Ketlen Vieira returns to the octagon for the first time in over a year with a tough opponent, but a huge opportunity at UFC 245.
The women’s bantamweight division is seeing a severe shortage of contenders at the moment. With the current champion Amanda Nunes dominating almost everyone she faces it looks as if the division is suffering a drought. This weekend when Ketlen Vieira locks horns against Irene Aldana at UFC 245, she has a chance to become the next in line to challenge Nunes.
Given her record, it’s surprising that Vieira hasn’t fought for the title yet. She’s undefeated and is 4-0 in the UFC, which includes wins over Cat Zingano and Sara McMann — two former title challengers themselves. Vieira was scheduled to face Tonya Evinger in September 2018, but a serious injury sidelined her, thus crushing all the momentum she had built.
This weekend Vieira has a chance to regain all her lost hype, and realistically her place in the division. However, standing in her path will be a fellow sidelined prospect Irene Aldana. Aldana was on an impressive streak before locking horns against Raquel Pennington in her last fight. The bout was competitive but saw Pennington walking out with the win. By losing that fight Aldana lost the wave she was riding and also lost any chance of fighting for the title in near future.
However, if she manages to deliver a strong performance against Vieira and emerge victorious she can accelerate her way back to the top.
Aldana knows this, as in an interview with BJPenn.com she said “She is No. 2 so it is a great challenge for me. This fight clarifies a lot in the division. The winner could fight the winner of Amanda-Germaine. So it opens a door to the belt sooner than I thought it would be. Winning this fight makes me climb to the top of the division. I have nothing to lose because I am ranked number 10. I took this fight as a replacement as she was supposed to fight Julianna Pena, but something happened to it. It is going to define a lot of things. The fact that the title fight is the same night, is good. I haven’t been told that by the UFC, but I think it is obvious. This is a number one contender fight.”
With someone this motivated across from her and a return after a healthy time off, it should be interesting to see how things turn out for Vieira. In a division this thin, really anyone is a performance away from the title picture.
UFC 245 takes place Saturday, December 14th. The card airs exclusively on ESPN+ PPV in the U.S. after televised and online prelims, and on BT Sport in the UK. In India, the card airs live on December 15th on SONY Ten 2 and SONY Ten 2 HD.