Before Uriah Hall and Sean Strickland clash at UFC Fight Night on Saturday, July 31, fans will get to see a compelling matchup in the women’s flyweight division, between former champion Nicco Montano and always dynamic Wu Yanan.
After winning the 26th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Montano was awarded the inaugural women’s UFC Flyweight championship belt. However, fortune would not favor Montano, who due to a collection of injuries, illness and USADA issues, would be unable to defend her title. Instead returning after two years from competition to lose a hard fought battle with current bantamweight title challenger Julianna Pena.
Wu Yanan, although young in her career, has actually doubled the number of Montano’s professional bouts 15-7 and will enjoy a distinct experience advantage. Although a promising talent entering the UFC in 2017, it seems the young prospect has yet to put all her skills together cohesively, demonstrating always dangerous abilities but usually coming up just barely short. While Montano seeks to re-enter her name into title contention, Wu will look to finally live up to her potential in the octagon.
Montano vs. Wu betting odds
As of right now, the former champion is viewed as the favorite at -180, while Wu sits at +150. This means that for every one dollar put on Wu, expect to return two dollars and fifty cents total if she pulls off the upset.
Montano vs. Wu Breakdown
Nicco Montano is a well-rounded fighter capable of demonstrating skills across the full spectrum of mixed martial arts. Even in her striking game, she neither favors punches or kicks, but uses both to keep her opponents on their toes at all ranges. What sets her apart is her ability to get better as the fight moves on.
Although in the past Montano has come out to the opening bell a bit over-anxious, she typically becomes more comfortable as time moves on. Likewise, her movements become more fluid and her output grows. While there are no particular techniques that Wu should focus too much attention on, it’s the well-roundedness of her game that makes Montano dangerous.
Her greatest strength is likely her ability to scramble and win out transitions. With some of the best balance control and grappling strength in the division, the former champion has a high rate of reversing takedowns or reversing position when a takedown is successful. This happens almost exclusively inside the transitions, where she allows her opponent’s weight to over-rotate and land herself in mount or half guard. However, she is less comfortable post-transition if she does find herself trapped heavily on the bottom, where in the past we have seen her commit to failing techniques and lose significant control time to the opponents on top. The best example of this is during her fight with Juliana Pena, she found herself in side control and half guard stuffed against the fence and wasted too much time looking for a single leg reversal, potentially leading to her losing decision.
Compared to her last two fights, however, Wu presents considerably less danger in this area. Instead, Wu does her best work on the feet, where she is lighter and offers better footwork than Montano. Wu also has enjoyed a reach advantage but has neglected to use it to great effect in her previous performances. In this match-up, her quick front leg side kick should be an important weapon in managing the distance with Montano who will likely look to clinch.
Wu is also less comfortable striking when put on the back foot, but is particularly accurate when she pushes forward on her own terms. This is why, if her kicking game can slow Montano down, and Wu keeps moving and picking her shots, we will see her in best form.
From the top position Wu can inflict a relatively decent ground and pound effort, but she has shown a slight lack in submission awareness as well. If she does make the decision to take Montano down, she should look for takedowns such as double legs or outside trips that allow her to fall into an already dominant position. If she utilizes takedowns that cause her to fall into Montano’s guard, she will scramble or look for submissions including triangles off her back instantly.
Montano vs. Wu Prediction
Wu should make sure to start fast, she is the cleaner striker, as well as the faster striker but Montano will only get better as the fight gets grittier. Ultimately though, I think it will come down to Montano’s grappling advantage. Wu has good entries onto her takedowns but often lacks in the final commitment to the shot. This is where Montano does her best work but looks for her to put pressure on the feet in order to draw out Wu’s takedown attempts. I think that at -180, Montano is a justifiable favorite heading into this match-up.
Prediction: Nicco Montano via decision
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.