At UFC 218 on Saturday, Felice Herrig looked to further her argument for a title shot in a suddenly wide-open strawweight division.
Felice Herrig entered the UFC in 2014 via The Ultimate Fighter 20 as one of the more recognizable 115lb fighters. Outspoken, willing to market herself via her stunning good looks, and successful in the cage, she had plenty to offer. She also came with a built in following on social media. The UFC, though, seemed to drop the ball in promoting her, and inconsistency in the octagon didn’t help matters.
2016 onward has seen a rejuvenated Herrig bounce back, however. Three straight wins over Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, and Justine Kish had Herrig knocking at the door of a title shot. Then Rose Namajunas upset established champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk, blowing the division wide open. All bets were suddenly off.
Herrig met Cortney Casey at UFC 218, a fighter whose career was nearly ruined by the ineptitude of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. The less said about their botched handling of a Casey drug test, the better.
On Saturday, the pair opened the UFC 218 televised preliminary card. Right off the opening bell, Herrig came out and pressed the action. She’d get her right hand going, and Cortney Casey would answer. Then they were trading, with both women landing. Herrig seemed to be looking for a way in on the taller, longer Casey. Frustrated by her latest attempt, she whiffed on a leg kick. More exchanges followed; both fighters landed, but Casey’s punches seemed to have more impact. Herrig then drove her into the fence; Casey reversed, which Herrig fended off by grabbing the fence. Coming off that sequence, Herrig scored the takedown, going right into Casey’s half guard.
Casey, however, deftly escaped using a kimura attempt. After one final exchange, they’d head to the second round. There, Herrig added a front kick to her arsenal, that created space more than anything. Herrig would connect with a left hook, that may have been the most significant strike to that point in the fight. Casey and Herrig would both continue to land, with momentum slightly favoring Herrig. She threatened with an overhand right on numerous occasions; that punch looked like it could do serious damage if it landed clean. She would later catch Casey in the eye, and land a left flush on the chin, before it went to the third.
In round three, Casey was showing the damage accumulated through the first two rounds. She had swelling by the eye, and possibly vision problems as a result. Herrig continued to attack with her overhand right, and neither lady seemed to want to go to the ground. That resulted in a kickboxing contest with little to mix it up in the third until Herrig stuck her tongue out, which elicited a middle finger response from Casey. They’d swing away a bit at the end, with Casey finally catching Herrig.
Felice Herrig def. Cortney Casey by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)