UFC 286: Joanne Wood Returns to Win Column in Close Fight with Luana Carolina

Joanne Wood and Luana Carolina, UFC 286
Joanne Wood and Luana Carolina, UFC 286 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Jamie Theodosi/Cageside Press

Fan favorite flyweight Joanne Wood returned to action at UFC 286 on Saturday, facing Brazil’s Luana Carolina with both fighters returning from year-long layoffs.

While Wood was looking to snap a three-fight skid and extend her run in the UFC, Luana “Dread” was returning to the scene of her most stunning defeat, as Molly McMann had sent her to the shadow realm, as Paddy Pimblett later exclaimed, with a spinning back elbow at UFC London last year.

With the time off potentially cancelling out, it was anybody’s ballgame between Wood and Carolina. The pair wound up fighting a fairly active first round, working along the fence early. Wood seemed to be finding her range, landing strikes at distance. The right hand was there for the Scottish fighter throughout the round. She also hit home with several elbows and knees in the clinch, living up to her “Dr. Kneevil” nickname. Later in the frame the pair traded knees, after which Carolina fired a low kick. In the final seconds, Wood caught a kick, and later tried a spinning attack, perhaps in a nod to McCann.

Wood likely had the edge when all was said and done after the first five minutes. Round two opened with Wood flashing a kick and feinting. Carolina fired a combo with seemingly every strike missing; Wood then initiated a clinch up against the fence, though Carolina was able to reverse. Scotland’s Wood continued to work in knees into her attacks, and landed an elbow in the clinch; Carolina reversed and fired some knees of her own. With about 90 seconds to go, Wood connected with a front kick to the face, which Carolina took well enough. In the final minute, Wood was able to sweep Carolina off her feet, and just missed on what would have been an illegal knee.

Between rounds, Wood’s husband and coach John Wood suggested she had lost round one but won the second frame, though Wood appeared to have a stronger claim to round one. Round two, much closer, had the potential to be the deciding factor depending on how the third played out.

Carolina fired a body kick early in the third. Wood continued to walk forward, but she had clearly slowed, and the Brazilian was able to catch “Jojo” coming in. Wood fanned on a front kick, and followed that with a right hand. In the clinch, Wood fired a knee. They traded elbows, and Wood fanned on a spinning back fist attempt. Another clinch, and Wood got busy with punches and elbows. A moment later, it was Carolina trying a spinning back fist of her own. In the final minute Wood flashed a front kick, and Carolina answered with some looping punches; Wood knocked Carolina off-balance, and she went down in a heap. Wood let her opponent back up, but finished strong, battering Carolina in the final seconds.

The scorecards were all over the place, but Wood came away in the end with the split decision win, which felt like the correct call.

Official Result: Joanne Wood def. Luana Carolina by split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)