Paige VanZant vs. Rachael Ostovich at UFC Brooklyn features two of the most popular flyweights in the game today, but the fight is much bigger than either individual.
Peruse the Instagram profiles of both Paige VanZant and Rachael Ostovich and you will immediately see that they each command an enormous and passionate following. A fight between the two needed little promotion to get fans to tune in, but recent events have given their match greater significance on the UFC’s first night on ESPN.
ONLY ON 2: 'I want to take a stand against domestic violence.' UFC flyweight Rachael Ostovich speaks publicly for first time since her hospitalization in an exclusive interview with @RobDeMelloKHON. Full Story: https://t.co/FMKUCgJLOt pic.twitter.com/JyyBHr7qIk
— khon2 News (@KHONnews) November 30, 2018
On November 18, the public learned of the alleged domestic violence attack on Ostovich by her husband, fellow MMA fighter Arnold Berdon, and of the injuries she incurred that included a broken orbital bone. The case is still ongoing, although Ostovich has been granted a temporary restraining order while her husband has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree assault.
Many assumed the fight with was off upon learning of her injuries but Ostovich came out to say that she would be going through with the fight on January 19 in spite of everything that had transpired. In her own words, she claimed that she wanted to go through with the fight not just for herself but also her daughter and her desire to use the UFC platform to help those who have been through similar situations.
The UFC later received backlash when they made the controversial decision to add former footballer Greg Hardy to the same card as the VanZant and Ostovich. Considering prior domestic violence allegations against Hardy, the booking was seen as insensitive to the situation surrounding Ostovich. Speaking with Ariel Helwani, Ostovich responded by making it clear that she feels Hardy’s situation has nothing to do with herself.
“Nobody’s story is the same, nobody’s situation is the same. I have nothing to do with Greg Hardy. I’m just grateful to be fighting again. I believe in second chances. I’m glad he’s making a turnaround. I hope the same can happen to my husband and anyone else who has made a wrong choice.”
Earlier in the year, Paige VanZant opened up about surviving sexual assault as a teenager in her book Rise: Surviving the Fight of My Life. “12 Gauge” for her part has observed the events as they unfolded and upon hearing that Ostovich would still be competing told MMAFighting.com:
“Of course, I don’t know all the details of what happened. I just knew a little bit. But I know that when she did come back and say, ‘I want to fight anyway,’ it gave me an alert, like ‘Hey, this girl is really tough.’ So I know I’m fighting somebody that’s very strong and very mentally strong, because she’s gonna go in there and fight after going through some extreme trauma like this. It just tells me that I’ve gotta be ready for the fight and be ready for somebody to come out there and have a lot to fight for.”
VanZant further stated that she is in full support of bringing attention to sensitive topics such as those that have happened to both women. And that they can use the platform they have to stand-up for women who have been through similar trauma, and show the strength that can be exhibited afterward.
While many feel that an MMA victory will be second to a moral one on Saturday, the fact remains that both women are in a pivotal match in terms of propelling themselves forward in the flyweight division. VanZant is coming off of back-to-back losses and will be fighting for the first time in a year after suffering a broken arm in her last bout. Ostovich is looking to bounce back from a loss to Montana De La Rosa back in July. The winner of Saturday’s bout will be in prime position to leap into relevancy in what remains a very open flyweight division.
VanZant should look to exploit being the faster fighter by working behind the jab and straight punches. Getting in and out will be crucial as Ostovich figures to be the more powerful fighter in the pocket or on the ground. VanZant does her best work when she is the one pushing the tempo so she should avoid tying up with Ostovich unless she is looking for a break in the action.
Ostovich is more comfortable using a multi-faceted game and should look to overwhelm VanZant with a versatile attack. On the feet she figures to be able to neutralize VanZant’s mobility by using leg kicks and making her a more stationary target to land combinations on. Ostovich also figures to have a huge advantage on the ground and should be able to dominate “12 Gauge” if she gets top position.
Several contenders are currently jostling for position in the new flyweight title picture as Jessica Eye and Liz Carmouche appear to be neck-and-neck for a shot at the belt. The winner of VanZant and Ostovich will join Kaitlyn Chookagian, Joanne Calderwood, and other surging contenders looking to break through the ranks in 2019.