Miranda “Fear The” Maverick, still only 25, entered the UFC two years ago with some excitement. The excitement stemmed from Maverick making it to the UFC at such a young age and because of her impressive submission game. She sputtered a bit, losing back-to-back fights to other top prospects, but returned to the win column in her most recent bout. Maverick is 3-2 in the UFC with two stoppage wins and both losses coming by decision.
Shanna “The Shanimal” Young is a 31-year-old Dana White’s Contender Series alum, although she lost via submission on DWCS in 2019. Young is 1-2 in the UFC, with her most recent win being a round 2 TKO back in April. Interestingly, in the UFC, Young has been an underdog in each of her fights except for her DWCS bout, where she lost as a slight favorite.
Maverick is the second largest favorite on the UFC 278 fight card this weekend.
Maverick’s primary weapons are her armbar and rear-naked choke. In both cases, Maverick wants the fight to hit the mat where she can pivot her hips fluidly and either grab a loose arm to take home or flip around the back of her opponent and squeeze them for the tap. In fights against a lower level of competition, Maverick has been able to execute this game plan nearly flawlessly and win convincingly.
However, in the UFC, especially near the rankings, most fights won’t be such a walk in the park. In closer matchups, Maverick still looks to offensively wrestle but can be overzealous in her approach. At times, as she strikes into range, Maverick throws undisciplined kicks, which leave her open to be taken down or countered. When she’s hit the mat, Maverick looks immediately for the armbar; but, in fights where she’s faced intelligent grapplers who don’t leave their arm exposed, Maverick has lost key rounds playing jiu-jitsu from her back, unable to get up, as her opponent racks up control time.
Outside of her naked kicks, Maverick’s striking has steadily improved. Her time spent at Team Elevation, a team known for helping primary grapplers more well-rounded with striking has been time well spent. Maverick has developed a basic but effective jab and more speed on her combinations. In her most recent fight against a lengthy kickboxer, Maverick landed more volume and more accuracy than her opponent. She also was able to chain her striking into her wrestling and land four takedowns. With Maverick’s lights-out ground game, improved striking, and UFC experience against two top prospects, her growth into a dangerous and well-rounded fighter seems inevitable.
Young has been an underdog in all of her UFC fights since DWCS for a reason. She is well-rounded but uninspired in all facets of MMA. Offensively, her striking is technical and accurate, but it lands with minimal pop and is often a beat or two slower than her opponents. Young’s footwork has solid fundamentals, but often being the poorer athlete, she can get caught circling or backing up too often.
Young’s typical path to victory is to find the clinch against the cage and nullify any size, speed, or skillset discrepancy between her and her opponent by forcing a dirty boxing match pinned against the cage. If she can pressure her opponent back and clinch up, Young has some nice in-tight strikes, elbows, and short hooks that can rack up points and allow her to stay busy enough to hold position and win rounds. However, if her opponent can dig underhooks, reverse position, or, worse yet, get the fight from the clinch to the mat, Young struggles to defend herself.
In a recent fight against Stephanie Egger, a black belt in Judo who wants to clinch against the cage and throw her opponent down, Young happily engaged the clinch and fell victim to being tossed around and finished. I highlight this to either show poor fight IQ or, more likely, the absence of a backup plan if a clinch fight isn’t advised. In fights where she can win the back-to-the-cage hook battle, Young can win. Outside of a clinch war, though, we haven’t yet seen another path to victory.
Maverick is a nearly -600 favorite for a reason; she is simply the much better fighter everywhere, even in the clinch where Young wants it. This fight is an opportunity to see just how dominant Maverick can be. She lost back-to-back fights to other top prospects and lost a bit of her shine. If she can win emphatically here, Maverick can get back on the same track, albeit behind, as other exciting prospects and soon-to-be contenders.
Said plainly, the angle is whether or not Maverick can get the finish. I think she will, and I think she’ll get it quickly. Look for Maverick to get her own takedown or reverse position of a clinch attempt from Young, pivot to the back, and find the neck.
Pick: Maverick by 1st or 2nd round submission (bet now on MyBookie)
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.