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Tabatha Ricci is the fighter to watch at UFC Vegas 55

Tabatha Ricci faces Polyana Viana at UFC Vegas 55

Tabatha Ricci heads into Saturday’s UFC Vegas 55 fight card with a 1-1 record in the UFC, a place on the main card and an opportunity to get some attention from the UFC and its fans.

Ricci got her first chance to fight under the UFC under familiar — but less than ideal - circumstances. Called on during fight week to compete at a weight class higher than her usual strawweight division, Ricci agreed to face Manon Fiorot at UFC Vegas 28 after grabbing the attention of the UFC matchmakers with two 2021 stoppage wins with LFA.

Ricci was outmatched in almost every way in that contest. She gave up height, reach and experience. However, Ricci did not back down from the challenge. Yes, Fiorot knocked her out in the second stanza, but Ricci was a game opponent for the duration of the contest.

With her foot in the door, Ricci got the chance to better represent herself in October 2021. With a full camp behind her and competing at 115 pounds, Ricci put on a pleasing performance against Maria Oliveira at UFC Vegas 41.

Ricci looked comfortable and confident against Oliveira. She showcased good movement on her feet, threw her strikes with considerable power, mixed up her striking techniques and moved forward.

Her desire to get the fight to the ground was obvious and that’s something she’ll need to work on. However, once she got the fight to the mat, Ricci showed a heavy top game and utilized a healthy dose of ground strikes while also looking for openings for her submission skills. Ricci won the fight via decision.

The 27-year-old Ricci faces the more experienced Polyana Viana at UFC Vegas 55. Two years older than Ricci, Viana is 3-3 in the UFC. She is riding a streak of two straight first-round submission wins with the promotion — earning a “Performance of the Night” bonus in her most recent outing.

Ricci is giving up height and reach to her opponent in this contest, but Viana’s reach is two-inches less than Oliveira’s was and Ricci dealt with the deficit in that fight through aggression. Expect that to be the case on Saturday night as well.

On a card lacking depth and with this fight slated to open the main card, this matchup is a great opportunity for Ricci.

UFC Vegas 55 takes place Saturday, May 21 at UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The entire card streams on ESPN+.