Kicking off the televised prelims at UFC 266, the women’s flyweight bout between Roxanne Modafferi and Taila Santos wasn’t quite a veteran vs. prospect match-up, but it certainly felt like one.
Modafferi, of course, is a veteran, with nearly two decades in the sport. Santos, however, wasn’t exactly a young prospect, but rather a 18-fight veteran herself and in her prime at 28 years of age.
The question Saturday was rather Modafferi could bounce back from a recent loss to another Brazilian fighter, Viviane Araujo — or would Santos continue her rise?
Right off the bat, the flyweight duo traded punches, Modafferi with her signature, jerky style. Santos whipped out a few leg kicks, and had a clear edge in power. She also had the edge in the first clinch, taking Modafferi down with a trip.
Syndicate MMA’s Modafferi employed a closed guard, then went fishing for an arm-bar. Santos was hip to that attempt, and re-positioned. With the submission taken off the board, Modafferi wall-walked up to her feet. She briefly got in the driver’s seat, reversing position along the fence before being planted on her back again. A chorus of cheers welcomed Modafferi as she got back to her feet a second time, and she went after a high-crotch single before ending up eating knees in the clinch.
The second frame saw Modafferi pursue a takedown early, but Santos hopped back to the fence and remained upright. When the fight did go down, it was Santos on top again, with plenty of time to work. Modafferi was also showing some damage around the eye care of the Brazilian’s right hand. When Modafferi got back up, she was bloodied, and planted on her back again moments later.
Modafferi opened the third round throwing, but she ate a number of strikes in return. Santos then rocked Modafferi, who was on her way down, and Santos pounced on her — probably a mistake, as Modafferi was in her element on the ground, even off her back. Santos, getting nowhere, finally let her opponent back to her feet, with ninety seconds left in the fight. Modafferi doggedly pressed forward, firing punches, and Santos appeared to have tired. But a takedown attempt backfired, and Santos finished the round, and fight, on top.
RELENTLESS pressure from Santos 😤
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— UFC (@ufc) September 26, 2021
Modafferi has now dropped two straight. On the opposite trajectory, Santos has now put together three consecutive wins in the octagon. She’ll be jumping up in the rankings, and is probably due another step up in competition.
Official Result: Taila Santos def. Roxanne Modafferi by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)