One sentence summary:
Phil: Shortly before the migration down to 125 begins to drain it further, we get an object lesson in how shallow W135 actually is.
David: <Cuts mic>
Record: Marion Reneau 7-3-1 Draw Talita Bernardo 5-1
Odds: Marion Reneau -290 Draw Talita Bernardo +260
History / Introduction to Both Fighters
David: Reneau is your standard issued old dog with guts and grit. She’s the kind of fighter who started smoking when she was nine, and likes to clean her handguns blindfolded in case the world ends tomorrow. She’s in great condition for her age, and she’s coming off a draw versus Bethe Correia in a fight I legitimately didn’t know existed despite watching it. Now she’s trying to raise her gatekeeper status against a girl without a wikipedia page.
Phil: Marion Reneau has been a dark horse in the W135 division, never quite getting the right breakout fight. She's now 40 years old, and while she doesn't appear to be slowing down, she has a limited amount of time to make her mark. This fight isn't going to help.
David: Like most fighters with different names depending on where you look because prepositions are more confusing in foreign languages, Talita Bernardo - born Talita de Oliviera Bernardo - is a fighter nobody knows about who is nonetheless helping headline a UFC card many people will not watch. It’s not Talita’s fault. She seems like a decent enough fighter. I’m just not sure this is the kind of fight to help headline a UFC card directly following the circus from last week (oh right, tape delay rewatch).
Phil: There isn't much out there on Talita Bernardo. You'd expect that the UFC would be looking for European fighters to make the short-notice callup, but Bernardo is making a debut on a few days notice, while travelling all the way from Brazil. Whatever happens, she's not short on courage.
What's at stake?
David: As long as nobody has a Billy Cole moment, hopefully just the usual.
Phil: Zip. People will raise an eyebrow if Bernardo wins, I guess, but Reneau just hasn't managed the impact that would make it into a memorable upset.
Where do they want it?
Phil: The interesting thing (such as it was) about Reneau's fight against Holly Holm was that the two of them have very similar operating spaces and core competencies. Reneau is a natural counterstriker, fighting at the limit of her range behind a jab and round kicks. When denied that range or when put against an opponent which doesn't give her easy opportunities, she can slide into arid distance kickboxing matches. However, her natural power and speed, combined with an aggressive opportunistic submission game means that while she doesn't have the striking experience of Holm, she's far more capable of turning fights around with a moment of offense.
David: Say what you want about this fight, but after all the McGregor, Mayweather hysteria, this is a convenient but raw place to talk about MMA boxing. You see, Reneau’s game is a good example of “disruptive innovation.” And by disruptive innovation, I mean it’s a good example of an MMA fighter actively learning classic boxing techniques, and then using those boxing techniques to throw punches. Reneau dictates the pace and action of the fight by maintaining good posture and balance, reading her opponent to take advantage of resets. In a way, tried and true regular ass boxing is yet another part of transition fighter, which defines MMA. She has a fantastic understanding of distance, and “angles”. She doesn’t have much raw power (most of her TKO’s were against early career ham and eggers), but she sets up her power punches well.
Phil: Talita Bernardo is an aggressive submission grappler. There really isn't much else to say. She's only had 6 fights, and for more than one she remains the only bout on those fighter's resume. The best thing you can say about her is that she has more experience than CM Punk did, but less than Sage Northcutt. If she was the type of preternatural talent who could win a fight like this, she'd be blowing people out of the water, but she hasn't.
David: Watching tape, Bernardo isn’t some fancy diamond in the rough. She’s your typical maybe-successful-prospect-given-her-handling-of-foreign-jobbers story. She’s able to execute a specific gameplan - get takedowns and get submissions - with reasonable efficiency. She’s very good at quickly setting up submissions, showing urgency, which is key. And I like that she patiently times her takedowns rather than just spamming double legs. But the rest of her game is raw, and her specific strengths don’t seem like enough to offset the murky general picture.
Insight from past fights?
David: Watching Bernardo in her last bout against Iren Racz, there are clear deficiencies to her game. Her striking is, well, striking. Nothing to be truly embarrassed about. This isn’t Dandois level soccer mom windmilling. But she has zero head movement, like she once tried to have a staring contest with Medusa. And she seems to give zero f**ks about incoming punches. She keeps her hands up, but against Reneau, that could be a recipe for disaster.
Phil: Reneau is a good athlete for the division, but she's fairly old. However, she's shown herself to be pretty resilient to being worn down by younger fighters, as her best round in the Correia fight was the third.
Phil: Bernardo IS an X-factor. Inexperienced, short-notice, almost certainly underprepared and probably suffering from jetlag to boot.
David: This was a lot easier last weekend. You think we got a chance to be featured on esteemed websites this time?
David: I don’t know. Bernardo is good enough on the ground to potentially surprise. I doubt it happens. Marion Reneau by TKO, round 2.
Phil: Reneau is probably going to want to flex her kickboxing, but I suspect she can finish this wherever she wants. Marion Reneau by submission, round 2.