A rare women’s featherweight fight arrived early on the UFC 283 preliminary card on Saturday night.
The match-up saw France’s Zarah Fairn return, looking to shake off two straight losses in a fight with Brazil’s Josiane Nunes. The bout was the second in on the Rio card, and saw Nunes with a chance to stake her claim as a potential title contender, whenever double champ Amanda Nunes opted to once again defend her 145lb title.
Fairn vs. Nunes was a scrap right out of the gate. Fairn opted to take the fight to Nunes, who fired back looping hooks. Both women were landing, but Fairn was pressing. She landed a volley of uppercuts, one after the other. But Nunes refused to back down, and began to inch forward, firing her hands and mixing in kicks.
Fairn began picking her shots then, mixing in a standing elbow, seemingly very comfortable with the distance. Nunes closed the distance, trying to make things ugly, but Fairn pushed away and landed a combo. Through half a round, the bout had been almost non-stop action. Nunes fired a left that landed. Fairn used her length, landing her jab, then firing a knee up the middle. As the round progressed, Fairn slowed, and Nunes saw her opening. She charged forward with a combo, the crowd erupting behind her. Fairn retreated, then ate another barrage. They tied up, and Nunes landed a right hand off the break — but they’d head to round two with Fairn arguably in the lead.
Round two opened with Josiane Nunes pressing forward immediately. Fairn was still seemingly in search of her second wind. Fairn fired a high kick, but didn’t have much on it, and it was easily blocked. Nunes, walking forward, fired a superman punch, then another. She ripped the body then went high. Fairn, retreating, earned some space by launching a combo. Moments later, Nunes tied things up, pressing her larger opponent up against the fence and firing knees to the thigh. Fairn fired back, broke free, and fired a 1-2. More long, straight punches from Fairn followed.
Coming into the final minute of the second round, Nunes again tied things up along the fence. She fired a knee as the pair jostled for head position. Fairn managed to reverse, only for Nunes to reverse again. Back at center, they pair traded to the bell, Fairn mixing in a knee before Nunes opened up.
While round two had ended up closer at the the end than it had started, Fairn’s corner advised her that she needed the third round. She worked her jab and straight punches early, and reversed quickly when Nunes closed the distance in the opening minute. Fairn appeared much more active in the opening half of the third, her volume clearly turned up a notch. Near the midway mark of the round, Nunes punched her way in, landing her left hand. Fairn was forced to cover up, then retreat, eating some solid blows to head and body.
Fairn survived, after what seemed like a minute-long barrage. With 90 seconds on the clock, it was still anybody’s round. Again, Nunes tried to close the distance, exploding forward and putting Fairn on the back foot. This time, Fairn survived, and pressed forward herself, more straight punches landing on Nunes. In turn, Nunes closed the distance nad landed a left; the final 10 seconds saw them trading at range.
One of the better women’s featherweight fights in recent memory went to the scorecards.
Official Result: Josiane Nunes def. Zarah Fairn by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)