Ivana Petrovic vs. Luana Carolina prediction | UFC on ESPN 48 1

Making her UFC debut on July 1st at UFC on ESPN 48 is current Ares Flyweight champion Ivana Petrović. She’ll be taking on veteran striker Luana Carolina as the UFC returns to the UFC APEX for the 10th time in 2023. This has the making of a classic striker vs grappler matchup and it’ll be an important test for the newcomer Petrovic. For Carolina, she’ll be looking to show the UFC matchmakers that she’s still a threat at 125 lbs and deserves a spot on the roster.

As one of four recent additions to the women’s roster in June, the undefeated Ivana Petrovic is being called upon to bolster the talent of the women’s Flyweight division. She’s being thrown into the fire in her first fight though as she draws the former Muay Thai champion and UFC veteran in Luana Carolina. A win for either fighter will surely push them to the next tier of challenge as they look to claw their way up the rankings of a division stacked with talent.

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Betting Odds

The odds currently have Petrovic as the favorite as she’ll have a clear advantage in the wrestling and grappling department. Fans of betting the underdog should be happy with the odds for Carolina as well as she’ll have just as clear of an advantage on the feet:

  • Ivana Petrovic: -230 (BetUS)
  • Luana Carolina: +180 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

Looking at the debuting fighter first, Ivana Petrovic comes into the UFC at 6-0 with a title win and defense in Ares FC. Petrovic, 28 years old, is a very strong grappler with a high fight IQ. She’s very intelligent in the way she picks her entries for takedown attempts and controls the pace to conserve her energy as the fight wears on.

She excels at getting takedowns from the clinch or timing her opponents coming forward to engage in striking and shoots for the hips – often securing the takedown with an outside trip. She doesn’t panic if takedowns don’t come early; she has shown the ability to adjust and work for the takedown from different positions and angles whether that be in space or on the fence. When she’s in top control, she’s extremely methodical in her transitions to more dominant positions. Her best and most prominent transition in her time in Ares FC is the knee-on-belly to full mount transition. She makes it look easy as she successfully took mount almost every time she obtained side control. Once in the mount, her goal is to smash until her opponent makes a decision to give the back or try to get up. She’s shown good submission skills in her last couple of fights, finishing both by rear naked choke from this back position.

Where Petrovic will find herself at a disadvantage is in the striking. Though you’ll see steady improvement in her stand-up as her career has progressed, it’s evident that her game plan is not to stand and trade. When she does use her striking, it is mostly 1s and 2s with occasional hooks if her opponent covers up. She’s started to incorporate kicks as well both to the leg and head which will be useful in setting up takedowns as she gets more comfortable on the feet. Her strikes get a bit sluggish and are telegraphed, especially when she’s coming forward. One thing to like about her standing game is her footwork and head movement. There are moments she gets caught when focusing on her striking defense, but she has flashed fluid footwork and slick head movement to keep herself out of trouble when her opponent blitzes. She’ll use this footwork to set up well-timed takedowns as her opponents overcommit coming forward and run into her.

I’d love to see Ivana continue to grow in the striking department; not so she can stand and trade with some of the highest-level female strikers on the planet, but so she can hide her wrestling and be a threat in other areas of MMA enough that her opponents can’t solely focus on keeping her from taking them down. Quicker hands and working the body with both her hands and kicks would do wonders for her. As of now, Petrovic has had the most success in waiting for an inevitable mistake by her opponents and taking advantage. Though it speaks to her fighting IQ that she can make these reads and react so effectively, you can’t rely on fighters at the UFC level to make so many mistakes you can capitalize on that you are consistently successful.

Her opponent, Luana Carolina, is almost the exact opposite type of fighter. A former Muay Thai champion, 30-year-old Carolina loves to utilize her elbows and knees in her striking to get the better of clinch exchanges as well as kicks at range. She’ll throw punches as well, but these are usually a bit wild and looping as she looks to land powerful shots. Luana uses forward pressure when throwing strikes that doesn’t stop until she runs into her opponent and forced a clinch. Once in the clinch, she shows off her Muay Thai background by controlling her opponent’s posture and driving in powerful knees and elbows. Though she can get a bit wild when swinging with her hands, she’s shown toughness and resilience (outside of the brutal KO loss to Molly McCann) throughout her UFC career as well as improvements in her biggest weak point: wrestling.

It’s a tale as old as time: the striking specialist transitions to MMA and struggles in wrestling and their opponents’ game plan immediately focuses on that. This was the story for Carolina. In her last 4 fights, Luana has been taken down 7 times for a total of 18 minutes and 36 seconds of control. During the beginning of this stretch, opponents took her down from the clinch as they were able to secure trips or throws with relative ease. We’ve seen continuous progress in her ability to defend takedowns, but she still has been taken down 2 times in each of her last 3 bouts. When she’s on the ground, her grappling doesn’t seem much better. She’s been controlled and opponents have been able to attack submissions effectively so far in the UFC. She hasn’t fought someone with the level of ground game as Ivana Petrovic, so her transition and submission defense should both be focal points of her training camp this time around.


After breaking down the game of both Petrovic and Carolina, it seems evident that the outcome will be dictated by the exchanges in the clinch. Both women operate very effectively in this position with polar opposite goals. While Carolina will be looking for space to land knees and elbows, Petrovic will be trying to keep the fight in close where she can slowly work her way into position to secure a takedown and work her top game. If this fight stays at range and Petrovic is not able to get Luana down, it should be an easy night for Carolina; she can keep range and work a diverse set of punches and kicks while moving and staying off of the cage. The same drastic movement that Luana comes forward with can be seen in her defense as well as she will often back herself to the cage to the point where she’s squared with it and very susceptible to being grabbed and taken down along the fence so it’ll be critical for her to be aware of her position at all times and stay out of the danger zones.

For Petrovic, her path to victory seems just as simple: use her footwork and timing to enter into range for clinches or time a takedown as Carolina pushes forward. Though she works best when she gets her opponent down in space, I’m confident that she’ll be capable of keeping Carolina down and working her transitions to better posture up for ground n pound. Carolina will need to be extremely careful not to give up any submission opportunities as Petrovic will be constantly looking for any fault in the defense and will attack it for the finish. We’ll need to see improvements in Ivana’s striking as well if she wants to come out of this one without wearing a ton of damage. Her striking doesn’t always hide her takedown attempts well and can be easily stuffed by experienced fighters such as Luana.

Women in their debut have gone 3-4 this year in the UFC (one fight featured two debutants, so 2-3 otherwise). The year began with an 0-3 skid for the onboarding fighters but the two most recent have come out on top. I tend to lean more toward the striker with UFC experience in matchups against new fighters with little striking to speak of, but I think the fight IQ and wrestling of Petrovic will be the difference-maker here. Luana has great Muay Thai, but I believe Ivana will be able to control the clinch and be successful in flooring her opponent. Luana has shown to be too forward with her movement and doesn’t seem to be aware of when to stop. This puts her in these clinch situations on the fence and Ivana excels in these spots. She understands the correct hook placement and posture in the clinch to get into a dominant position and look for trips, something Carolina has shown to be susceptible to in the past.

If Carolina can keep the fight at range and if she is able to overpower Petrovic in the clinch and win position, she can deal a lot of damage to Ivana who has shown to get rocked by elbows in her past fights. Out of the two scenarios though, Petrovic’s feels more realistic and therefore I’m going with her to take this one. Carolina has been submitted in the past and threatened a few other times, so I wouldn’t put a submission win for Petrovic out of the question.

Pick: Petrovic to win inside the distance (+190)

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