*just a heads up. This is more of an analytical piece, then an article comparing it to the GP. I do talk about it, but just barely.
This is the news I've been waiting for.
11 strawweights extracted from Invicta for TUF in the summer, 5 more girls will be chosen by open try-outs, the 11 strawweights were given 32 thousand up front. Esparza got 40 thousand for being the Invicta Champ.
I don't really know where to start so here goes.
First off, I wrote a couple hundred words about how I loved that TUF would get the girls maximum exposure, but also how I hated that it would be taped and not live. It was painful to write, so I'm just gonna sum it up.
I never followed the male TUF at all through any social media, so I never knew what was going to happen (it was like watching it live), but I had an added interest in the women this past season, seeing as I "cover" it and what not, so I was on Twitter, checking out what was being said. The girls and coaches (Mostly Miesha, since Ronda was filming) gave so much and there not exactly spoilers, but definitely "indication" of what was happening. I don't wanna know it's gonna be a great fight. I don't wanna know it's must-see. And when I see a girl promoting the hell out of her fight (Tweeting, doing interviews etc), i.e. Julianna Pena, I can't help but think this girl ain't losing. And this proved true. It took out the suspense and some unpredictability of many fights.
So, my advice stay off social media as much as possible to avoid these "indications". I wasn't able to catch the Jones/Gustafsson fight live, and I friend of mine, slightly altered my few of it, by telling me "sick" in a mesage. That's all that was said, but I knew what it meant. I went into the fight with expectations whereas Hunt/Bigfoot went into it just "predicting" what would happen... and it's just completely different. Expecting compared to surprising.
OKAY MOVING ON. No wait one more thing. And the coaches being able to choose the fight thing could be a problem. I really, really, really don't want to see Torres and Calderwood go at it in there first fights, but then again I'm overthinking this way too hard. This season will be great. This season will be great. (not a typo)
This is my own personal top 25 ranking of the strawweights. In my honest opinion, this is the most accurate top 25 strawweight ranking available.
*bold means officially with UFC
6. Tecia Torres
9. Mizuki Inoue
10. Alida Gray
11. Patricia Vidonic
@SRychel Not sure yet.— Patricia Vidonic (@LilPatriciamma) December 12, 2013
Kay, just for simplicities sake, I have Vidonic over Yamaguchi, but in a just world Yamaguchi would have been given the decision.
12. Mei Yamaguchi
@DCDry haven't decide yet. I just changed division to 105. I hope UFC will start 105 too!— Mei Yamaguchi (@v_vmei) December 13, 2013
As you can see, Yamaguchi's English is pretty good
13. Emi Fujino
14. Rose Namajunas
15. Bec Hyatt
16. Stephanie Eggink
17. Heather Clark
18. Kailin Curran
19. Herica Tiburcio
20. Juliana Lima
21. Kinberly Novaes
22. Livia Souza
23. Aline Sattelmayer
24. Mylla Torres
25. Camila Lima
If you've been following Bellator/Invicta/WMMA you know what this means, but if you haven't not one. Not two. Not three, but five girls in the top 10 will be on TUF. 3 of them in the top fIve. You have fan favorites Namajunas and Hyatt both in the top 15, then the most "out of left field" selection Julianna Lima, who's only had one lackluster fight with Invicta, and I doubt many were aware that apparently she speaks well enough in English to be on the show.
So, to quickly sum it up. 3 of the top five, 5 of the top 10, and 8 of the top 20 strawweights in the world are slated to be on TUF. Amazing. Imagine the UFC did a TUF for flyweight, bantamweight or featherweight men to crown the Champion.
I should probably split this into more than one article, but whatever.
Breakdown fighter by fighter
Carla Esparza (current Invicta Champion)
Lets make one thing clear. Esparza is a paper champion. It's not her fault she didn't get to fight Gadelha or Hamasaki, but beating Bec Hyatt, and two other irrelevant girls also doesn't mean you deserve 8 thousand dollars more than your fellow strawweights (UFC are paying all the fighters 32 K to sit it out until TUF begins, except for "champion" Carla Esparza. She get's 40 thousand).
Her bread and butter is wrestling and ground and pound. Nothing particularly striking about her style, but she is solid everywhere with no gaping weaknesses. Her fights with Lynn Alvarez and Sarah Schneider best showcase the style she would have to use to be successful (takedown and overwhelming ground and pound). I love her wrestling singlet, but really the women's "dress code" should be as similar as the men's as possible. No covering the abdomen or tights that go down to the ankles (I've seen it).
"Claudinha" (someone please explain the "inha" I keep seeing, to me) is a goddamn animal. The way she completely dominated Hamasaki was something. In my opinion, she has the best grappling in strawweight. There's a reason she is the youngest Nova Uniao black belt ever. There's not really much too add. If she can actually make it to the fight (she's pulled out twice in scheduled fights with Esparza already) she is a solid pick to win it all.
More photos of Claudia Gadelha making people feel bad about themselves. Also, a substantial amount of tiresome Twitter banter between her vs. Esparza & Herrig. I have some of it, and Morning Report has some more. It seems we both could not stomach posting everything. Just scroll down, you'll see it.
I've sung her praises, so much, I'm a little sick of talking about her, and to be honest, her last two fights haven't been terribly entertaining. Albeit, they were against grapplers, and not just any grapplers, grapplers that knew how to mix in strikes with take downs (Norma Rueda and Kankaanpaa), so Calderwood had to play it smart. Score enough points to win, but not get to aggressive and taken down each round. Bad things happen to girls, who stand with "BADMOFO", which makes a match with Tecia Torres extremely attractive.
Check out a highlight video or two of hers
Take your pick:
More fight footage, but dubstep ish music without hearing her voice
Less fight footage, "odd" song choice plus get to hear her voice
Everytime I think she'll fall (I thought Namajunas and Herrig would "expose" her) she brings her "A" game. Nobody's been able to give Torres trouble on the feet except for one round against Kaiyana Rain in her debut. And by not give any trouble, I mean, Torres has been absolutely steamrolling them on the feet. Whether it be moving forward, backwards, sideways, leaping side kicks, front leg axe kicks or beautiful punch-kick combinations, like the way she unleashed on Felice. And dont' even get me started on the powerful, powerful takedown defence. Good god. Felice Herrig had some DEEP shots, and couldn't keep/get Torres down.
This girl is a powerhouse. Rose really has perfected the flying armbar into a move she can use as if it were an overhand right. Fight changing. But, Tecia rose (ha ha ha) to the occasion. Only critique I have is not much offensive sub grappling game, and rarely finishes opponents. Benson Henderson or Diego Sanchez try to finish fights with all their might, but just can't seem too... whereas Tecia I feel like has another gear we haven't seen. A gear we won't see til she faces someone that'll force it out of her. But at least, she tries to much more damage than her teammate/cornerwoman and consensus #1 strawweight Jessica Aguilar (more on her later).
My mind says Torres, but my gut says Calderwood will come out champion.
Felice Herrig, Rose Namajunas, Bec Hyatt, Juliana Lima
I'm not putting it past any of these girls to beat one of the top four. However, Herrig has lost to Esparza and Torres. Namajunas lost to Torres. Hyatt lost to Esparza. Lima, though has flown completely under the radar.
I think she'll (her Facebook page is "Ju Thai", not sure if she wants to be referred as that) surprise a lot of people if she gets the right matchups. Not too many people caught her fight with Kankaanpaa back at Invicta 5, but her ability to get back to her feet multiple times, and escape a few potentially fight ending situations was impressive. Especially, considering the elite grinder that Kankaanpaa is (the fights I've caught of her, normally once she gets you down, you stay down). She has good size standing 5 ft 6, decent Muay Thai and wrestling, but her game is top position and ground and pound. She's been very inactive, and that hurt her climb up the rankings. Lima, I'll admit, is actually a huge oversight on my part.
Free Juliana Lima
Probably the most polarizing fighter not named Cyborg Santos or in the UFC bantamweight division. Her, in my opinion, over exploiting of her "looks" gets her a lot of hate amongst fans and fighters. Conversely, make no mistake, she can fight and deserves respect. If her fight with Tecia Torres was the first fight, you saw of hers, know that Torres is just that good. Herrig's been doing this a long time, and her combination of Muay Thai and solid takedowns is trouble for everyone. Tecia made it look easy, but don't count Felice out of this tournament by any means. (I will not post Felice Herrig photos ever again.)
This should instantly make most a fan of "Thug"
If you ain't got time for this. Just skip to 1:14
Her flying armbar isn't just some gimmick, one shot wonder move (*cough* Chonan), but is actually part of her game. Like a Jon Jones spinning elbow or a Mark Hunt walk off. I don't know if it's her body type or what, but I think her biggest problem is she isn't as strong as the strongest girls. If I was a strawweight, I'd be getting on that Tecia Torres diet (her physique reminds me of GSP, in that it seems to be the perfect mix of speed, cardio and power).
Very good fighter, very good. Another big strawweight (5 ft 6). However, I feel like her ceiling is that of a fringe top 10 fighter and she isn't "elite". Not bad for a mom, and she is only 24. She's an exciting fighter, that likes to push the pace standing, but isn't opposed to going to the ground and grabbing a submission either. Definitely, not a point fighter.
Excellent, technical fight with Japanese prodigy Mizuki Inoue (who, is most likely not going to be on TUF... English barrier, Japanese promoters likely want her for DEEP JEWELS title fight)
Alex Chambers (atomweight)
Big fan of Alex Chambers. Big fan of anyone that gets grinding wrestles like Jodie Esquibel, to tap out. She got submitted by Mizuki Inoue, but beat veteran Japanese fighter Mika Nagano via 1st round TKO. She is very thin at atomweight, so maybe she can add some muscle to her frame, in these months she has off. 35 years old, so the clock is ticking.
Chambers, legs crossed, nonchalant
@PAIGEVANZANT (I've seen multiple variations of her name, I'm going with her Twitter)
Get this. She fought Tecia Torres when she was only 18. She go destroyed, but showed she can take it, and still keep trying to win. Since then she has relocated to Team Alpha Male (Faber, Bang Ludwig, Veronica Rothenhausler etc). The move was announced September 17th via Team Alpha Male. She hasn't fought since the relocation, but the improvement to he game has to be imminent. "I started fighting when I was 15 years old with Ken Shamrock at the Lions Den in Reno Nevada." For more check out this great interview. Paige talks backyard boxing, staying knowledgeable about MMA, what's it like at Team Alpha Male. She'll be a ripe 20 years old when the Ultimate fighter shoots, then airs.
The only girl I have zero interest in. She is a grinding, wrestling heavy decision machine, that does not work to finish. I don't wanna be that guy, but is it a coincidence that Jodie Esquibel and Emily Kagan train out of Jacksons MMA? I guess they do have exciting girls like Heather Jo Clak, Waterson and Kedzie before. I'd hate to see her knock off one of these girls using her unpleasing style.
Pride 2005 MW Grand Prix comparison
Wanna clarify and add to my "comparison"... thanks MMAFighting commenters:
If you remove weightclass and name…
TUF has give or take the #2, #3, #5, #6, #8, #14, #15, #20 fighters, #10 atomweight
and going by this post on sherdog for end of 2004 rankings (which is very interesting in itself looking back)
1. Wanderlei Silva
1 . Randy Couture
3. Quinton Jackson
4. Chuck Liddell
5. Dan Henderson
6. Tito Ortiz
7. Vitor Belfort
8. Ricardo Arona
9. Babalu Sobral
10. Yuki Kondo
PRIDE has the #1, #3, #5, #7, #8, #10 fighters and probably a few more if it extended to a top 25, and Ice Cold moving down in weight.
The cast still has 5 spots to fill, and I wouldn’t put it past the "relationship" WSOF and UFC, that #1 Aguilar is allowed to try out, and other worthwhile fighters.
So, just on based on the rank of the fighters, I feel the comparison is fair. And I stand by the comparison that is only based on saying "Pride had many ranked fighters, and so will this TUF" is not a stretch at all. I don’t know how I’d feel if I was watching MMA back then when this GP was going down, but if you follow WMMA (at least have watched all the Invicta events) I’d think the excitement level is close. Or maybe it’s just me..
Some might think this is a stretch with names like Shogun, Rampage, Wanderlei, Dan Hendeson, Vitor Belfort, Sakuaba (holy fuck, it might be a stretch), but these names weren't all the huge names that they are today. And okay nobody in this strawweight grand prix has the pull of a Wanderlei or Sakuraba at the time, but ranking wise, I think it is comparable.
And when we look at this cast of Strawweights 5 year from now, you're gonna think, "WOW". This is the greatest assembling of female fighters ever. At least that's how I feel about that 2005 MW Grand Prix... Now if only this strawweight thing had the semi's and finals on one night + soccer kicks/stomps (Yes, I said this on Twitter already). Leg strikes to a downed opponent over elbows any day.
As always I'm on Twitter @ErikssonLau, Facebook.com/WMMAnalyze and WMMAnalyze.com ... and I might be making a much self-anticipated arrival very soon.......