UFC 238: Tatiana Suarez and Nina Ansaroff Look to End Championship Speculation

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Tatiana Suarez UFC 238
Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

The highly anticipated strawweight bout between Tatiana Suarez and Nina Ansaroff at UFC 238 is the last major hurdle in solving the title picture at 115 pounds.

The UFC strawweight division is experiencing incredible turnover. There’s a new champion in Jessica Andrade and on Saturday there will be no less than four athletes with a case for a title shot. However, two of the top contenders in the division are looking to end the debate with dominant performances as Tatiana Suarez meets Nina Ansaroff at UFC 238.

Undefeated Tatiana Suarez has drawn comparisons to Khabib Nurmagomedov as one of the most formidable wrestlers in the MMA. A three-time bronze medalist in wrestling at the World Championships, Suarez first burst into the consciousness of the MMA world as the top pick of Claudia Gadelha on season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter and finished most of her opponents en route to winning the show in 2016. After losing a year to injury, she returned in 2017 and has rattled off several victories to emerge as one of the top prospects in the division.

Most recently, Suarez stopped former champion Carla Esparza and Alexa Grasso to add to her victories over Viviane Pereira and Amanda Cooper in the UFC. The win over Esparza, in particular, stands out as she dominated the former champion on the ground, the area where Esparza is considered her strongest. The nature of Suarez’s victories have many pegging her as a future champion and a strong showing against Ansaroff would only further that discussion.

After an inauspicious 0-2 start to her UFC career that included a year-long layoff, Nina Ansaroff was flying well under the radar when she embarked on her own four-fight win streak back in 2017. Opposite to Suarez, Ansaroff put her victories together in relative obscurity. All of her UFC victories have been on the preliminary portions of cards and three times she has been relegated either to early Fight Pass prelims or as the first preliminary fight on television.

While the audience for her fights may have been small, Ansaroff was demonstrating incredible growth in her game. She put together victories over Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger, Angela Hill, and Randa Markos. Her most recent victory over Suarez’s TUF coach, Claudia Gadelha, alerted the MMA world that she was indeed one to watch in the division. A former title challenger, the powerful Gadelha was a heavy favorite when Ansaroff scored the upset via unanimous decision last December.

The winner of this bout will have an incredible case for a title shot, but they will be competing with several big names for the opportunity. Due to the nature of her fight with Andrade, an immediate rematch for former champion Rose Namajunas is not out of the question. Longtime former champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk, who dominated Andrade back in 2017, is another candidate. Finally, popular fan favorite Michelle Waterson is also on a three-fight win streak with her own case for a title shot.

The key to a Nina Ansaroff upset is an attack that utilizes high volume and keeps her in close-quarters with Tatiana Suarez. Doing so neutralizes Suarez’s long-range attack and allows Ansaroff to get her offense going first. Secondly, she must avoid getting stuck against the fence as it gives her less space to sprawl and avoid being taken down to the mat. For Suarez, the key is to make Ansaroff react to her punches so any entries to get the fight to the ground become easier.

Going into Saturday night, talk is revolving around the winner of the fight being next for the title shot. As is often the case, however, marketability is a major factor in being chosen to headline major events. While the numbers would say that a championship is in their future, an impressive victory may be necessary for Suarez or Ansaroff to break into the title picture as opposed to already established fan favorites such as Rose Namajunas and Michelle Waterson.

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