Maycee Barber very well might be the future of the UFC.
But Saturday belonged to Roxanne Modafferi.
Modafferi, a plus 550 underdog, delayed Barber’s coronation by beating the 21-year-old phenom by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26) at T-Mobile Arena in their flyweight fight on the preliminary card of UFC 246. The wily veteran maintained top position for most of the first round and battered the previously unbeaten Barber in the final two rounds.
“I felt like my strikes have gotten stronger than in the past,” said Modafferi, a 37-year-old Las Vegas resident. “I’m still a good jedi, except in the cage. I let it go. I really wanted to use some elbows. Maybe seem a little more scary, maybe cut her a little bit. My hands are kind of bloody, so I guess I did that. … The results speak for themselves.”
Barber had won her first nine fights, including three in the UFC, to garner a reputation as one of the top prospects in all of mixed martial arts. She won eight of them by stoppage, and was a minus 1,000 favorite leading up to the card before closing at minus 850.
Modafferi (24-16) jumped on Barber early and peppered her with strikes to seize an early advantage. She connected with another flush strike midway through the second round to buckle Barber’s knees and send her to the canvas, where Modafferi cut her forehead open with strike after strike.
“I have a pretty good chin, so I knew that her strikes wouldn’t down me,” Modafferi said. “I knew I could (beat her). I just had to go do it.”
Holm decisions Pennington
Holly Holm defeated Raquel Pennington in her UFC debut in 2015. She beat her again in the co-main event of UFC 246.
Holm (13-5) held off Pennington (10-8) in their bantamweight fight to score a 29-28, 30-27, 30-27 victory. The 38-year-old Holm hadn’t won since June 2018, but said she still thinks she can win the title.
“I need to show more of my abilities to get that title shot again,” Holm said. “I always want to have big knockouts, but I’m still learning and improving as a martial artist, so we’ll see where it goes.”
Oleinik records another submission
Aleksei Oleinik (59-13) snapped a two-fight losing streak by locking an arm-bar on Maurice Greene (8-4) and forcing a submission 4:38 into the second round of their heavyweight fight. Oleinik now has 46 wins by submission.
“He knew I would wrestle, and he prepared his defense very well,” Oleinik said. “I knew I must break his defense and then I had to use my jiujitsu skills to submit him.”
Kelleher stops Osbourne with choke
Brian Kelleher made the most of his move to the main card with a much-needed victory.
Kelleher (20-10) snapped a two-fight losing streak by submitting Ode Osbourne (6-3) with a guillotine choke 2:49 into the first round of their bantamweight bout. Their fight was moved to the main card after Alexa Grasso was pulled from her fight for missing weight.
“They told me on Friday that I’d be moving up to the main card, but I was unfazed,” Kelleher said. “I told myself whatever happens, just tune it out and stay focused.”
Ferreira submits Pettis
Carlos Diego Ferreira (17-2) opened the main card by submitting Anthony Pettis (22-10) by neck crank 1:46 into the second round. Ferreira has won his past six fights and continues to establish himself in the lightweight division.
“My dream is getting into the rankings, so now I think I will take Anthony’s spot and be close to the top 10,” Ferreira said. “I’m not worried about the title yet, but I want to get to the top five.”