UFC 271: Casey O’Neill Sends Roxanne Modafferi Into Retirement in Fun, High-Volume Scrap

Roxanne Modafferi and Casey O'Neill, UFC 271
Roxanne Modafferi and Casey O'Neill, UFC 271 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Dave Noseworthy/Cageside Press

There is far more to be said about the career of Roxanne Modafferi than can be done justice by a brief intro to a fight recap.

Spanning nearly two decades, the long, winding road that “The Happy Warrior” took through the sport is unlike almost any other. Getting her start in Japan, frequently fighting above her weight class early on, two stints on The Ultimate Fighter, challenging for both the Invicta FC and UFC flyweight titles later in her career — and finally, setting a record for most fights by a female mixed martial artist.

All good things must come to an end, and in the case of Modafferi, that end came Saturday at UFC 271, where she took on undefeated prospect Casey O’Neill.

There wasn’t a ton of action in the early going of Modafferi vs. O’Neill. A lot of circling, a lot of feeling out. Modafferi did find some success with her right hand, and her jab as well. O’Neill was putting her punches together, however, throwing in combinations and looking very calm, despite a trickle of blood leaking from her nose. A right hook slipped around O’Neill’s guard as the back-and-forth on the feet continued.  In an exchange in the final minute, O’Neill landed a left; Modafferi landed a counter, and they would head to the second with the key difference being O’Neill’s volume.

If there was a surprise through the opening round, it was the lack of takedown attempts from Roxanne Modafferi, given her strong ground game. Instead, they went back totrading early in the second, and a clinch just past a minute in didn’t result in much. O’Neill appeared to have found her range, while Modafferi continued to hit home with single strikes. Towards the end of the round, O’Neill began landing more, and let out a primal scream. Modafferi shot for a late takedown, landing it.

Round three opened with a high kick by O’Neill. Modafferi then landed on O’Neill, getting her attention. A spinning kick from Modafferi led to a clinch and some knees; she’d initiate another Thai clinch again for another knee moments later. Modafferi landed a spinning back fist, but O’Neill pressed forward, throwing a front kick. A knee would land in a clinch for Modafferi, in what was a very busy, volume-filled stand-up fight. With a minute to go, Modafferi caught a kick and dumped O’Neill. “King” Casey would make it back up, and they’d battle it out by the fence to the final bell.

Casey O’Neill, thanks to her volume and accuracy on the feet, took home the win. Modafferi, at the very least, went out on a high note in a fun fight nearly two decades after first stepping into the cage. The end result was a split decision.

Met by a chorus of boos after the fight, O’Neill was not thrilled. “If you want me to be the bad guy then f*ck you, I’ll be the bad guy,” she hollered at the crowd. Houston, meanwhile, gave a huge ovation to Roxy. “It’s time for me to pass the torch to the next generation,” she said afterwards. “I’m proud of myself, even if you don’t win every time, you can have an amazing time.”

Official Result: Casey O’Neill def. Roxanne Modafferi by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)


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