basically, when I got called to fight Julia [Avila] in Vegas, it was one week,” Kianzad said to John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock. “That other week went through cutting weight and getting a visa.”
Kianzad, who lives in Sweden, needed to travel to the capital of Stockholm to attempt to obtain a visa, all while cutting weight.
“People just think that it’s a short distance, but there’s a long distance between the cities in Sweden. I have almost seven hours to Stockholm because I live in the south. I had to drive by myself doing weight cuts and sh*t to Stockholm to get a visa that may not be approved.
“So basically I just had one week to train, one week to train really hard… You don’t have time to do game planning and sh*t; you just go in there, that’s it.”
UFC Moscow and a familiar foe
Kianzad will have roughly four mouths between her UFC 239 loss and her return in Moscow. Fighters who have significantly less time to prepare than their opponents or step up to save a fight from being canceled often are viewed more favorably than their counterparts who lose after a full camp. The loss still appears on their record, but is frequently followed by “yeah, but, he/she took it on short notice.” The replacement fight is seen as a “favor” to the company and can extend the short notice fighters’ tenure with the promotion.
While Kianzad understands this trend, she is also aware that a loss is still a loss. “Banzai” made sure she took enough time to improve her game before stepping back in the spotlight of the UFC octagon.
“I know that a lot of people are like ‘oh well, you jumped in on short notice, who cares,’ but it’s still a loss, and I don’t want that,” Kianzad said. “I don’t want to lose back-to-back. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do that on the biggest stage that I’m in right now.”
“I wanted to give myself time and come back to my strength and conditioning and really come into the shape I am. I’m always in shape, but I want to look exceptional in this fight.”
Not only will Kianzad benefit from a full camp, but will meet a familiar foe in Jessica-Rose Clark. The two battled back in 2015 in their respective debuts for the Invicta FC promotion. She was awarded the unanimous decision victory but will not be tempted to look back that far in preparation for their rematch. Instead, Kianzad will focus on Clark like she is preparing to fight her for the first time, even if that means becoming obsessed with the Aussie.
“I don’t even think about that I beat her. For me, that’s non-existent. For me, it’s only this fight, it’s only this win. I eat, sleep and breathe this fight. I think about her every day. I do. Not to sound creepy or anything, but, you know, fight-wise, I do. That’s why it was important that little time, those months, it was really important for me to get back to my schedule and feel like I’ve done everything I can. I’ve done everything. I’ve suffered so much through this camp, but I know it’s worth it.”
The bantamweight title picture
Kianzad is anticipating battling the best version of Jessica-Rose Clark to date. She is not shy to praise her opponent, noting that she is a well-rounded, aggressive foe. Kianzad believes that a fight with Clark can go anywhere and does not want to speculate or predict the outcome but does guarantee that she will always be one step ahead of her opponent.
While neither is in the top 15 of the division, the landscape of the woman’s bantamweight division is in constant flux. The only constant since the departure of Ronda Rousey is the champion, Amanda Nunes. A win in this bout could be the first step on the road to the title picture, a path that is much shorter than some of the UFC’s other divisions. While Kianzad is not quick to talk about an eventual leap to title contention, she does have her eyes on her division’s next title fight.
UFC Bantamweight and Featherweight Champion Amanda Nunes will battle former UFC Featherweight Champion Germaine de Randamie at UFC. The Brazilian Nunes has looked unstoppable for the past several years. Despite this, Kianzad believes that “The Iron Lady” is a looming threat to Nunes’ throne.
“I think people are looking past Germaine. I mean, I love Amanda. She’s one of my favorite fighters, but Germaine is a monster. Her last loss was against Amanda, and she actually took a year off just working on her ground game and stuff. And I mean, her striking, there’s a reason why she’s 47-0 in K-1 and Thai. There’s just no coincidence that she is this way. She is one of the best kickboxers in the world. I’m actually getting chills just talking about it. I think she’s a huge threat to Amanda Nunes.”
Kianzad’s first step towards inserting herself into the picture with fighters like de Randamie and Nunes takes place this Saturday, November 9, at the CSKA Arena in Moscow, Russia. Her bout with Clark will be on the prelims airing on ESPN+.
If you want to see Pannie’s full interview with The Body Lock, check out the video below.
A 29-year-old paralegal by day, but I rather write. MMA nut since '04.